Residents who raised concerns about impending damage to Chichester Harbour from mass development say their views have been ignored.
SOS-C, a campaign to help Save our South-Coast and our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from unsustainable development, produced a report and sent it out to the leader of Chichester District Council, individual cabinet members and other councillors, as well as West Sussex County Council to challenge Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, three times.
Libby Alexander, speaking on behalf of SOS-C, said: “This was a genuine cross party collective report of concerns investigated across the many groups, associations, societies, etc., who value, use and protect this jewel in the crown of the nation’s southern coastline and the impending damage that will inevitably occur as a result of mass and unnecessary development.
“This report should have been at least acknowledged. It was ignored.”
She praised the ‘excellent and comprehensive article’ in last Thursday’s Chichester Observer, launching our Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour Campaign, and said it was a timely reminder of the threats to Chichester Harbour, as well as Medmerry and Pagham Harbours and their hinterland.
Libby said: “In the autumn of 2018, SOS-C was formed by a group of residents who were increasingly worried over the growing threats to this sensitive region.
“They began to seek out those that lived, worked and played in the affected area and created a document to give a voice to their concerns.”
No replies came and it seemed no one was listening.
Libby said: “So, it was with huge relief to discover that the Observer also were aware of the growing disquiet being expressed, especially in light of the many local parishes that are in the middle of having to re-write their Neighbourhood Plans to incorporate hundreds of this new housing.
“The writers of the SOS-C acknowledge the need for more housing but were concerned that there seemed to be no constructive policy that took into account the sensitivities of the local area, especially that of our very special AONB of Chichester Harbour and Fishbourne Meadows.
“The only policy that seems to be on the table will eventually lead to the complete coalescence of communities along the length of the A259. The density of houses and all the detrimental effects these will have on the surrounding land, together with the lack of infrastructure, the corrosive effect of the inevitable growth in traffic and the pollution on every level will, inevitably, create long-term irreparable damage to the Harbour.
“This document is not the voice of NIMBYs. There is a statutory duty of the government and local authorities to protect the AONB of Chichester Harbour for the nation and for future generations.”
SOS-C organised a gathering at Dell Quay on Sunday to demonstrate the level of support. Those attending included Chichester Harbour Trust chairman John Nelson, Friends of Chichester Harbour events manager Ginny Kidd, and representatives of the Manhood Peninsular, Doddington, Apuldram, Fishbourne, Bosham and the Chidham Peninsular.
Libby said: “All these, together with representatives of other local groups, came together to show support for and express concerns as raised in the Observer article.”
Chichester District Council says the views of residents and businesses are really important and that is why consultation is a key part of the planning process.
A council spokesperson said: “We welcome the views that people have and carefully review the feedback we receive before updating our planning policies. In the case of new planning policies, such as those contained in the draft Local Plan Review, residents and businesses are asked for their views and ideas at each stage of the process, to make sure that they are very much involved in the development of each policy that is produced.
“We have just carried out an extensive consultation exercise on our draft Local Plan Review and we are currently reviewing the responses. Once the plan has been updated it will be considered by the cabinet and then the full council. Following this, residents and businesses will then have another opportunity to have their say, before a formal examination of the plan.
“As we highlighted last week, the Chichester Harbour is incredibly important to the council, its residents and visitors, nd it’s our intention to continue to protect this area in accordance with national policy. We have not proposed any allocations of land for development within the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty within the draft Local Plan Review.
“We believe that people may be incorrectly assuming that the land identified in the Housing Land Economic Land Availability Assessment is being proposed for development, when this is not the case. Only two pieces of land identified on the assessment have been allocated as potential sites of development within the draft Local Plan – both of which are outside of the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The assessment is a technical, evidence base report. It does not allocate land for development, but merely identifies land that may be available. This is a requirement of government as part of the plan making process.
“As we are currently in the pre-election period, the next stage of the Local Plan Review will not be considered until after the elections in May. Within the pre-election period, legal restrictions on communications activity are in place. This means that we are able to provide responses to media enquiries, but we are unable to use any of our councillors as spokespeople during this time.”