Parliamentary candidates for Chichester have responded to Chichester Harbour Trust’s call for the environmental debate to top the political agenda locally.
John Nelson, trust chairman, highlighted the trust’s deep concern for Chichester Harbour and the threats to the landscape and setting of the harbour, water quality, wildlife, botany and biodiversity generally from development.
Dr Kate O’Kelly, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, said she and the Liberal Democrat district councillors wholeheartedly agreed with the serious concerns raised by Chichester Harbour Trust.
She said: “The issue of housing in our area requires a fundamental rethink. It’s not good enough to just acquiesce to developers’ demands. Our young people are being forced out of the area by sky-high prices and a lack of truly affordable housing. The current housing plan doesn’t work for the environment or our young families.
“With imagination and determination, we can provide the housing so badly needed and safeguard our unique and precious environment. As Liberal Democrats, we are committed to ensuring our environment is safeguarded from overdevelopment and the destruction of our wildlife habitats.
“We are also concerned that insufficient focus has been placed on identifying previously developed brownfield sites which could be used for affordable housing.
“A critical element that cannot be underestimated is the proximity of Chichester Harbour and South Downs National Park and the long-term damage overdevelopment will do to our communities.
“The risk of climate change and sea level rise is real. Any development must be safeguarded against flood risk.
“We are also calling for Southern Water to come clean about the water discharge into Chichester Harbour and the availability of capacity at the sewage works.”
Jay Morton, Labour parliamentary candidate said there was no doubt Chichester needed more housing, however the rush to deliver new homes should not be at the expense of the environment.
She said: “The average house price is 14 times the average income in Chichester, meaning hard-working people are struggling to access a home and the stability that a good-quality home brings.
“Building on greenfield land such as around Chichester Harbour is cheap and easy but we will pay a greater price in the future.
“Only 23 per cent of land in the Chichester district is available for development, every scrap should be used as efficiently as possible so every build counts towards addressing the true needs of the area. Blindly rolling out expensive identikit homes without a balance of tenure or size risks using precious land resource to supply second homes and holiday homes rather than addressing the needs of the people that keep Chichester working.
“When land resource is scarce, careful planning and innovative design is required to maximise numbers whilst creating places that have their own character and address the local area aesthetically and environmentally.”
She said a robust planning policy that defined a balanced mix of size and tenure, a review of brownfield land and an intelligent approach to industrial land in the area was needed to deliver homes in Chichester.
On behalf of the Green Party, Michael Neville, its candidate for the Bourne by-election on November 21, said elected MPs, local councillors and public officers had to be much bolder if they were to dodge the irreversible mistakes threatening our local beauty.
He said: “Mr Nelson is quite right to question the lack of meaningful action from our local and national politicians around environmental protection and the planning policies which threaten our fragile habitats. The trust are one of a number of local bodies that are working incredibly hard to awaken our criteria-driven councils to the fact that this is an extraordinary area and these are extraordinary times.
“We need creativity and a sense of urgency, an approach that listens to the scientific evidence and the expertise gifted to an area which boasts a National Park and an AONB.
“I am standing because in years to come, I refuse to be in a position whereby I have to explain to my daughters that they cannot swim in the harbour like I do now because local housing developments have destroyed the water. I will not bring them up in a community where the only option for transport is to have a car because the walking and cycling infrastructure does not exist or air quality is so poor. I want them to experience the call of the owl that I heard as I cycled home from Compton last night, the deer that skipped across my path this morning on my journey to work and the seal that I watched playing in Bosham Channel last weekend.”
Gillian Keegan, Conservative candidate, and Teresa DeSantis, Brexit Party candidate were also approached for comment but have yet to respond.
Chichester District Council has confirmed the next stage of the Local Plan Review will not be considered until the new year, as we are currently in the pre-election period for the General Election.
A spokesman said: “Within the pre-election period, legal restrictions on communications activity are in place. The impact of these restrictions is that council officers are only able to provide factual responses to media enquiries, and that elected councillors are not able to respond on behalf of the council.”