Government blamed as Chichester puts more homes in plan

VOTERS could punish councillors at the polls next year for failing to repel more houses in the Chichester district.

This was a view expressed at a district council meeting on Monday (November 24) as councillors hit out at top-down government targets forcing more homes to be crammed into the local plan to satisfy a government inquiry.

Special Chichester District Council meeting

Special Chichester District Council meeting

“I feel bound to say that a great majority of the population of West Sussex won’t understand the difficulty we’re in and I think they will be very displeased,” Westbourne district councillor Mark Dunn told his fellow councillors.

He said residents might not appreciate why the council was raising its housing target in the plan from 410 to 435 houses per year, a total increase of 415, from 6,973 to 7,388.

“Using a very broad brush, it’s clear to me that the great majority of the electorate we represent are in general terms opposed to additional housing.

“They like the situation, they like the status quo and they depend on us, their representatives, to bring their opinions forward in meetings like this.”

Nevertheless, he said of the local plan: “I’m very much convinced it represents the best course of action for the council in its difficulties.”

The increase in numbers is made up of an extra 80 in East Wittering and Bracklesham, 85 in Chichester city and the surrounding area and speeding up the rate of building at Whitehouse Farm, west of Chichester, to build an extra 250 by 2029 – the length of time for which the blueprint plans.

Councillors voted almost unanimously to take the amendments forward, following advice from the government inspector at the local plan inquiry.

“Ultimately if we don’t go far enough, let it be on the government’s head and not ours,” said Andrew Smith, district councillor for Westhampnett whose ward is allocated for 350 homes as it is earmarked as a strategic development location.

He supported the local plan, but also questioned whether builders could construct the number of houses they were promising.

“There’s clearly a marked contrast between the evidence we’re expected to provide as a local planning authority to justify housing numbers we’ve chosen and the obligation of the developers to show they’re able to achieve a build rate over the next 15 years that they’ve not been able to achieve for the past ten,” he said.

Council leader Heather Caird said: “This is a sound, objectively-balanced plan based on the evidence available to us. It represents a modest increase in housing numbers.”

The local plan inquiry is set to start again on Tuesday (December 2).