Anger at 'unelected' developers overruling council decisions on housing across Arun

Arun district councillors are angry over ‘unelected’ developers ‘overruling’ their decisions through the planning inspectorate.
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Richard Bower (Con, East Preston) and Simon McDougall (Lab, Pevensey) expressed frustration in a planning committee meeting on Wednesday July 12, about a lack of agency in deciding planning applications.

The councillors said this was due to the planning inspectorate, where developers appeal against planning decisions by councils they disagree with, overturning their decisions to prioritise addressing housing shortfalls in Arun.

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Mr Bower claimed that some developers were sitting on strategic land sites after the council approved applications and not developing them, in order to drive up land value and avoid paying section 106 obligations (mitigating costs for a development paid by developers to the council).

He said: “It is a farce to suggest that Arun has to give [planning] permission purely because developers have not delivered on the planning permissions they’ve already got.

“It is not for Arun District Council to demonstrate a five year land supply, it’s for developers to deliver on their commitments – and they have not done so.”

When debating a development in Westergate, Mr McDougall said it was ‘only a matter of time’ before they reached a departure from the council’s local development plan, stating the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), set by the national government, was robbing councillors of their decision making.

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He said: “Quite frankly I am a democratically elected member of this council, I am here to make decisions [but] policy from the central government is telling me my hands are tied and I have got to let this through.

“It is a sad day when local councillors are not allowed to make decisions other than in accordance with the NPPF.

“In normal circumstances this is the type of land that should not be developed on and I know if we send this to appeal the government is going to let it through.”

The application for two detached homes in Westergate was approved conditionally, but with only three members voting for out of 11 present, and 8 abstentions – with several minutes of no councillors willing to propose a vote to move the meeting on.

A temporary sales cabin for the 191 home development near Rustington golf centre, also received less than 50 per cent of members support.