Residents’ anger over ‘inadequate’ consultation on housing ‘explosion’

Residents did not have sufficent opportunity to comment on plans to increase the size of their community by 50 per cent, it’s been argued.

Satellite view of Chidham village. Credit: Google Maps
Satellite view of Chidham village. Credit: Google Maps

Chidham and Hambrook parish has been allocated 500 new homes up to 2035 in Chichester’s Local Plan Review, which was put to public consultation this winter.

But concerns have been raised that the complicated website feedback form and lengthy paper documents were not ‘inclusive’ or easy to navigate.

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Jane Towers, vice-chairman of Chidham and Hambrook Parish Council, said she felt the system ‘wasn’t fit for purpose’ and did not offer everyone an equal chance to comment.

She said: “The consultation itself was very inadequate and difficult to navigate even with computer skills. It also effectively excluded anyone without access to the internet to comment.

“Using a phone would have used masses of data, a hard copy cost £15 and the public places it was accessible were day-time only.

“For those who did manage to navigate the system and needed help, the number given was to the [council] switchboard who then had to find someone from the Planning Team who was free, again day time only.”

Hunston Parish Council ended up collecting and hand-delivering responses to the Local Plan after reporting similar difficulties from residents who struggled to fill out the process.

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A councillor in Donnington went so far as to create a nine-page step-by-step guide on how to complete the online forms after the parish council was asked for help and found its own difficulties.

Residents in Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne, are also invited to discuss how to avert potential development in the village at a public meeting on February 28.

The 500 homes planned are ‘causing considerable anxiety and concern’, according to the parish council, which said it wanted to alert residents to ‘this impending house building explosion’.

Parish council chairman Philip MacDougall said: “This represents a 50 per cent increase in the number of houses already here and will have a dramatic impact on local life.

“We have been told by the district council that if the parish council oppose this development, they will simply be built anyway and that we will lose any chance of influencing the design and layout of this huge development.”

Philip added, that ‘as a reward for going along with the district council, we will be given a little extra cash for the parish as an inducement’.

The public meeting is to be held at 7.30pm on February 28 in St Wilfrid’s Church Hall in Broad Road.

Objections to housing include concerns over infrastructure, particularly with regards to congestion on the A259, and the loss of rural spaces and high grade agricultural land.