Labour's house-building plans for Sussex: Chichester Harbour Trust issues firm warning to new government

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Chichester Harbour Trust has issued a firm warning to the Labour government after plans were announced to ‘get Britain building again’.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, outlined proposals to impose high targets and overhaul the planning system – which will prove highly controversial in Sussex.

While residents have consistently called for more affordable homes for local people and developers have said rules like water neutrality are making it increasingly difficult to build – poor roads, a lack of facilities like schools and doctors' surgeries, and a need to protect the county's spectacular environment and its wildlife will ignite a huge debate about the future of the county.

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In a series of special reports, Sussex World senior reporter Sam Morton will examine the various arguments for and against 'concreting over the countryside.' In this feature, the Chichester Harbour Trust have their say about the challenges involved.

Chichester Harbour Trust chairman Nick Backhouse. Photo contributedChichester Harbour Trust chairman Nick Backhouse. Photo contributed
Chichester Harbour Trust chairman Nick Backhouse. Photo contributed

Trust chairman Nick Backhouse said: “We fully recognise the need for housebuilding of affordable homes across the country and we welcome the new government’s words of commitment to the so-sorely needed infrastructure that the country lacks, elsewhere as well as here.

"It will be a regressive step though if housing and infrastructure are not considered together.

“The Chichester Local Plan for housing recognises, for example, that all our sewerage

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treatment works that feed into Chichester Harbour are already beyond full capacity.

Chancellor Rachel Reeves' promise to get 'Britain building again' by imposing high targets and overhauling the planning system will prove highly controversial in Sussex. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)Chancellor Rachel Reeves' promise to get 'Britain building again' by imposing high targets and overhauling the planning system will prove highly controversial in Sussex. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Chancellor Rachel Reeves' promise to get 'Britain building again' by imposing high targets and overhauling the planning system will prove highly controversial in Sussex. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

"Additional volume will only result in yet more sewage spills and further destruction of our treasured National Landscape.

"The government’s manifesto is full of good words about improving water quality but it stops short of a commitment to investment in the problem. Investment is badly needed, the country is probably 20 years behind in sewerage infrastructure. The same is true of transport infrastructure; a Britain in gridlock will not be a Britain back in growth.

“We recognise that more affordable housing is needed across the country and in Chichester, but we need the right homes in the right places. We especially welcome, and encourage, a commitment to using brownfield sites. What must not be allowed to happen is the paving over of the Chichester countryside between the South Downs National Park and the Chichester Harbour National Landscape.

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"This is currently in danger of becoming a reality, blighting the area in perpetuity and blocking already too rare and highly important wildlife corridors between the National Park and the National Landscape.”

In her first speech on Monday, Ms Reeves said she would end the ‘absurd’ restriction on new windfarms and said decisions should be taken nationally, not locally.

Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband said: "Every family has paid the price of the ban on onshore wind farms in higher energy bills. This ban has undermined our energy security, put costs on people’s bills – especially those on lower incomes – and held us back in our fight against climate change.

“This government is wasting no time in delivering the bold plan we need to take back control of our energy; boosting our energy independence and cutting bills for families as we tackle the climate crisis.”

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Mr Backhouse said the Chichester Harbour Trust welcomes the ‘provision of clean energy’ to ‘meet the country’s net zero targets’.

“However onshore windfarms (and other renewable energy e.g. solar farms) must be sensitively located, particularly in the context of protected landscapes, and not come at the expense of biodiversity and food production,” the trust chairman added.

“We urge the government to think carefully and give greater weight to the environment before re-imposing centralised housebuilding targets. Build in haste now and generations to come will repent at leisure.”

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