Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour: Beacon of hope as campaigners drive message home

John Nelson, chairman of Chichester Harbour Trust. Picture: Kate Shemilt C130734-2
John Nelson, chairman of Chichester Harbour Trust. Picture: Kate Shemilt C130734-2

Campaigners say they are starting to see a beacon of hope in their efforts to protect Chichester Harbour from overdevelopment.

The protectors of the harbour and residents in the area have been forthright on the subject and are making their voice heard as part of the Chichester Local Plan Review.

Chichester Harbour Trust believes we are starting to see the impact from the efforts of the community, combined with our own Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour campaign, which has been running in this newspaper since March.

John Nelson, chairman, said: “The atmosphere has completely changed. Before, the door was pretty well shut but now, the door appears to be at least ajar. There is the realisation that they can’t just railroad the Local Plan through, we are going to challenge it very, very hard.

“The Observer’s campaign is having a huge impact on the community and everybody is realistic enough to know we have got to stand our ground on the issue.

“The local election results were a big shock and while we are told Brexit played a big part, in fact the harbour campaign played a very big part, too. If you look around the incumbent councillors, they took a big bath undoubtedly.

“With a lot of the incoming councillors, part of their manifesto was the harbour. The campaign has really galvanised all the different bodies into action. It has really been a good community effort.

“We have met with the leaders of the different political parties and recently met with the leader of the council, Eileen Lintill. That was followed last week with a group session for interested councillors on the impact of the Local Plan and our suggested mitigating measures.

“They are definitely talking more about wildlife corridors, the settlement gaps and the study on landscaping by Chichester Harbour Conservancy. They are beginning to look at housing density and the impact of economic trends, like retail, and where there might be space becoming available over the years.

“That is our impression. There is certainly a large body of councillors hammering them very hard. The key thing is that between now and September, we have got to keep up the pressure.

“We hope our MP, Gillian Keegan, is focused on it. We need the government to take a second look at our housing allocation. We have an absolutely unique set of circumstances. There is nowhere else quite like Chichester Harbour.”

Chichester District Council has confirmed the timetable has been looked at again.

A spokesperson said: “The Local Plan Review timetable, which is set out in the Local Development Scheme, is currently undergoing further revision.

“The proposed amended timetable will be reported to cabinet and council in September 2019, with publication soon after.”

Louise Goldsmith, who represents the Chichester West division on West Sussex County Council and is a board member of Chichester Harbour Conservancy, said it was important to allow time to consider a number of changing factors.

She explained: “Chichester District Council has to find the housing numbers and you don’t want to be obstructive but you can’t take things as they are at present, you have to look on them in a different way.

“Declaring a climate emergency has been really good because it is putting the pressure on the councils to realise you can’t have things as they were.

“I think everybody has now got the message but we cannot take our foot off the pedal. The big push is for our MP to take this forward. I hope she realises how important this is.”