Campaigners celebrate surprise Chichester homes victory

Residents and supporters, delighted that the land adjoining the cemetery is to be saved from development for the moment. Picture by Kate Shemilt. C141548-1
Residents and supporters, delighted that the land adjoining the cemetery is to be saved from development for the moment. Picture by Kate Shemilt. C141548-1

‘FAITH in local democracy’ has been restored after the latest twist in a long-running planning saga.

Residents celebrated this week after Chichester District Council was refused a time extension for 80 homes in the city – by its own planning committee.

The fate of the former Portfield football ground has been a bone of contention for years, with the council planning to sell the land to a developer.

However, residents believed 80 homes was too many for the site.

As the Observer reported last week, many felt not enough parking was being provided and surrounding roads were going to be clogged.

“It restored my faith in local democracy,” said Lynne Friel, chairman of the Westhampnett Road and Church Road residents’ association, of the decision.

“And Chichester District Council as applicant can hardly appeal against the resounding decision of their own councillors.”

Many councillors at the meeting (January 7) spoke out strongly against the application, for an extension to the existing planning permission, which is due to expire this summer.

Chichester East district councillor Quentin Cox said: “There’s a feeling that this end of Chichester is getting to the thin end of the wedge.

“I do think we’re getting a pretty raw deal here in this part of Chichester.”

He raised numerous concerns about the housing plans, particularly the extra traffic burden the development would bring along Church Road and Westhampnett Road, when other developments such as Barnfield Drive and Old Place Farm were taken into account.

Boxgrove councillor Henry Potter said: “The whole principle of this development is fraught with problems.”

The current application allowed for 1.2 parking places per house, which the committee believed was not sufficient.

“We’re working to the specification 1.2 per house. I really do have my worries and doubts about that,” said Petworth councillor Janet Duncton.

Councillors wanted to reduce the number of homes but were told they could not do this as the application before them was merely for a time extension on the original application. Therefore, they decided instead to refuse the time extension out of hand.

Cabinet member for support services Josef Ransley has responsibility for the council’s estates.

“The only thing for me to add is to express my disappointment,” he said.

Cllr Ransley said the land was significant because of its potential financial value but also in terms of the level of housing that it would have allowed, including 40 affordable homes.

“I was fully of the opinion that the detail of the application was appropriate, that the content of the application was beneficial for the council and district and that the application was fully compliant with all local planning criteria,” he said.

Council response

A SIGNIFICANT investment was made by the council in the site at Portfield.

The area had a great financial value as well as contributing to the area’s housing supply. The refusal by the council’s planning committee now throws into doubt the plans for the future.

Although cabinet member Josef Ransley said the council was unable to appeal the decision as it would be in effect appealing against itself, it remains to be seen whether or not the council will look to bring forward a new application containing fewer homes and more parking to address the planning committee’s concerns.

After the planning committee, a council spokeswoman released the following statement:

“In July, 2010, the council was granted outline planning permission on the former Portfield Football ground for residential development.

“The council invested significant sums of money to improve the facilities at Oaklands Park for the football club and the Florence Road sports ground to bring it back into use; to widen the facilities available; and, build a changing facility on site.

“Following this, approval was given to sell the former football ground land to a developer in order to recoup this investment and deliver much-needed housing, including affordable units.

“Since then, the council has been carrying out preparatory work to enable the land to be offered for sale.

“The council has a duty to try and achieve the very best price for the land in the interest of local taxpayers.

“The sale of the land in the difficult market conditions of recent years may not have achieved this.

“The council applied for an extension to the existing outline planning permission to provide a potential developer with additional time for the detailed design work.

“This extension was refused by the council’s recent planning committee.

“The council, as landowner, is considering its position in the light of this decision.”

The original planning permission was for 80 homes to be built.