New study concludes iconic Chichester views would be significantly affected by developments proposed in the Local Plan

Iconic views of protected landscapes in Chichester Harbour and the South Downs National Park could be significantly affected if developments set out in the Chichester District Local Plan Review went ahead, a new study has concluded.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 3:42 pm

Chichester Harbour Conservancy and the South Downs National Park Authority commissioned the study of the views connecting the two protected landscapes and the views towards Chichester Cathedral from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

David Hares and Lynnette Leeson, from David Hares Landscape Architecture, worked together on the study and reported: “At this stage it can be concluded that there will be some significant adverse visual effects on the two designated landscapes, the South Downs National Park and the Chichester Harbour AONB, as a result of the proposed developments set out in the Chichester District Local Plan Third Review.”

They found the setting of Fishbourne Channel, considered to be one of the most sensitive parts of the Harbour, was most at risk, as well as the views from Walderton Down, and the Kingley Vale and The Trundle viewpoints.

Chichester Harbour from Kingley Vale. Picture: Paul Adams

Jeremy Hunt, conservancy chairman, said: “In many ways, the study has verified what we already knew, if we don’t radically rethink the emerging Local Plan there will be a massive visual impact on Chichester Harbour AONB.

“Of course, a whole raft of other challenges outside the scope of this work will further complicate matters, if development of this scale is planned such as wastewater provision, increasing flood risks, and the fragmentation of habitats.”

He said the iconic long-distance views should be better recognised in the Local Plan.

The last consultation period for Chichester District Council’s Local Plan Review 2035 closed in February 2019. At the time, both the conservancy, which looks after the AONB, and the national park authority raised concerns about the likely detrimental impact of some of the proposals on the two protected landscapes.

An aerial picture of Southbourne. Picture: Angus Peel, ProAction Creative

They also jointly commissioned the study, an independent assessment of the likely visual impacts of proposed major developments, including 2,000-plus dwellings across the east-west corridor, new industrial units at Apuldram and a new link road connecting the Fishbourne roundabout to Stockbridge.

Mr Hares said: “The council’s own studies identified the importance of the long-distance views and that these would be affected by these proposed developments.

“We were tasked with identifying the sensitivities of key long-distance views and what sort of growth, if any, could potentially be acceptable in terms of the visual impact.

“A key concern is how development might be controlled once the sites are allocated. Unless each development is fully ‘landscape led’ with existing trees and hedgerows being retained and supplemented, and industrial buildings in particular are restricted in height, it is necessary to assume the worst.

“We must also assume that the loss of trees to ash dieback will make the situation worse, as these trees are common throughout the areas concerned.”

The study found that if the entire allocated site at Apuldram is developed, it would have a significant adverse visual impact, damaging existing countryside views of Chichester Cathedral.

The proposal for a minimum of 250 dwellings at Highgrove Farm in Bosham was likely to block views towards the South Downs and proposals for a minimum 500 dwellings at Chidham and Hambrook were also likely have an adverse visual impact on the AONB.

The largest allocation along the east-west corridor is at Southbourne, where a minimum of 1,250 dwellings are proposed, as well as industrial buildings. The study found this scale of development would likely to be visible from the South Downs, particularly affecting Walderton Down and, to a lesser extent, Kingley Vale.

The study concluded: “Policies within the emerging plan do not, to date, appear to have adequately considered the long-distance views from or to the designated landscapes or recognise the importance of iconic views in the district, as is required by National Planning Policy Guidance.”

Mr Hunt said the conservancy will continue to try to positively influence the emerging Local Plan so the character and setting of the AONB along the east-west corridor between Southbourne and Chichester was protected in perpetuity, as well as the site at Apuldram.

The Priority Views Study is available to download from the Conservancy’s website