Harbour concerns raised with Natural England by Chichester politicians

Concerns about the environmental welfare of Chichester Harbour, impact of sewerage infrastructure and future housing development have been raised at a meeting with Natural England.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 11:40 am
Natural England map of condition of Chichester Harbour's SSSI

Concerns about the environmental welfare of Chichester Harbour, impact of sewerage infrastructure and future housing development have been raised at a meeting with Natural England.

Last week Chichester MP Gillian Keegan and Chichester District Council cabinet member for planning Susan Taylor met with the organisation’s area director James Seymour.

This gave them the opportunity to ask Natural England about their recent report into the harbour environment, which painted a poor picture, with most of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Site of Special Scientific Interest area categorised as ‘unfavourable declining’.

As a statutory planning consultee, Natural England is responsible for advising the council as the planning authority about any impacts future development would have.

Campaigners have been pushing for a moratorium on all new major planning applications until CDC has agreed a new local plan as the current one is out of date and the district is facing the threat of speculative housing developments in inappropriate locations.

They have also raised the ‘water quality crisis’ affecting the harbour caused by a significant number of recent new developments being connected to the network and a lack of investment in sewerage infrastructure.

Friday’s meeting was described as ‘positive’ and it is hoped the recently published report will now give the council and Natural England a body of evidence to reference when considering future planning applications.

Meanwhile the information would also allow greater pressure to be placed on both Southern Water and regulator Ofwat to take action.

Natural England has agreed to work closely with Chichester District Council moving forward, on both interim planning applications and its development of a new local plan.

After the meeting, Mrs Keegan said, “James and Susan are keen to build on the meeting to establish a collaborative working relationship, which will only strengthen the council’s hand when dealing with planning applications and the development of a local plan.

“The report published paints a grim picture, however, it has provided us with the evidence and recommendations we need to make the changes necessary to improve the local outcomes.

“I will continue to work closely with everyone involved to ensure Chichester Harbour’s status is improved and any future development goes ahead in a sustainable way – an ambition I know is shared by the council leadership and the community.”

Mrs Taylor said: “I am hugely grateful to Gillian for setting up the meeting with Natural England. As a statutory planning consultee, we need their advice and input to progress with our local plan to ensure it is created in a way that supports the natural environment. I am optimistic that this meeting will be the start of a more collaborative working relationship and enable the council to make progress to develop our planning policy with the environment at its heart.”

Mr Seymour, Natural England’s area manager for Sussex and Kent, added: “I look forward to working together on realising our joint ambitions of a thriving natural environment which underpins the health, wealth and happiness of us all. Working together to developing local plans that embrace and enhance these natural assets that help nature recover.”