The first phase of the ‘largest’ housing development in Chichester’s history has been approved – despite concerns construction traffic could create years of misery and gridlock.
Chichester District Council’s planning committee approved outline plans for 750 homes on greenfield land west of the city on Friday, phase one of a 1,600-home development at Whitehouse Farm.
Councillors had twice deferred the application, urging developers to meet concerned residents’ wishes and deliver a southern access from day one.
Linden and Miller Homes pledged to deliver the access earlier than initially planned but said negotiations over a ransom strip prevented them meeting the wish.
Addressing the committee, Chichester Society chairman Richard Childs said: “Whitehouse Farm is the largest single housing development in the 2,000-year history of Chichester. If it is going to be built it has to be done with the utmost regard to its existing residents and not put at risk the health and safety especially of its precious children.
“To misquote the Prime Minister, southern exit must mean southern exit.”
The committee heard from several residents’ associations and politicians, including mayor of Chichester Peter Budge.
While accepting the principle of housing, they were united in their belief the access arrangements would create congestion and safety issues, with construction traffic routed through the city.
The council’s local plan required the southern access to be built by the time the 751st property was occupied.
After six weeks of negotiations, the developers pledged to bring forward the timetable, offering to open the access by occupation of the 225th home - and earlier for construction traffic.
Sam Mogridge, of Linden Homes, explained land needed to build the access was owned by West Sussex County Council, Bishop Luffa school and Network Rail.
He said requiring the access from day one would drive up the value of the ‘ransom strip’, putting at risk the viability of the scheme.
This, he warned, could affect the level of affordable housing or amount of open space.
Although residents noted commitment to the earlier timetable was not legally binding, Mr Mogridge said the developers had signed a planning performance agreement, indicating its will to honour the pledge.
But the committee was warned rejection or deferral would leave them with little choice but to appeal.
The council’s principal solicitor, Nicola Golding, said: “I think it would be now wholly unreasonable of this council to go back on its word and insist the southern access is provided at this stage.
“In my opinion I think you should welcome with open arms what you have achieved so far. Certainly the planning performance agreement goes beyond what your local plan sets out to do.”
The committee approved the plans by 12 votes to three.
Councillor Richard Plowman argued ‘common sense’ told him the plans were ‘too big an ask for Chichester’ without a southern access from day one.
Councillor Carol Purnell agreed with officers that there was ‘no planning grounds’ to warrant refusal, despite residents’ understandable concerns.