Housing developments ‘will lead to our rural seaside villages merging together’

A demonstration against the over-development of the Manhood Peninsula was held in East Wittering at the weekend.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 10:35 am
East Wittering residents protesting against the scale of development proposed in the area. Pic S Robards SR2105221 SUS-210522-162329001

Residents and campaigners gathered to raise awareness about the myriad of applications either submitted or being prepared for the area.

East Wittering, Earnley, Bracklesham and Birdham are all facing the threat of significant new development.

With a revised Chichester local plan several years away from completion, campaigners on the peninsula are concerned that they are vulnerable to up to 1,300 homes being built on greenfield sites with no protection.

East Wittering residents protesting against the scale of development proposed in the area. Melissa Smith. Pic S Robards SR2105221 SUS-210522-162352001

Melissa Smith, leading the Stand up for the Witterings campaign, said they wanted to make the community aware of the cumulative effect these applications will have on the local area to ‘stop the wholesale development of the Manhood Peninsula’.

If approved, she argued the proposed developments ‘will lead to our rural seaside villages merging together in a massive urbanisation, basically a city on the sea’.

She called on residents to object to the current applications and also sign their petition lobbying government to reconsider the area’s housing numbers and only build legitimate affordable housing.

As well as raising the current infrastructure shortfall, such as inadequate roads and a lack of wastewater capacity, residents have highlighted the peninsula’s value to tourism and ecology, as well as its vulnerability to climate change.

East Wittering residents protesting against the scale of development proposed in the area. Pic S Robards SR2105221 SUS-210522-162415001

Gary Poundall, from Bracklesham, raised the issue of traffic and safety of the surrounding roads, raising recent incidents in Birdham and another Bracklesham Lane and the difficulty for emergency services in attending the scene.

Sean Girlus, who lives in Earnley, felt the public were not aware enough of the huge number of developments being put forward.

He said: “If it wasn’t for events like today, the local community would have no idea of the impact these cumulative developments will have on the local area.”

He described how they were becoming a ‘satellite housing estate’ for Chichester, which has infrastructure leading to empty offices and retail space which could be converted to create new homes, and called on all applications to be delayed until CDC can bring forward a local plan.

East Wittering residents protesting against the scale of development proposed in the area. Pic S Robards SR2105221 SUS-210522-162437001

Al Woodward, another Bracklesham resident, added: “Our meadows, and wetlands are disappearing, replaced by pavements, buildings and sterile urban landscaping. The Manhood Peninsula has its own special identity. This is a unique landscape of wildlife and a country/seaside way of life for locals and visitors alike.

“The urban sprawl that these plans offer will wreak havoc on the natural land, ecosystem and community.

“We will see a reduction in space between and around Earnley, Bracklesham, The Witterings, Almodington, Somerley, Batchmere and Birdham leading to a fragmentation of any habitat that may be left after developments. In short they we do not want to see this unique landscape of wildlife and a country/seaside haven lost to locals and visitors alike.

“It must be remembered that holiday makers come here precisely to escape concrete, tarmac, pollution, traffic and dense housing and to be closer to the various wildlife of the area and to walk in areas of natural beauty.

East Wittering residents protesting against the scale of development proposed in the area. Pic S Robards SR2105221 SUS-210522-162510001

“Just how long before our holiday parks are impacted by this onslaught of development leading in turn to the parks themselves being tarmacked over and even more housing being built?”

Pieter Montyn, county councillor for The Witterings, said: “The large additional housing numbers proposed by Chichester District Council will affect the infrastructure of the Peninsula in two areas: for the A27, the district council proposes to change the Stockbridge and Whyke roundabouts to lights controlled cross roads with right turns prohibited, and to reconfigure the Fishbourne and Bognor road junctions into ‘hamburger’ roundabouts, also controlled with lights.

“A new ‘Stockbridge Link Road’ is to connect the Fishbourne roundabout with the A286 just south of Donnington, crossing agricultural land subject to flooding: this is not a long term answer of any benefit to us – what is needed is a northern A27 bypass separating through from local traffic, which can be built without the huge disruption caused by the CDC proposals.

“Secondly, our inadequate Manhood Peninsula sewage network, connected to the Sidlesham treatment works and serving some 26,000 residents, needs urgent upgrading now before further housing is added. It is unacceptable that in times of even moderate rainfall many residents across the peninsula are unable to flush their loos or drain their sinks.”

Louise Goldsmith, from SU4Chichester, added: “The Manhood Peninsula is an unique area, low lying fertile ground reaching out to the sea. It boasts two harbours, Chichester Harbour an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Pagham Harbour - both unique exceptional areas of beauty providing a very rich habitat for birds and wildlife - both now both at risk of serious degradation - at a time of climate emergency we should be doing everything to protect these very special environmental areas now and for future generations.

“Over the years the area has taken its fair share of new houses and development but it cannot continue to do so safely particularly considering the wholly inadequate road and sewage infrastructure. CDC, the Government must start to seriously listen to the voices of the residents who are Standing Up for the Manhood.”

Dominic Buchanan, from Surfers against Sewage, talked about their campaign to clean local areas and how young people and surfers were very concerned about the development of this very special coastal area.

In response, a spokesman for CDC said: “The Government sets housing requirements, which councils are expected to address in their local plans and the decisions they make on planning applications in their areas.

“We consult the Environment Agency and Natural England as part of this, and take their advice into account when considering future development.

“We are carrying out a huge amount of work to develop our local plan review at the moment, looking at where housing could possibly go and what new roads or improvements would be needed. This is not a simple exercise because it requires us to carry out detailed assessments, accounting for all sorts of things, from the environmental impact, to local economic needs.

“The presence of the national park and area of outstanding natural beauty means that we have limited options for where new development can go, but the special qualities of the Manhood Peninsula are recognised in the emerging local plan, which seeks to direct the bulk of future development elsewhere in the plan area.

“If, through our work on the local plan review, there is evidence that the Government’s housing requirements cannot be achieved, it is then for the planning inspector to decide if less housing should be delivered.

“A local plan helps to control and shape development. Every time we receive a planning application, we look at the local plan to assess whether planning permission should be granted. This is because the plan sets out what types of development should or shouldn’t be permitted. We have put measures in place to protect the plan area from inappropriate speculative development until the local plan review is adopted.

“Every planning application is considered by the council, often in consultation with relevant organisations. If any of these organisations highlight significant problems which cannot be overcome, then an application would be refused.

“In addition to this, we have introduced an interim housing policy statement. This is part of our rule book for planning applications and this considers other factors, such as Environment Agency advice on flooding. This approach gives us the best possible position to manage planning applications until the Local Plan Review can be adopted.

“Our priority is to work with local communities to deliver the very best options for the plan area.”

A petition opposing the urbanisation of the Manhood Peninsula has been signed by more than 2,500 people.