Reader letter: We have to battle to save Worthing’s green spaces

Writes Sue Belton, Worthing Society chair, Selden Lane, Worthing

The public protested against developments at Chatsmore Farm on March 25. Photograph: Eddie Mitchell

The inspector’s catastrophic decision to allow the appeal by the developer Persimmon to build 475 dwellings at Chatsmore Farm has highlighted to the Worthing Society’s committee that we have to battle to save our open green spaces, wildlife habitats and natural environment.

An unwelcome precedent has been set. Further planning applications, some previously refused, are coming forward again along the A259 route, including Highdown Vineyard, Rustington Golf Centre and Lansdown Nurseries.

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The Covid-19 emergency illustrated the importance of our green infrastructure to our mental and physical wellbeing. The Worthing area nationally has one of the lowest areas of open green land so we need to be proactive to protect what remains.

Chatsmore Farm provides a natural break between settlements forming ‘a green lung’ of environmental importance adjacent to the A259.

This is also Grade I agricultural land which is irreplaceable and much-needed in these challenging times.

Further developments will also have a paralysing effect on the surrounding highways network which is already under severe strain.

The proposed new estates would be just over the border in the Arun district but would have a ‘knock-on effect’ for Worthing residents together with an adverse impact

on local infrastructure.

We believe the housing targets for this area are unrealistic given the geographical constraints of being located between the sea and the South Downs National Park.

Even if every blade of grass were to be built on these, current targets could still not be met.

Continuing to build these new estates would lead to overcrowding and unacceptable pressure on vital local facilities.

Worthing Society members objected to the Chatsmore Farm development and I spoke at the subsequent inquiry for the appeal. We understand Worthing Borough Council is applying to the High Court for a judicial review of the inspector’s decision and we are fully supportive.

I will also be writing to the Secretary of State Michael Gove regarding the unrealistic housing targets and housing policy which we consider to be based on outdated statistics.

Indeed we would like to invite Mr Gove to visit the area to view its natural characteristics and constraints.

Amenity Groups are uniting to safeguard our remaining green space. Our Society is now a member of the Protect the Gaps Action Group (ProGaps), to support each other in objections and send a clear message to the government. There is we hope strength in numbers.

The Worthing Society has been pro-active in the campaign to save our green infrastructure as a legacy for our children and grandchildren. We urge you to object to these unwelcome proposals when they come forward and to lobby your MP and local councillors.