‘Defective in all respects’ development in Goring Gap emphatically rejected

Plans to build 475 homes in the Goring Gap have been described as ‘defective in all respects’ by planning officers and unanimously rejected by Worthing councillors.

During a meeting of the borough council’s planning committee last night, the application to develop the fiercely protected land at Chatsmore Farm was given short shrift by everyone from residents to MP Sir Peter Bottomley.

Susan Belton, chair of the Worthing Society, told the meeting that to allow the plans from applicant Persimmon would have a ‘catastrophic effect’ on the area.

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She added: “Our landscapes are an irreplaceable heritage resource and a legacy for our future generations.

Chatsmore Farm

“They must be protected from the damaging impact of inappropriate development.”

She needn’t have worried, though. The committee was fully behind the 1,243 people who wrote in to object to the plans.

Chairman Paul High shared heartfelt memories of his years growing up in the area – including the time he accidentally shot his father with a makeshift bow and arrow and hid up a tree to escape a feared punishment.

While recognising the need for more homes, he added: “There is a limit to how much green space you can take away.”

Nostalgia, though, is not a planning concern, especially as Worthing’s draft Local Plan shows a shortfall in housing supply – a fact which could potentially lead to the plans being approved when Persimmon inevitably appeals the committee’s decision.

Overdevelopment, congestion, road safety, and a lack of infrastructure are planning concerns, though, and all were raised by speakers and councillors alike.

Martin McCabe (Lib Dem, Tarring) called the application a ‘horror show’ and described the proposed development as ‘an act of vandalism’.

He added that to allow it would be ‘like cutting out one of our lungs’.

Both Noel Atkins (Con, Salvington) and Steve Wills (Con, Castle) shared fears about the impact an additional 900-1,000 cars would have on the area.

Mr Wills predicted ‘a catastrophe’ and accused Persimmon of putting ‘profit before people’.

The only support for the application came from Persimmon and the architect, who spoke about delivering a ‘sensitive landscape-led development’ and ‘fixing our broken housing market’.

A campaign against the proposals was organised by the Goring Gap Action Group, comprised of the Goring and Ilex Conservation Group, Goring Residents Association, Ferring Conservation Group, the Worthing Society, local residents and CPRE.

Secretary of Ferring Conservation Group, Ed Miller, said: “Many thanks to the hundreds of people who sent objections, to all the local groups who worked closely together on this and to our Member of Parliament for his strong support last night and over many months. This is a strong local community, with a will and a resolve to conserve and protect our very pleasant environment.”

Kathryn Walker, chairman of The Goring and Ilex Conservation Group, added: “We endorse all the comments made by the Ferring Conservation Group. It was heartening to realise the extent of opposition to Persimmon’s plan, from so many groups, local residents, Councillors and our local Member of Parliament. Thank you to everyone.”

Speaking after the meeting, Bill Freeman, trustee of CPRE Sussex, the countryside charity, congratulated the committee on its decision to refuse the plans.

Mr Freeman pointed out that the application flew in the face of the Local Plan’s policy to protect green space, adding that the development would have had ‘substantial impacts’ on views into the South Downs National Park and the National Trust’s Highdown Estate.

Describing the scheme as ‘unsustainable’, he said: “This decision is absolutely the right one for the community and its wellbeing and the preservation of this much valued green space.”