I have been reading the Observer weekly for nearly 20 years. Barely a week goes by without a story on housing – often on the front page.
It has always the same story – houses are planned and local people object. I don’t recall there being any alternative view or indeed any sense of reality about this.
The ONS projects that the UK population will grow by 2.1million in the next 15 years, to 69.2million. By the end of the century the UK is expected to be the most populace country in Europe, with a population that may reach 80million. All of these people will need somewhere to live. A disproportionate number of them will want to live in the South East as it is among the most prosperous regions in Europe with plenty of work, good educational opportunities, a pleasant climate, attractive places to live, close to London, etc.
As part of this region Chichester is, will be, and should be, expected to take its share of the housing that needs to be built for this growing population.
A continuing argument against house building in Chichester is that as a large part of the local authority is under the very restricted planning regime of the South Downs National Park, it is not reasonable for the rest of the borough to take on the housing targets set for the local authority.
Why not? We are very fortunate to have the SDNP (and Chichester Harbour AONB) in our district and, as far as we can see, they will be protected in perpetuity.
But you can’t have it both ways – half the borough with virtually no new housing and the other half with less than its share. We need to accept that the price we must pay for the fortunate luxury of the SDNP and Chichester Harbour is that the rest of the borough has to take the housing load. Not to take our share means that other South East towns would have to build more as the country seeks to house the rising population.
To suggest we don’t take our share is simply selfish and unreasonable.
Another argument is that we already have enough housing. This is clearly not the case. As they are built, new houses are immediately occupied. If you don’t believe this go and look at White House Farm, Graylingwell, Shopwyke Lakes or Madgwick Park.
Indeed, rather than fewer new houses we need a lot more new houses. We urgently need a new social housing estate as big as Parklands or Wyke so that the less well off members of our community can live in decent houses, at reasonable rents.
We also need a lot more affordable homes for my son and his generation so they are not forced into private rented accommodation with its criminally high rents.
Yes, we do need to sort out the A27 once and for all and we do need to stop pumping raw sewage into the harbour. But these very fixable problems shouldn’t be used as excuses to prevent the building of badly needed homes.
Finally, I predict that within 15 years there will be continuous housing from Fishbourne to the east of Tangmere. And, while I won’t be around to see it, by the end of the century there will be a continuous conurbation from the New Forest to Brighton, hemmed in by the South Downs in the north and the sea in the south.
It’s about time people faced these realities and engaged with them in a positive manner rather than resorting to the vocal, high-pitched, Nimbyism that currently seems to prevail.