The WSG is focusing on various greenfield sites across the county, offering campaigners the chance to explain to readers why we must protect treasured green spaces.
This week’s piece, below, was written by Ed Miller, convenor of Goring Gap Action Committee.
See our first featured greenfield location – West of Ifield, earmarked for up to 10,000 homes – here
And click here for Save Our South Coast Alliance’s excellent overview of the scale of the challenge we face with huge housing targets in West Sussex.
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‘We won the battle – but the war is far from over’ - by Ed Miller
The Goring Gap is the narrow band of open countryside between Ferring and Goring.
In the 1950s and 1960s some development was allowed along the line of the ‘Intervillage Road’ so that now there are two gaps – one north of the railway, also known as ‘Chatsmore Farm’ and one south of the long avenue of Ilex Oaks (which once formed the carriage drive to Goring Hall) down to the seafront.
Both are always under crops and both are protected from development (to some extent) by their designations in Arun’s and Worthing’s local plans.
But both are owned by developers and their designations are under challenge.
The most immediate challenge is by Persimmon Homes Ltd, which applied last year to build a 475-home estate on Chatsmore Farm. That application brought out 1,250 letters of objection and was refused by Worthing Borough Council.
Persimmon has now appealed and an inquiry will be held in January. But there will always be threats to the southern gap while most of it is owned by Persimmon:
Worthing’s new local plan has not yet been approved and Arun’s plan is said to be out of date because it does not provide a five-year supply of building land for developers.
There have been many alerts in the last ten years when Persimmon was sketching out proposals for housing estates and local amenity groups formed an alliance to probe, publicise and campaign against every instance of initiatives by Persimmon (and others) that threatened any part of these two narrow bands of countryside.
Ferring Conservation Group, the Goring and Ilex Conservation Group, Goring Residents’ Association, the Worthing Society, and representatives of those living very close to the threatened areas formed the Goring Group Action Group, supported by Ferring Parish Council and Sir Peter Bottomley MP.
When we heard that Persimmon had started distributing leaflets to houses near the northern gap, in October 2019, inviting the residents to a consultation, we swung into action.
We had 5,000 leaflets of our own printed and had them distributed to every house within a mile of the site, and further into Worthing. Handicapped a little by Covid restrictions we organised some mini-demonstrations in the already-congested roads that would be most affected by the extra traffic and we placed banners in places where they would seen every day by the people most affected.
The result was our 1,250 objections – probably a record.
We won that battle but the war is far from over. As well as the appeal, we have to support Worthing Borough Council in rebutting Persimmon’s (and other developers’) claims that the only way of dealing with Worthing’s ‘shortfall’ in providing housing sites is to allow building in these greenfield gaps, and similar gaps between Worthing and Adur.
The examination in public of Worthing’s Plan begins on November 2 and we shall be watching it carefully. We have every confidence in Worthing Borough Council’s commitment to keep the gaps free of development – as Local Green Spaces.
And we shall continue to keep a close eye on planning applications on the Arun side of the Goring Gap.
We know that many developers have no respect for the countryside, or for local planning policies – they will do what Persimmon did – put in an application, hope for the best and then count on an inspector reversing any refusal in the name of government policy to get more houses built. We shall keep fighting against them.
Chatsmore Farm provides the setting for Highdown – our corner of the South Downs National Park. It is a unique and important heritage asset. Views to and from the South Downs would be very much impaired if this development goes ahead.