Bid to unblock developments for 'thousands of new homes' in West Sussex
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Houses for Homes Consortium (H4H) today added the developments are currently frozen by council planners in north Sussex.
It said the blockage was triggered by Natural England’s “Position Statement” to council planners, that requires that new development must be ‘water neutral’ - involving no extra use of groundwater unless compensated, to reduce Southern Water's abstraction of groundwater.
It added the number of planning permissions for new homes has slowed to a trickle, despite a ‘chronic, urgent need’ for new housing and public infrastructure, such as schools and doctors' surgeries, in north Sussex and beyond.
In a formal 30-page solicitors’ “Letter Before Action”, H4H said it has thrown down the gauntlet, taking on government agencies including the Environment Agency and Natural England, local authorities in Horsham, Chichester and Crawley, as well as Southern Water, the Secretary of State for DEFRA and Ofwat.
The association said its letter warns each of them in any future legal action, that they are failing to carry out their statutory duties, including planning and providing for supplies of clean drinking water, sufficient for existing and future use.
It urges Natural England to rescind their Position Statement and for the local councils to issue planning permissions, blocked by the Water Neutrality requirement.
Launching the challenge, a H4H spokesman commented: “Houses for Homes Consortium are taking this action in order to enable our members to get on with the delivery of much-needed housing for local communities in Sussex, held up following the publication of the Natural England Position Statement.
"Each of the recipients of the Letter Before Action has failed in its responsibility to protect housing delivery in the region. Our members are being driven out of business by these failures.
"The Position Statement infers that our members will cause an increase in the amount of water taken from aquifers, which they allege are already being damaged by existing abstractions. Our members have absolutely no control over the source of water supply for Sussex.
"The actions of these bodies and authorities is paralysing vital housing development in north Sussex.
"This is completely in the hands of Southern Water Services Ltd and each of the named defendants, whose failure to carry out their respective statutory responsibilities to ensure that these issues are dealt with quickly and responsibly and, equally importantly, to avoid issues and problems like this arising in future.”