Delight as 70-home development near East Wittering turned down

Pure delight from the public gallery greeted Chichester District Council’s decision to refuse plans to build 70 homes just outside of East Wittering.

“A win for the people of the Manhood Peninsula – fantastic!” was the cheerful cry from campaigner Juliet Johnson following the vote during a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday (June 9).

Councillors arrived at East Pallant House to be greeted by protesters opposing the application for land west of Church Road.

The group included former county council leader Louise Goldsmith, who said: “Every councillor in the chamber today will make a decision which will affect the future generations and the future of the environment on the Manhood Peninsula.

Residents and campaigners opposed to the development plans outside CDC's offices before the planning committee meeting

“They should take that responsibility very, very seriously.

“It’s not for us today but it’s for future generations.”

In her objection, which was read out during the meeting, Ms Johnson raised the fact that in Birdham homes wastewater was backing up into people’s baths, while there had been a sewage flood in West Wittering.

She also talked about discharges into Chichester Harbour, existing traffic congestion in and out of the peninsula, recent power outages, water supply issues and not enough local jobs.

No one could accuse the committee of not taking things seriously as the discussion which followed stretched on for a couple of hours.

The application was eventually refused by nine votes to two on the grounds that the development was unsustainable, would have an adverse impact on the landscape and was of an ‘inappropriate density’ to have on the edge of a village.

Flooding and rising sea levels were among the many points of concern raised during the meeting, leading to some impassioned comments from members.

John-Henry Bowden (Lib Dem, Chichester West) said: “In my view it is actually morally offensive to entice house buyers to put their life savings into property which will become worthless and in fact uninsurable in about 50 years – and in 100 years will be subject to regular flooding.”

Another major issue was the impact on infrastructure which small development after small development has had on the peninsula.

Donna Johnson (Local Alliance, Sidlesham & Selsey North) suggested the council should look into the number of small applications it had received and expected to receive in the near future.

She added: “When we we view them individually, it might be considered that they have little impact. But when we view them together, they represent a really significant cumulative impact.

“What we appear to be doing at the moment is allowing piecemeal development which, when viewed as a whole, has a severely detrimental impact on the existing community.”

The call to refuse the application came from Graeme Barrett, whose lengthy speech about the ‘inadequacies’ of the water and sewerage systems serving the peninsula earned him a round of applause from the public gallery.

After the meeting, the Manhood Peninsula Action Group (MPAG) and Stand Up 4 Chichester said they were ‘delighted’ that the application had been refused.

MPAG chair Joan Foster said: “We are much reassured to hear the councillors raising a series of concerns which are causing real concerns with the residents of the Manhood Peninsula.

“Issues such as very poor road and sewage infrastructure traffic problems are sadly something that residents on the Manhood live with daily.

“However, the really big issue is the ambiguity over the sea level rise figures and the use of out-of-date modelling figures which is causing even bigger worries.

“Such data, whilst updated in 2018, is actually based on a 2016 flood model.

“We wholeheartedly endorse the comment made by one councillor when he declared that it is immoral to sell new houses, which people use their life savings to buy, if they could be flooded in 50 years.

“That is a sentiment of so many on the Manhood Peninsula.”

Mrs Foster sent the groups’ thanks to councillors who ‘stood up to be counted’.

She added that campaigners wanted the council to ‘call for a pause in any new development applications’ until it and the Environment Agency had a new flood model in place.

Afterwards Ms Johnson added: “It is great for the people of the Manhood Peninsula that the planning application was rejected based on so many valid reasons, but primarily any further building is unsustainable given the current infrastructure, mostly notably the seriously inadequate sewerage.

“However the battle is not over, we need to keep pressure up, prevent the application winning on appeal and make sure any other applications for development on the Manhood Peninsula are also rejected.