ARUN District Council’s latest (third) bid for Enterprise Zone status has failed.
The council’s instant reaction was to issue a press release stating: “We will continue to promote the site and are confident that with the opening of the new Rolls Royce Motor Cars Technology and Logistics Centre on the site in January 2016 many other businesses will be attracted to this prime location”.
This location was first identified for employment in the 2003 Local Plan – created by Cllr Mrs Brown. No employers turned up during the plan period and so it was a barren decade for employment provision in Arun district.
The location is, of course, about as far from the A27 as possible, and in flood zone 3.
Then a first Enterprise Zone bid was submitted and rejected by government. This was followed by a second, then a third bid, all of which failed and all at the same location, now called Enterprise Bognor Regis (EBR).
The Environment Agency submission to the draft Local Plan stated: “However, we do have some concerns as to how decisions were made in relation to employment land allocations and the proposed sites for strategic housing allocations which we would like to see addressed before any further consultation,” and “The four sites identified as employment land allocations in the Bognor Regis Enterprise Zone lie within Flood Zone 3.”
Flood Zone 3 is land at most risk of flooding.
I want an Enterprise Zone in our district as much as everybody else, but I am aware that we live on a flood plain and that, for some very strange reason, the council has identified one of the lowest points on the flood plain for our future employment provision.
If mitigation is possible it will be expensive. It is anything but ‘a prime location’ as the council’s spin doctors describe it. It does not make sense.
Recently, Rolls Royce committed to this location and are utilising the only land not in Flood Zone 3.
Having seen the size of the Rolls Royce buildings we can perhaps understand why Chichester did not want them at the foot of the South Downs – it was a lucky windfall for us in Arun as close neighbours.
But will the presence of Rolls Royce really persuade other businesses to locate in flood zone 3 and so far from the A27?
Might they lose interest as soon as they realise that Rolls Royce has taken the high ground and the rest of the land is in Flood Zone 3 ... and that the proposed Enterprise Zone is little more than hot air and council spin.
By contrast, I have always been an advocate of development on brownfield land at Ford, which is in Flood Zone 1 (land at least risk of flooding), adjacent to the south coast main railway line, and adjacent to the proposed Arundel Bypass. A perfect location for an Enterprise Zone.
The announcement of £250 million funding for an Arundel bypass is very welcome news. Yet, in spite of this, the council continues to promote land as remote from the A27 as possible for employment provision and shows little interest in utilising this substantial government investment for the benefit of the coastal sub-region as a whole.
How can our district make economic progress when strategic planning at Arun District Council, is so deeply entrenched, seems obsessive about this particular location, and appears close-minded to more viable alternative locations?
We urgently need a fresh approach to strategic planning if we are not to blight the employment prospects of our next generation.
Surely, it is now time for us all to consider why the council continues to be so obsessed with this location?