Midhurst’s two independent district councillors are at loggerheads over figures which claim there are shocking levels of unemployment and multiple deprivation on the town’s biggest housing estate.
Last week Gordon McAra said urgent action was needed to improve the situation at Holmbush where the latest collated data showed it had the sixth highest level of multiple deprivation of the 72 areas identified in the district.
He was convinced the key lay in the development of two large areas of industrial land which currently lie idle to provided much needed jobs.
But this week Brian Weekes dismissed his belief as ‘absolutely absurd’.
He told the Observer: “We already have enough empty industrial sites in the town and the surrounding area, what we need is housing land not industrial sites.
“Why develop more industrial land when we can’t fill the sites we already have?
“If we had more housing, we would have more people shopping in Midhurst and there wouldn’t be so many shop closures.”
He said part of the problem centred on the Tatchells House sheltered home which had been boarded up for more than a year and had become an eyesore.
“It makes the area look like some slum in London and brings the estate as a whole, down.
“It has had lead stolen from the roof and piping ripped out from the inside of the building.
“I know it has planning permission for houses but when is this going to happen.
“One of the problems we have is that drug dealers have come to live in the area, having been moved away from their previous homes, which has mad the youth drug problem worse.
“Having said that, 98 per cent of the kids of the estate are decent hard-working people interested in getting on with their lives.”
He said he did not agree with Cllr McAra that employment in the town, without the need to travel, was the key to the problem.
“I know people who live in Midhurst who work in Fernhurst six miles away and Chichester about 11 miles away, that’s not what I call travelling away so there is employment in the area,” he said.
He added he did not believe there were health issues on Holmbush estate as cited in the Chichester District Council collated data.
“You will find health problems such as diabetes and other what I call minor illnesses on any estate,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean there is health deprivation there.”
Cllr Weekes said he understood there were moves at neighbouring Arun District Council to put a five-year residency requirement on all those seeking homes through the council’s housing list.
“I would like to see that introduced at Chichester District Council so that preference was given to young people who have been brought up in the area.”