MORE and more neighbourhood plans are getting closer to completion throughout the district.
However, it is becoming a race against time for many as they try to complete their plans before developers submit applications for smaller developments before Chichester District Council’s emerging local plan takes effect.
A number of different developers have cited the lack of a five-year housing supply in the Chichester district as an excuse to submit numerous applications.
Cries that this is undermining the concept of localism have been heard loud and clear throughout the district – especially from Westbourne and Southbourne recently.
THE neighbourhood plan steering group in Westbourne is in the process of completing its own neighbourhood plan. Last week saw the final day to submit answers to its questionnaire.
However, chairman of the group Richard Hitchcock said the construction of the plan should be sending a message to developers to let parishes decide the places they felt to be appropriate for housing.
“We’ve got this neighbourhood plan process under the localism act which is meant to give us some sort of power over any new development that happens in the parish,” he said.
“I’m concerned about getting the message out there.”
Under Chichester District Council’s emerging local plan, the parish has been allocated 25 homes – a relatively-small number compared to neighbouring Southbourne, which has been allocated 350.
“We would like to determine where they go,” said Richard of the 25 homes.
The village has been successful in winning two planning appeals recently – one for 22 homes on land north of Long Copse Lane and the other for 28 homes on land on the corner of Foxbury Lane and Cemetery Lane.
However, outrage greeted a resubmission of the Long Copse Lane application by developer Southcott Homes, this time with the number of homes reduced from 22 to 16.
“To be honest, I don’t think any of us were surprised when they came back for a second bite of the cherry,” he added.
He said Southcott had called a meeting with residents before submitting the initial application.
“I remember it very distinctly and members of the public were there. They invited everyone to come. They’ve not approached us with regard to a new application.”
Taylor Wimpey, which submitted the Foxbury Lane application, said in its response to the district council’s consultation on its draft local plan it did not think 25 was enough homes for Westbourne – something villagers disputed.
One resident recently labelled as ‘crazy’ the fact that developers remained able to jump the gun and submit planning applications before a parish had finalised its neighbourhood plan.
Seaward Properties has submitted three planning applications for Southbourne, totalling 269 homes, despite having held meetings with the parish council to discuss their plans.
The parish council and Southbourne’s neighbourhood plan steering group had been working with Seawards to ensure ‘transparency, involvement and consideration for all Southbourne residents’, according to the council.
However it has since accused Seaward of reneging on the original scheme, submitting a scheme for a greater number of homes than was discussed with the parish.
As reported in the Observer, the parish council said in a statement that it was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the developer.
Seaward did not wish to comment at the time, but it has been indicated by developers that while there is a lack of a five-year housing supply in the Chichester district, they are quite at liberty to submit for the number of homes they see fit.
Southbourne resident Brian Donnelly spoke to the Observer about the notion of developers rushing to submit applications before neighbourhood plans were ready.
“This may not be particularly unique to Southbourne, but seems to be, frankly, a bit crazy,” he said.
“We are encouraged to embrace the neighbourhood planning mechanism – which our parish council is doing – but by the time the plan
comes into force, certain sites it sought to protect from development might already be gone.”
Southbourne Parish Council does not support any of Seaward’s applications, but this may not be enough to stop them from being built.
Meanwhile in Fishbourne, a 75-home plan has sparked a row between a developer and residents.
Land south of Ivy Lodge was deliberately excluded from Fishbourne’s neighbourhood plan, because it was not considered to be a ‘sustainable’ site for development. However, this has not stopped Fishbourne Development Ltd submitting its plan for 3.91ha of the site.
In 2008, an action group was formed to fight a proposal for 200 new homes on the field – with villagers flagging up their opposition to building on the site
At a number of recent planning inquiries, developers’ lawyers have consistently used the lack of a five-year housing supply in the Chichester district as an excuse to justify the building of homes.
At Foxbury Lane, in Westbourne, the daffodil field between Chichester and Lavant, the developer argued the lack of a five-year supply from the district council meant the developments should get the green light.
However, in both those applications, the planning inspector ruled that the harm that would be caused by the development would outweigh the benefit it would have to the supply.
But the same argument did not hold sway for Maudlin Nurseries, in Westhampnett, nor Park Farm, in Selsey, both of which saw developers win appeals after citing the lack of a housing supply.
The five-year housing supply assessment compares the overall housing requirement with the projected supply of homes expected to be delivered over the five-year period in the Chichester district.