Sparks were flying at Birdham home debate – literally

‘A HEATED debate’ took place at a Chichester District Council meeting last week when electric speakers set alight.

Councillor Quentin Cox made his fiery jest after the small mishap but it turned out to be true as plans for 15 homes in Birdham were discussed at a planning committee meeting.

Villagers turned out to The Assembly Rooms, in Chichester, last Wednesday, November 13, with posters and leaflets outlining why they thought the Crooked Lane development was a bad idea.

They said the access road was too narrow and opposite a school but a West Sussex County Council highways officer said the 4.8m wide access road would be sufficient for two vehicles and pedestrians.

Councillor Cox said: “So there will be no lighting, no marked footway, but you’re hoping it will be safe as people will be careful?”

Planning officer Andrew Frost said: “It is not the best site that could have been found in planning terms but it appears to be the best site in housing terms.”

Mr Frost explained the developers, The Hyde Group, had allocated all 15 homes for affordable housing.

Speaking at the meeting, resident Mr Williams said: “You have to decide today, is there still sufficient need to build on this exception site or has the need been met in some other way?”

He was referring to several sites where houses have already been built including Longmeadow, 28 homes, Tate House, seven homes, and Rowan Nursery, which has planning approval for 25 homes.

Between the three, they provide 21 affordable homes. There is also an appeal for 30 homes at Tawney Nursery – ten of which would be affordable.

However, some residents turned up to support the application.

Marie Geary, who has lived in the village for 43 years, said affordable homes were needed for young families. “Birdham is a lovely village and people should not have to move away,” she said.

“I hope to see my grandchildren grow up in a village called Birdham that I call home.”

The application was approved in a vote which saw nine councillors vote for the development, and eight vote against it.

Laurie Pocock, speaking on behalf of the Birdham Residents’ Association after the meeting, said: “National policy is now to disperse rented social housing seamlessly into the housing stock.

“Every development has to have a proportion of affordable homes, so we thought the day of politically-incorrect isolated council estates was long gone, yet CDC were hell bent on pushing through this application for these 15 isolated and not well-connected homes at the end of a narrow country track whose ownership is disputed.

“Reasoned argument was robustly brushed aside. Councillors ignored the head teacher of Birdham School and they cast aside the views nearly 100 village residents.”

He said Birdham Parish Council and Chichester Harbour Conservancy, ‘were brave enough’ to object.