Chichester Harbour aerial video supplied by Chichester Harbour Conservancy, which manages the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Such is the strength of feeling about the new Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment map, the trust has issued a strong statement on the Government’s white paper Planning for the Future consultation.
The proposal is to reform the planning process and change the way developers contribute to infrastructure, which the Government says will ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.
As part of its role to protect Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for those who live, work and enjoy spending time in this unique place, the trust has sent a robust response to the White Paper, pointing out it makes no allowance for local situations.
John Nelson, trust chairman, said: “Whilst we recognise that there are flaws within the current planning system, we believe that England needs to achieve the right homes in the right locations for the benefit of those who need them most - without damaging our special environment, both now and in the future.
“We fear that the proposals contained within the White Paper will bring about irreversible decline to the fabric of our communities, landscape and biodiversity, primarily through the delivery of the artificially-high housing targets specified by the Standard Method algorithm.”
The trust believes the effect of the proposals could potentially lead to inappropriate development being imposed on our area, without sufficient public scrutiny or consultation.
John added: “The proposed land classifications of ‘Growth, Regeneration, Protection’ are overly simplistic and lack subtlety. Areas cannot be considered in isolation - development in a Growth or Renewal area will inevitably have an impact on Protected areas, particularly in relation to wildlife and environmental indicators.
“In Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, high levels of housing development adjacent to the protected area boundary lead to increased recreational disturbance of vulnerable species, to congestion, air quality reduction, nitrate influx and light pollution, to name but a few.”
Wildlife has always been a major concern for the trust and it believes development in the way the Government proposes will lead to the severing of vital wildlife arteries, which link habitats and species across a geographic region.
John said: “This is happening visibly in Chichester District with the severing of links between the Chichester Harbour AONB and South Downs National Park by intensive development proposed in the narrow corridor between the two protected areas.
“A much more holistic and integrated ecosystem approach is required to prevent further fragmentation of habitats, and degradation of our nationally-protected landscapes.
“The proposed Standard Method of calculating housing targets is not a sophisticated tool for establishing delivery within local planning authorities and does not sufficiently integrate local context and constraints.
“It is a one-size-fits-all approach that will cause irreparable harm to landscape, biodiversity and communities across the country. By imposing an arbitrary figure that does not take account of local geography, need and capacity, irreversible harm will be caused to the very fabric of England’s cultural and environmental landscape and the biodiversity that it supports.
“Because Chichester District is a highly desirable place to live, attracting an incoming population, it has difficulties with affordability. However, in the long term there is a danger that over development of this fragile area may destroy the very fabric of the environment that attracts so many people to live here.”
In Chichester District, more than 70 per cent of the land area is made up of nationally-protected landscapes, with the South Downs National Park and Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty leaving very little land available for development.
John said: “This is not reflected in the revised housing allocations determined by the Standard Method, leading to undeliverable housing targets. All new housing development must be squeezed into a disproportionately small area, which cannot be achieved without causing significant adverse impacts on the communities, infrastructure and environment within that area, and those protected landscapes that lie adjacent.”
Leaders of neighbouring Havant Borough Council, an already largely urban area, have also sent a strong message to government that the numbers proposed in the standard methodology are undeliverable.
John said: “The proposed algorithm is setting local authorities up for failure. Furthermore, it will achieve the opposite of the desired ‘levelling up’ between the north of England and south, and does not provide regeneration and redevelopment in those areas of greatest need to support a thriving economy.”
Chichester Harbour Trust strongly believes that the level of housing need should be determined at a local level based upon the specific local context and economic need.
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