Petworth residents voice concern over neighbourhood plan

A map produced by the PRNG showing  showing where the group thinks housing could be built
A map produced by the PRNG showing showing where the group thinks housing could be built

Sites earmarked for housing needs in Petworth over the next 15 years in the town’s emerging Neighbourhood Plan (NP) have been criticised.

And now Lynnette Humphry speaking on behalf of the Petworth Residents Networking Group (PRNG) is urging people to make their voices heard.

She said concerns surfaced following the exhibition in The Leconfield Hall which heralded the start of the final six week public consultation.

In a letter being circulated to Petworth homes the networking group said: “Many residents are unhappy with the build to the south and the option process. The residents were presented with three options in June 2016 - the process started with 39 sites. ‘Option 1’ was presented as the leading site to benefit the major landowner. Leconfield Estate have dictated in the process of the site allocation and have a conflict of interest. The agents carried out a ‘Landscape Assessment’ and their masterplan was used towards the plan.”

The letter claimed the NP did not have to cater for all 150 houses allocated for the town by the South Downs National Park (SDNP): “According to the SDNP’s Local Plan policy any homes built or planning consent given after April 1, 2014 will be taken into account.”

30 homes already had consent, said the letter, 21 at Laundry Cottages and nine at Rosemary Lane which meant the NP could cater for 30 less homes.

The PRNG’s letter claimed the SDNP’s preferred option at the outset was to build to the north: “They said building to the south would have a ‘potential, adverse impact on the character and appearance of the landscape’ and ‘no building would be made to the south of Petworth’.”

In addition: “The farming community say ‘agricultural land to the south is Grade A and forms part of our heritage.”

Views of new housing are also a concern: “Views from New Grove will be protected by the Leconfield Estate, why not the other residents to the south?”

The national park was involved in the plan process, stressed the letter and should be protecting the park, but: “The site to the south, viewed from Duncton Hill will have a devastating effect on the landscape, dark skies at night and green fields.”

The PRNG letter claimed residents had complained the questionnaire which had to be returned by May 15 was ‘complicated and aimed at professionals only.’ It urged people to write direct to planners at the SDNPA ‘if you are not happy with the process or feel there are discrepancies’.

Their letters would be forwarded to the examiner. “If the plan is approved, we still have a ‘Resident only referendum’, where our views will decide the future.”

‘HEALTHY DEBATE’ IS WELCOMED

‘Healthy debate’ on how the town should be developed over the next 15 years is supported and welcomed said Chris Kemp chairman of Petworth Town Council.

Responding to the Petworth Residents Networking Group he urged people to ensure their voices on the future of Petworth were heard.

Mr Kemp added that the town council, which is leading the drawing up of the neighbourhood plan: “understands there will differences of opinion over the important decisions affecting the town. However, in preparing the draft plan, we believe we have carefully listened to the majority and not the few and are confident it is supported by robust and credible evidence. 

“That said, the entire purpose of the consultation currently underway is to ensure we have understood and reflected the views of the town as a whole. Please therefore, take the time to review the draft plan and its supporting evidence base and provide us with your comments.”

He said comments should be sent to Petworth Town Council, not the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).

“To make your voice on the future of Petworth heard, please ensure your comments are submitted to the town council.

“The SDNPA have confirmed its response to the consultation will be considered at its May 11 planning committee. This response along with all other comments received, before midnight on Monday May 15, will be considered by the town council. This includes the need for any changes to the draft plan prior to its submission to the SDNPA later in the year.”

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