JUBILANT Birdham residents have been celebrating after plans for 46 new homes were thrown out – against the advice of planning officers.
In a two-hour debate, councillors discussed a plan for the homes on land south east of Church Lane which officers had recommended be approved.
At the start, five residents pleaded their case for councillors to go against the officers’ recommendation and refuse the application.
“Some people think that planning is a matter of life or death. It’s not. It’s much more important than that,” said resident Roger Tilbury.
He said, if the proposal went ahead, the consequences of allowing such a development on an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) would impact not only on Chichester but nationally as well.
Pieter Montyn, councillor for West Wittering, spoke at length against the application.
“It’s reflected the strength of feeling,” he said after the fifth speaker against the application was applauded by the 50 or so people who came to witness the committee’s debate last Wednesday (August 21).
“They have all put things extremely well. There’s a great fear and emotion alarming residents to do with their way of life.”
He then highlighted a number of problems with the development, including drainage and flooding, building on agricultural land, the fact it should be considered a major development, recreational disturbance and its location in the AONB.
Residents held up pictures of a field which had flooded more than once in extreme weather in the last few years and some jeered a drainage expert who said the problem could be fixed if culvert levels were adjusted.
Councillors who criticised the application were roundly applauded by the audience.
Once it became clear councillors were almost unanimously against the officer’s recommendation, the discussion moved to the grounds on which to refuse the application.
The committee was fearful that, because two recent refusals were overturned at appeal, history might repeat itself if it refused the application on grounds the planning inspector would consider insufficient.
Ultimately, councillors voted to refuse the scheme on the grounds of adverse impact on the AONB, the potential loss of agricultural land, recreational disturbance, the lack of need for the houses in Birdham and surface water drainage.
After the meeting, resident Laurie Pocock praised the ‘courage’ of the committee for making the decision.