PROBLEMS over finding enough suitable sites for new homes in Chichester could be solved if West Sussex County Council’s massive County Hall complex was sold for redevelopment, a city council meeting was told.
Cllr Richard Plowman called for ‘radical thinking’ in response to a district council consultation on housing numbers.
He said the possibility of the county council selling its site and moving out of the city should be looked at.
He argued the sale would raise millions – enough to relocate the authority to a purpose-built development elsewhere in the area, possibly at Tangmere.
The city council agreed to put this forward as an idea to be considered, in its response to the consultation.
Another suggestion, from Cllr Tony French, that some of the gravel pit lakes on the city’s outskirts, in Quarry Lane, could be drained to provide land for extra homes will also be put forward.
Serious concerns were expressed during the meeting about the likely impact of extra homes on the city, not only within its boundaries but as a result of large-scale housebuilding suggested for locations outside them.
Cllr Plowman said: “What about saying to the county council, ‘Why not move out of Chichester and build yourself a new headquarters?’ There could be a good reason to move to Tangmere.”
He said land was very valuable within the City Walls, and could generate enough for the county to build a new headquarters, freeing a considerable amount of land within the city which could accommodate about 500 houses.
“Chichester and the land and infrastructure are almost at capacity,”he added.
“My big concern is that we are approaching this in the wrong way, and need more radical thinking.”
Possible solutions being put forward by the district were ‘very poor’ he said.
Cllr French supported the idea of radical thinking, and said he had for some years put forward the view that the Environment Agency should be asked if some of the lakes in Quarry Lane could be drained, to provide land for homes, linked to the A27.
Water from the lakes could be redirected via the River Lavant to the harbour. “This is a very big area which could be used.”
He also told the meeting the city was already being throttled by cars.
He did not believe anything should be built to the east until a decent road system had happened.
Cllr Martyn Bell argued strongly against a suggested site at Whitehouse Farm, to the west of the city.
He said most shoppers living in such a development would go through a very congested area, through the city, to reach the superb out of town shopping centre being created to the east. “Why not have homes on the east side, not the west?” he demanded.
Cllr Tony Dignum warned it was necessary to cope with the law as it was. “None of us wants any more houses if we could avoid it, but we can’t,” he said.
The south east plan was already there, and when it was no longer there it would be replaced by something else with very similar housing numbers.
Cllr Clare Apel said: “Chichester is a gem of a city which we want to preserve. We have to fight for it as city councillors.”