Back in March, Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee emphatically rejected plans to develop the fiercely protected land at Chatsmore Farm.
But developer Persimmon has now lodged an appeal against the decision, leading to criticism from campaigners and Worthing West’s MP.
A spokesperson for Persimmon Homes Thames Valley said: “Appeals are a well-established part of the planning process, particularly where Local Planning Authorities are failing to deliver their housing targets.
“Our appeal aims to address the local housing crisis affecting the lives of people who cannot buy a home.
“One of the Government objectives outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework was to significantly boost the supply of homes. However, Worthing Borough Council acknowledge in its Local Plan that only a third of its overall housing need will be met, resulting in a shortfall of around 10,500 homes.
“That is despite the council’s own Core Strategy pledging that the ‘overarching housing policy goal is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity of living in a decent home which they can afford, in a community where they want to live’.
“This situation and the lack of delivery over a three-year period means there is now a presumption in favour of sustainable development.”
Any development of the site between the railway line and A259 has been strongly resisted, prompting vocal opposition from residents.
When it was discussed in March, councillors felt the plans would negatively impact both the landscape and setting of the South Downs National Park and also cited concerns over green space protection, infrastructure and blurring the identities of the Goring and Ferring communities.
Writing to members, Ed Miller, vice-chairman and secretary of the Ferring Conservation Group, said the appeal was ‘quite a surprise because they [Persimmon] told the planning officers that they would not appeal but try to get the land designated for housing in the planning inspector’s review of the new local plan’.
He suggested it had ‘very little chance of success’, adding: “We do not yet know the grounds for their appeal but presumably it is the same argument that they used in their planning application - that Worthing was a long way short of the Government’s housing targets and that the benefit of getting nearer to that target outweighed all the objections about landscape, wildlife, gaps between settlements, traffic paralysis and all the other good reasons why it was refused.”
Meanwhile MP Sir Peter Bottomley said: “The Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick has to stand firm on government policy that rejects inappropriate developments.
“He knows Worthing is squeezed between the sea and the national park. He knows the major development at West Durrington. He knows the intentions for significant new housing at Teville Gate, on Union Place and on the gas works site.
“Let us call for everyone in Arun and in Worthing to call on Persimmon to be less grasping, to support Worthing Borough Council in arguing for the developer’s appeal to fail and to maintain the rare fields between the district and borough.”