Funtington group praised for its work

Members of a project which helped provide affordable housing in their village have been recognised for the contribution they have made to the community.

The Funtington Parish Affordable Housing Working Group was set up to oversee the provision of 12 new homes in Portal Close, which were formally unveiled at the end of last year (2010).

As a result of their hard work, the group was presented with a West Sussex Local Empowerment Award by the leader of West Sussex County Council, Louise Goldsmith on behalf of the South East Regional Empowerment Partnership.

The awards are organised to thank individuals, voluntary organisations and community groups dedicated to improving the area in which they live.

The affordable housing group is made up of parish councillors Dick Hammond and Joe Hepworth and West Ashling residents Peter Hall and Jonathan Barker.

The urgent housing need in the village was highlighted following a survey carried out as part of the parish plan. It found that 85 per cent of people considered affordable housing a priority.

Mr Hammond, who collected the award on behlaf of the group at a ceremony held in Edes House, West Street, said: “Local people can find themselves priced out of the market due to high housing costs whilst at the same time there is less affordable rented accommodation available.

“The result of this is that young people and those on lower incomes often have to move away from our parish.

“Family networks can break up, older villagers can lose the support of nearby relatives, local businesses can struggle to find trade and employees, schools, pubs, and shops suffer as a result.”

Mr Hammond said the project was a team effort, working with a number of organisations including Chichester District Council, housing association HydeMartlet, Action in Rural Sussex, the county council and Wilson House Builders. It was the first project to be completed by the Rural Housing Partnership between Hyde and CDC.

Planning permission for the development was granted in 2008, with residents moving in last December. Mr Hammond said the award was important and showed just what could be done when people worked together.

He said the new houses would improve sustainability by enabling young families and local workers to remain within the parish.

“The project has demonstrated how a community can be empowered to work together with local government and partner organisations and to take more responsibility to solve local problems,” he said. “This early example of a Big Society project has resulted in 12 much-needed homes for local people.”