Editorial comment: The Observer stands with the people in the fight to protect Chichester Harbour
The Government’s new ‘one size fits all’ proposal, set out in the Planning for the Future white paper, has put our beautiful district in a very difficult position.
Such is the strength of feeling, Chichester Harbour Trust has issued a strong statement on the consultation and is adamant it would have a major impact on our treasured Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The proposal is to reform the planning process, which the Government says will ensure more land is available for development where it is needed, but it takes away local input.
Particularly worrying is that the white paper no longer includes a legal requirement for planning public notices to be advertised in local newspapers and their websites. Not only would that impact on the funding of our public interest journalists to report on those making planning decisions but it would dramatically restrict the public’s ability to know what was planned - until it was too late.
And local input is what really is needed now.
This newspaper is crystal clear. Chichester Harbour is a priceless environmental asset and any attempt to despoil it either directly or the wildlife corridors that lead to it will be vigorously opposed.
Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith has been superb in arguing the case against the mutant algorithm which will impose housing in all the vulnerable locations.
These plans would be nothing short of catastrophic for Chichester Harbour and the AONB. The arguments are well rehearsed but would include destruction of landscape, environment, wildlife, biodiversity and the facility the harbour provides for the community in terms of recreation and mental wellbeing.
Already, the infrastructure is crumbling from the weight of current development.
The concern is that the ‘one size fits all’ approach will cause irreparable harm to landscape, biodiversity and communities across the country.
The trust points out that imposing an arbitrary figure that does not take account of local geography, need and capacity, irreversible harm could be caused to the very fabric of our cultural and environmental landscape, and the biodiversity it supports.
It is a registered charity, established in 2002, and it is interested only in protecting our natural beauty and wildlife habitats.
It strongly believes the level of housing need should be determined at a local level, based on the specific local context and economic need.
The local community, too, has been clear about its feelings on protecting the area from development.
So today we invite Chichester District Council and our MP Gillian Keegan to use the powerful platform that the Observer and its many websites offer to lead the fight to protect the Harbour - assuming, of course, that they agree with us.
Never before has their combined influence been more needed by this constituency to fight to protect its environmental jewels which are of global significance.
At the same time, we urge readers to write to us in support of the Harbour, in opposition to this rushed, ridiculous and downright dangerous white paper - and to make the point that your right to know about planning matters through your local newspaper is of crucial importance to you.
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