Chichester Harbour Trust is keen to see the environmental debate at the top of the political agenda locally, as the country goes to the polls to elect a new government.
For our city, there is more to this General Election than Brexit, as highlighted by the Observer’s Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour campaign over many months.
John Nelson, trust chairman, said: “As we all go to the polls on December 12, think about the consequences for the environment around Chichester. Policies executed will have a permanent and lasting impact on all of us - and future generations.
“The impact of the Local Plan, as so far set out by Chichester District Council, will have a devastating and irreversible effect on Chichester Harbour, the AONB and the southern part of the South Downs. The approach they have taken on fulfilling the new housing targets set by the government lacks imagination and foresight. There has been a failure to get across to government, both national and local, the extraordinary circumstances affecting Chichester.
“Much of our district is covered by a national park, the South Downs, and by the Chichester Harbour AONB. They have taken the approach of cramming in housing between these two sites and around their perimeters, which will have the consequence of damaging the harbour and the South Downs permanently.
“We, at the Chichester Harbour Trust, are deeply concerned. We have and are making strenuous efforts to persuade the council to make substantial revisions to the plan to mitigate the impact of the plan on the landscape and setting of the harbour, water quality, wildlife, botany and biodiversity generally. Also, recent modelling of rising sea levels is demonstrating that much of the land earmarked for development will be in the flood zone.”
The trust has put forward proposals for mitigating these issues, including looking at brownfield sites, rethinking densities, a hard look at retail sites a realistic approach to wildlife corridors to preserve the vital connection between the South Downs and the Harbour.
Mr Nelson added: “A much tougher approach to developers is required. Of course, all they want to do is build small and medium sized two-storey houses on green fields, as we can so clearly see on the A259 between Chichester and Havant, because this is the most profitable model for them - but at huge cost to the environment and the local community.
“The leadership of the local council, and indeed our sitting MP, have to date shown little enthusiasm to address these issues vigorously. They are paying lip service but there is no conviction. It requires determination and hard work to address these issues.
“Local councillors must be prepared to dictate policy that is in the interests of the communities, and impose these policies on the council officers, rather than have policies imposed on them by officials.
“It requires our Parliamentary representatives to fight the corner with national government departments, particularly environment and housing, to get across the permanent damage they are in danger of inflicting.
“So, we all need to question hard the policies of the parties contesting this election and the Parliamentary candidates who may be about to represent us before we determine where our vote is going. We must then hold our elected MP to account. Let’s take the opportunity the election provides to send a clear message to government – national and local.”