Public inquiry into 475-home Goring Gap development is underway

Worthing Borough Council is currently fighting an appeal after it rejected plans for 475 homes to be built in the countryside.

Developer Persimmon is appealing the council’s decision to reject the proposal for Chatsmore Farm, to the north west of Goring Railway Station.

The area is also known as the ‘Goring Green Gap’.

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WBC’s planning committee rejected the plans in March last year as members felt it could impact the setting of the South Downs National Park.

Persimmon Plan For 475 Homes In Goring

Councillors also mentioned protection of green spaces and potential impacts on infrastructure – such as roads – as reasons for refusal.

Opening statements were made today (18 January) as a public inquiry got underway.

Paul Cairnes QC will be representing Persimmon during the appeal and said that the housing land supply for the borough is ‘woeful’.

This is one of the developer’s main arguments as, if housing targets are not met, national planning policy allows a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.

Mr Cairnes outlined why the developer views the site as ‘sustainable’ and why the ‘benefits could outweigh the impacts’.

“The appeal site is enclosed by existing development on three sides in a highly sustainable and accessible location,” he said.

“The pattern of built development in the area means the site will essentially be a large infill site.

“It would not represent a new outward incursion into the open countryside, nor encroach any closer to the national park than the existing pattern of development.”

Representing the council is barrister Isabella Tafur, who said: “The appeal site isn’t allocated for residential development in the existing or emerging local plans.

“The appellant has consistently sought to argue that the overwhelming need for housing in Worthing means that the emerging plan  is unsound.

“However, with the SDNP to the north and the sea to the south, Worthing[‘s] housing land supply position needs to be viewed in that context.

“The fact remains that the appeal site [is] well used and highly valued by the local community.

“This local feeling is reflected in the over 1,200 objections that were received to the appellant’s planning application.”

In making a decision on the appeal, planning inspector Rory Cridland will consider local and national planning policy; whether the location is acceptable; housing demand; the council’s emerging local plan; effects of the proposed development on local green space and the national park; and highway impacts.

The area is designated as a protected green space or ‘green gap’ in the council’s emerging local plan which, if adopted, would shape development in the borough for the next 15 years.

A green gap helps to ‘maintain the distinction between the countryside and built up areas’, preventing urban sprawl and providing opportunities for recreation.

WBC leader Kevin Jenkins (Con, Gaisford) said: “We have always maintained that the Goring Gap which includes this land is an important green lung separating the communities of Worthing and Ferring.

“Whilst we accept that there is a need to build new homes for local people we want this to be on brownfield sites such as the town centre so that we can revive those spaces.

“It is disappointing that Persimmon has continued with this appeal and we will make our case clearly and persuasively to the inspector and trust our argument wins the day.”

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.”

Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley, who is a Persimmon shareholder, also made a statement today.

“The housing need in Worthing is almost national – people from London, Surrey, Wales, come to live in Worthing in their later years and a growing number of young people are coming,” he said.

“The appellant says there aren’t enough homes in Worthing.

“My response would be: there will never be enough homes in Worthing.”

The public inquiry started on Tuesday (18 Jan) and is expected to sit for eight days in total.

A livestream can be watched on the council’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzO8eEeKaOb90S3_XbOp2Xg

The schedule, alongside key documents, can be found at the council’s website here: https://www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/goring-planning-appeal/?fbclid=IwAR3CEB-hrlnustt9B0AEk2dAammUMk4yhmrG9f9S5i69mKGmhGHUvpn6LH8.

More details on the proposals for Chatsmore Farm can be found at the council planning portal using reference: AWDM/1264/20.