Affordable homes plan in Birdham a concern, say villagers

Birdham residents concerned for the future of their village have said new housing will overcrowd the roads and add to the area’s drainage woes.

Some residents have rallied together after they learned that plans are in the pipeline to build 15 affordable homes as an exception site on a field off Crooked Lane.

And developer Seaward Properties has written to some residents about its intention to build homes on a site at Church Lane. David Williams, of Crooked Lane, gave a presentation to residents at a Birdham Parish Council meeting and got a good response from residents who signed up to form a residents’ association.

“The main issues people have generally been concerned about are the infrastructure problems: everyone trying to get off the peninsula at 8.30am, the drainage of sewage and our local school, which is already full,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you put the houses, there would be a problem.”

He also said access is a major concern to the Crooked Lane site as it is very narrow and opposite Birdham Primary School’s entrance.

Birdham councillor Roger Tilbury, who leads on planning issues for the parish council parish council, said there is a general ‘nervousness’ about what the parish council may be asked to do in the future, as the district council decides on how houses will be built in the area until 2028.

He said: “We can’t see how a large number of extra houses could be accommodated (on the peninsula), with the road structures and shortfall of ability to handle sewage.”

Mr Tilbury confirmed a letter has been sent to some residents in the village about Seaward’s plans to develop on a site at Church Lane. Currently, there are 41 households on the council’s housing register that have a local connection to the parish of Birdham.

Chichester District Council has stated it does not own any land in Birdham. The council said rural areas like Birdham are some of the most unaffordable areas to live in the UK. The Chichester Rural Housing Partnership has been working with Birdham Parish Council and the local community since 2008 to identify a site which could be developed for affordable housing; this has been in response to a very high local housing need.

A council spokesman said: “The site under consideration at Crooked Lane is an exception site, and would not normally be available for open market housing. However, policy H9 of the Council’s Local Plan allows for the development of affordable housing outside of a village’s Settlement Policy Area, as long as they are for local households and remain as affordable housing in perpetuity.”

The council has stated that it would not be involved in the development of housing. The site is still privately owned and should the site be taken forward, HydeMartlet, the council’s rural Registered Provider partner, will purchase the site directly and will submit a planning application in due course.

“This will be subject to the same rigorous and stringent testing that any development of this nature would be, by the Local Planning Authority.”

The Chichester Rural Housing Partnership is due to hold a public exhibition for local residents on Friday, January 20, at Birdham Village Hall, 2.30-6.30pm. Seaward Properties were unavailable to comment.