New homes planned for the district could ‘destroy’ the character of harbour village areas and elsewhere, a packed public meeting heard on Monday night.
But chairman Phillip MacDougall said he wanted to make the issue about challenging housing figures for the whole of the district, and not just one area, with Chichester set to take another 12,800 homes by 2035.
He said: “We have a very special environment here. We have the South Downs National Park to the north and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the south but they’re going to then put a raft of houses across the barrier, the narrow corridor between those two areas of land.
“Obviously that will not do a great deal of good for the environment.
“If the Local Plan is going to protect and enhance the unique and special qualities of our environment then the number of houses has to be reduced.”
The meeting heard from district councillors Adrian Moss and Penny Plant, who explained that the Local Plan had to be made to avoid Chichester’s housing target from central government going up.
Cllr Moss said the council was still working through a larger than expected number of responses to the Local Plan consultation but the plan itself could not be delayed.
“If we don’t get that plan to final production by June, two things can happen; it’s open season for developers because we don’t have a Local Plan and we lose a 40 per cent cap [on housing], that number increases anyway.”
Cllr Plant said government housing figures were down to a mathematical formula – but that modelling could be challenged or housing from the Chidham area could be ‘broken into smaller pieces’ spread across other areas.
Residents voiced concerns that new homes were unaffordable for young people from the area and increased building or ‘affordable’ units did not make a dent in an area where house prices are around 13 times the average salary.
There were also complaints from the floor about increased traffic on the A259, particularly in view of developments to the west.
Richard Weavis, chairman of Chidham’s neighbourhood planning group, more new homes should be built within the national park, w rather than being taken on by the rest of the district.
He said: “Though it is sacred, no doubt about it we need green spaces, many of us now feel that to actually help the national park and the people who live there survive and become dynamic and bring in children and everything else, that it would be reasonable for them to consider taking an allocation of houses – Midhurst, Petworth and areas like that, could take a lot more houses.
“We feel pressure should be put on.”
Andrew Kerry-Bedell from campaign group Save Our Harbour Villages, said he hoped for a reduction of 1,200 homes in the Local Plan.
He said the arrangement the district council had with the national park to take a third of its housing allocation was not binding and 880 homes in the SDNPA would be a ‘large proportion’ of that figure.
He added that ‘robust evidence’ of planning issues was needed to present to council officers and pressure needed to be put on the government too.
He said: “I think the housing action group will write to the governmnet and set out as well what all the problems are – how much good that will do I’m not entirely sure.”
In a show of hands, the room unanimously supported writing to the district council to reduce ‘unsustainable’ housing numbers in the Local Plan that would have ‘serious environmental consequences’.