Demonstrators call for halt to thousands of new homes planned across Chichester district

Demonstrators gathered in soaring temperatures at Chichester District Council to call for a halt to plans for thousands of new homes in the area.

Demonstration outside East Pallant House. Photo by Jon Rigby
Demonstration outside East Pallant House. Photo by Jon Rigby

Waving placards and chanting ‘no more houses’, the group met at East Pallant House before a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (July 20).

They protested the council’s lack of an up-to-date Local Plan  congestion on the district’s roads, the decline in water quality in Chichester Harbour and the capacity issues at Southern Water’s treatment works.

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In a statement from the group, Sue Milnes, from West Wittering, said: “Living where I do in the Witterings, close to the sea on low-level ground prone to flooding, more development would be catastrophic.

“Councillors need to be courageous and stop this rampant development and deliver a sustainable Local Plan.”

Andrew Sargent, from Chidham, added: “Here in Chidham and Hambrook we have four major planning applications.

“The new houses will produce increased traffic on the A259 and Broad Road, roads unable to cope with the extra cars.

“There is insufficient connected wastewater treatment for all the new housing developments proposed between Chichester and Emsworth in the A27 A259 corridor.

“The new housing will increase nitrates in Chichester Harbour. Together, the wastewater treatment problems and increased nitrates will damage the water quality in Chichester Harbour.”

Meanwhile the Lib Dems said they stood behind residents who now feel they have no other choice than to protest outside East Pallant House.

A spokesman for the party said the district council had to accept the local plan was environmentally, socially and morally out of time and a comprehensive rethink must happen. They added: “The Lib Dem membership strongly objects to Chichester District Councils failure to deliver a new local plan, with current timelines suggesting Spring 2023 for delivery of the local plan, leaving the district at massive risk of speculative applications.”

The ongoing cost of the council’s Local Plan Review was among the topics of conversation during the meeting.

Councillors agree that a total of £775,000 should be taken from reserves over the next two years to pay for work relating to traffic and flood risk assessments.

The plan, which was due to be reviewed and adopted in July 2020, has been delayed three times and is now expected to be in place by 2023.

Before that can happen, work needs to be carried out to assess the impact of additional traffic on the A27 – work that would have been dealt with by Highways England when considering improvements to the Chichester bypass.

But Highways England withdrew funding from that scheme in 2017.

Now the council has to sort out the work itself.

On top of that, the delays have led to a knock-on effect, meaning other studies, such as the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, need updating.

Members agreed recommendations from the cabinet that £500,000 be released from the Local Plan reserve this year, and another £275,000 in 2022/23, to pay for technical work, specialist advice and examination costs.

At the cabinet meeting earlier this month, Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning, said: “It is essential that the transport and other key evidence study updates [are completed] if the Local Plan is to be found sound at examination.”

She added: “There is an urgent need to expedite this work as quickly as possible.”

Tuesday’s meeting also saw members agree a motion from Christopher Page (Ind, North Mundham & Tangmere) relating to congestion and safety at the bypass.

The motion called on the Secretary of State for Transport to make sure northern bypass routes were considered by Highways England as soon as possible to ‘resolve the chronic traffic problems of Chichester once and for all’.

Mr Page said: “The Local Plan Review’s transport policies are limited only to mitigate that plan’s effect on the A27 at Chichester – in other words to make things no worse.

“It promises no improvement.

“Inevitably therefore there will be increasing pressure from new development in Chichester and adjacent districts and boroughs.”