Homes row heats up as Birdham villagers slam council

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Angry Birdham residents declared a lack of confidence in their parish council after a heated debate about building affordable homes in the area.

Birdham Parish Council agreed there was a need for affordable housing and proposed to write to Chichester District Council for it to come forward with plans for an exception site.

After the proposal, resident David Williams stormed out of the meeting along with others. He said: “Not in any way is this democratic.”

Stephen Crossley dramatically stepped down as a Birdham councillor at the start of the meeting.

He told residents: “It is with regret that I have to resign from Birdham Parish Council.

“I am very aware that a huge number of people voted for me. I wanted these people to understand why I came to this decision.

“I joined the council to serve the community and I always wanted to be able to look people in the eye, hand on my heart, and explain that I believe every process was done fairly.

“But I can’t do that. Sorry, but that’s me finished.”

A member of the public then replied, ‘We’re sorry too’.

Mr Crossley added there was a ‘lack of confidence’ in the way the parish council has handled the affordable housing issue.

There are currently around 50 people on the housing list with a local connection to Birdham, and one resident said affordable housing was badly needed in the area.

Parish councillor Angela Parks said: “I find it very strange that people don’t have the charity to even consider people in need of housing, which would be for 12 families.”

Some residents were angry the only option for affordable housing seemed to be for Crooked Lane.

Former parish councillor Paddy Bolton said: “We all know that the only exception site available is the Crooked Lane site.”

However the parish council clerk David Siggs pointed out there was one other site, and another that has the potential to be an exception site to accommodate affordable housing.

Vice chairman of the council Carolyn Cobbold said: “We have only voted on the exception sites. It is now up to the district council to come up with an exception site.”

Resident Andrew Wilson said: “Why are we being frogmarched into making a decision now? A decision over the next six months will affect us for the next 200 years.”

Exception sites such as the land at Crooked Lane are sites in small villages which have not been allocated for development in the Local Plan or Local Development Framework, which might be suitable for small schemes of affordable housing for local people.

The granting of planning permission is usually dependent on whether the site is close to the development, the village boundary, if there is general local support for the proposal, if there is evidence of a local need and if there are long-term mechanisms to limit occupancy to local people.

Those wishing to live in affordable housing must have a local connection to the area. This includes if the person on the housing list works in the area, lives in the area, has family in the area, or someone who was a previous resident who was forced to move away from the area.