MANY members of our local community find it concerning that the Arun local plan 2011 – 2031 publication version quotes the housing allocation for the villages of Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate as ‘at least 2,000 homes’ and the masterplan produced by the Church Commissioners (as landowners) and their associates outlines proposals for ‘approximately 3,000 homes’.
Luken Beck, who represents the Church Commissioners, has made representations to increase the strategic allocation to 3,000 houses.
Did the Church Commissioners make representations to increase the strategic allocation to 3,000 houses at previous consultation stages, or is this an attempt to increase the housing number by stealth, by waiting until after the site has been formally selected by the council?
It seems that the church, through the Church Commissioners, are acting more like predatory developers than community leaders. Many developers have made similar representations and why shouldn’t they – it’s their job. But the church?
The local community are very uneasy with what is seen as a particularly proactive attack by the Church Commissioners on the communities of Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate as well as those downstream like Felpham, Middleton and Bersted.
The church will argue that people need homes and that the church is providing land to help achieve that – an argument I strongly support.
It is right and proper that the church should sell land to provide housing for those in need but only as long as the moral and ethical arguments are prioritised over the financial arguments.
I question if that is happening in this case?
Personally, I have always accepted the need for large-scale housing provision and so I support the 580 houses pa number as expressed in the local plan.
However, where I differ from both Arun District Council and the church is that I believe the houses should be built on brownfield land – why destroy historic communities and valuable greenfield land when there is a large brownfield site nearby?
The church is, in essence, advocating the use of greenfield land before brownfield land, which is in conflict with the NPPF, and is morally and ethically wrong.
I am concerned that, because the church does not own any brownfield land in the Arun district, it is prioritising use of its own land over the moral and ethical arguments relating to the use of brownfield land first.
Representations from the local community so far have had no impact. The church listens but it does not hear!
I feel this situation demonstrates a lack of moral leadership, as exercised by the church, through its commissioners.