Funding to see if Littlehampton West Bank development ‘is a runner or not’

Councillors have agreed to spend £50,000 on a study to find out whether housing on the West Bank of the River Arun would be possible.

The plans for 1,000 homes on the site, in Littlehampton, have been rumbling along for years, with the area identified as a strategic allocation in the Local Plan.

At a meeting of the corporate policy and performance committee, members agreed the money could be spent – though some felt it would be a waste.

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Karl Roberts, director of place, said: “The West Bank strategic allocation in the Local Plan has not been delivered so far and there are significant challenges regarding its delivery.

Previous indicative masterplan for housing on Littlehampton's West Bank

“So consequently an alternative plan of action has been proposed.”

That plan of action involves commissioning a detailed master-plan and comprehensive viability appraisal as well as a study of potential housing sites along the riverside and towards Clymping Beach.

A working group including landowners and parish councillors will also be set up to take the project forward and consult with the wider community and stakeholders.

But all that will cost, so the committee was asked to allow £50,000 to be spent getting things under way, should an appeal for government funds be unsuccessful.

The figure was originally £100,000 but Mr Roberts said he had received commitments from landowners for a total of £50,000 in contributions to go towards the cost of the work.

The plans for the site have been dragging on for so long, running into so many problems, that some felt the new homes would not and could not be built there.

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Beach) said: “I have considerable doubt about the wisdom of spending this sort of money.

“I understand that it’s an allocation in our Local Plan.

“I though it was pretty shaky in the beginning but everything that’s happened since – the flooding that happened with the sea fences at Clymping breaking through and the flooding extending not only up to the A259 but actually through the culvert to the other side of the road, threatening the caravan park there – makes this land potentially floodable.”

It was a view shared by Tony Dixon (Ind, Aldwick East) who said the council was ‘plate spinning’ and ‘trying to keep it alive rather than admit that it’s not viable’.

Jacky Pendleton (Con, Middleton-on-Sea) recognised the need to find out once and for all if the development was or was not viable.

She said: “If it’s not possible, either financially or realistically, then we know to write it off. That’s the end of it.

“We’ve messed around with this for a number of years now and the time has come to say ‘is this a runner or isn’t it’?

“I think that putting £50,000 at risk is worth it.”

She added: “It could be brilliant, it might not be realistic. We need to know.”

Mr Roberts told the meeting that, if the money was not agreed  then work on the study would not go ahead – unless government funding was approved – and the council would be left looking for somewhere else to build 1,000 homes.

He added: “It is an obligation on the council in terms of its Local Plan to try to and move forward its strategic allocations.

“This is effectively the next stage in trying to bring that strategic allocation forward because ultimately, if it is not developed, then at some point there will be a question that we will need to answer around where are we going to accommodate the 1,000 that we are not providing on this strategic allocation.”

Clearly the situation did not site well with most of the committee as four of them abstained from voting.

The recommendation was approved by three votes to two.