Should ‘vibrant’ heart of Downs take more building?

Special Chichester District Council meeting
Special Chichester District Council meeting

THRIVING communities in the South Downs National Park should have greater levels of home building, according to a district council cabinet member.

Myles Cullen, cabinet member for commercial services, was speaking at a special council meeting to approve changes to Chichester District Council’s local plan.

The plan is in dire straits, with a government inspector advising the council to add more homes to its current total of 410 homes per year, bringing it up to 435 per year until 2029 to try to keep up with national housing targets.

The South Downs National Park Authority is yet to publish its local plan, although it is estimated to be preparing for 70 homes per year.

“I can’t believe that vibrant communities like Midhurst and other settlements in the national park can be restricted to 70,” said Cllr Cullen, citing that the national park took up the majority of the district and non-strategic sites outside the national park were getting 243 homes per year in comparison.

The cabinet member for planning, Carol Purnell, told him: “We’ve had to estimate the SDNPA because they’ve not yet got their plan in place. They may come forward with more or whatever. We don’t know at this stage.”

The SDNPA is set to publish the initial stages of its plan soon, with rumours it will introduce a ‘settlement hierarchy’ for development, which would see areas tiered into those that should take more development and those that should 
take less.

A spokesman from the SDNPA told the Observer: “We have not yet determined numbers of our allocations for housing in the national park area, our local plan for the national park will set out how we will meet our responsibilities to protect the landscapes while meeting the needs of our communities and the local economy.

“We have a strong track record in balancing the need for new homes and appropriate growth while conserving our landscape, for example at King Edward VII hospital which has won national recognition for planning excellence.”

The changes to Chichester’s local plan were approved almost unanimously by the council.