THE future of the Chichester district lies in the hands of Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as the local plan is handed over for inspection.
The plan, which outlines housing in the district for the next 15 years, is the result of three years’ work by Chichester District Council.
It provides for new jobs and homes in the district outside the South Downs National Park up until 2029 – but must be submitted to the government for independent examination before it is set in stone.
The plan is important, as it will protect the council from unwanted development in the area. This comes after several large-scale housing developments were accepted at a national level after being refused by the council, because of its housing shortfall.
The local plan will demonstrate a 15-year housing supply, with strategic locations such as Tangmere, Westhampnett, Shopwhyke and Whitehouse Farm taking the majority of the homes. There are several ‘settlement hubs’, such as Southbourne, Selsey and East Wittering and Bracklesham which will take a smaller number of homes.
In a Chichester District Council meeting on Thursday, councillors heard how the plan seeks to provide new homes and jobs that will allow the area to continue to prosper while protecting the special character of the area, in particular the countryside and the coast, the history and heritage of the area and the nature of the communities it will cover.
The council will now submit the plan to government, and the secretary of state will then appoint an independent planning inspector to carry out an examination of it. This will include holding a series of public hearings, which are anticipated later this year.
Heather Caird, leader of Chichester District Council, said: “This has been one of the most difficult pieces of work the council has ever delivered. It was always going to be difficult to find the right balance between protecting our beautiful district and delivering sufficient housing for the future. However, we believe we have achieved this through careful planning and consideration.
“An adopted plan is important as it means we can control planning decisions that will protect our outstanding environment. It sets a clear framework for development for the next 15 years, as well as the infrastructure that will be needed to service it. It is widely recognised that the council has been vulnerable to speculative development for some time as a result of not having an adopted local plan and a five-year housing land supply.”
Councillor Tony Dignum, cabinet member for finance, added that the plan represented a fair balance between meeting housing need and protecting the area’s distinct environmental heritage.
“We needed to recognise the shortage of housing, both nationally and locally, which has been aggravated by much lower rates of house-building during the recession.
“In addition, substantial population growth is forecast over the 15-year period of the plan and any government is likely to put a very high priority on increasing the rate of house-building. The plan sets out to accommodate these pressures and meet the clear local need for new homes in the most acceptable way.”
He also said: “Chichester cannot put up the drawbridge and say ‘no more after me’. Most of us come from outside the district.”
Although an independent inspector will have the final say on whether the plan is sound, the council said it had tried to listen to what everyone had said and had made some significant adaptations thanks to the input from local residents and businesses.
However, one residents’ group attempted to make a final stand against the plan, through its ward member Claire Apel.
Councillor Apel asked councillors to reconsider the strategic site at Whitehouse Farm on behalf of the Parklands Residents Association, as the group said the west of the city could not take the 1,000 homes which are set to be built there.
However, council members voted not to reconsider the strategic location, and risk delaying the submission of the plan.
The council expects the plan to be adopted by December 2014 if it is found sound by the government.
For information on the plan see www.chichester.gov.uk/newlocalplan