“In three months time, decisions will be taken that could have a massive impact on the most important landscape in Sussex – and one of the most beautiful in the country – Chichester Harbour framed by the South Downs,” says John Nelson, chairman of Chichester Harbour Trust.
“Chichester District Council have produced a local plan to meet national Government housing targets. More housing in the region is necessary and should be supported.
“But, the plan they have produced inflicts the most damage that is possible on the landscape, the setting of Chichester Harbour and the AONB, the extraordinary biodiversity we have and most importantly on the communities around the harbour and just outside.
“It will effectively turn the corridor between Havant and Chichester, bounded by the harbour and the South Downs into a more or less solid block of development – coalescence of the worst sort. It is planned to build low density housing – using up the most land for the least number of homes.
“This is a lazy plan. It suits the local council because it will be easy to execute. It will suit the developers because building standard homes on green fields is cheap and highly profitable. This is why representations from bodies such as the Chichester Harbour Trust, the Chichester Harbour Conservancy, West Sussex County Council and local communities are falling on deaf ears at CDC.
“This plan shows no imagination, no lateral thinking and does not consider more constructive solutions. A combination, for example, of some higher density housing, apartment buildings, a detailed study of brownfield sites, more residential development in retail locations given the rapid shrinking of retail space, and perhaps trying to build one or two significant new communities is given no consideration in the plan.
“This combination would also suit the demographics of the area much better. All of this would give the chance of preventing coalescence, preserving the sense of community in existing villages, and maintaining the beauty of the setting of the harbour and the South Downs.
“The council have introduced recently the concept of wildlife corridors to try to minimise the biodiversity damage of cutting off the South Downs from the harbour. These are totally inadequate and there was no consultation on these in advance with the experts at the Chichester Harbour Conservancy or the South Downs National Park.
“So the community of the Chichester area need to take action now to ensure the CDC does not inflict permanent and unnecessary damage to the region. Succeeding generations will not forgive us if we do not take steps to prevent this. We only need to look at the ribbon development that has been carried out along the South Coast to the east and west of us over the last century to give us a wake up call.
“With local council elections coming in May, we should all be talking to our local councillors and candidates to see what they intend to do in office. We should be speaking to our MP to ensure she is prepared to become involved in the debate. At the moment she is quiet.
“This is the time for the community to act.”