This is why Birdham affordable housing development has stalled

Plans to use a Compulsory Purchase Order to kick-start a stalled affordable housing scheme have been discussed again by Chichester District Council.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 10:42 am

Permission for the 15 homes off Crooked Lane, in Birdham, was given in 2013 but developer Hyde Group has had no luck securing an unregistered access track leading to the site.

The council agreed to a request from Hyde to look into the idea of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in 2018.

But with so much time having passed – and so many objections being raised by members of the public – the issue was on the table again during a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday (July 6).

Access to the proposed Birdham development site off Crooked Lane
Access to the proposed Birdham development site off Crooked Lane

Only the full council can give the go-ahead to use a CPO but the cabinet did agree that officers should carry out the preparation work needed.

Among those opposed to the CPO was David Williams, of the Birdham Village Residents’ Association.

Mr Williams raised questions about whether there was a compelling need for the homes to be built – a requirement of a CPO.

He also pointed out that CPOs were normally used to progress major projects or those involving hundreds of homes and doubted that a tiny site for 15 homes could be seen as compelling.

Accusing Hyde of buying the land in the full knowledge that it did not include access, he said: “Is it in the public interest to use a CPO to get Hyde out of a poor commercial decision when they and [the council] knew all along that ownership and right of way over the track was an issue?”

Tony Dignum (Con, Chichester North) shared a number of concerns which had been raised by Birdham residents.

He said: “The main issues are, of course, firstly the width of the proposed access road, which is wide enough only for a single vehicle lane without a pavement.

“Secondly the exit opposite a school, which has greatly alarmed the headteacher of that school.”

While some felt planning concerns could not considered as permission had already been given, Mr Dignum felt that changes over the years – such as ‘substantially more traffic’ – made those concerns valid.

He also questioned the need for the 15 homes, pointing out that the coming years would bring ‘substantial provision of affordable housing at Chidham and Hambrook’.

Even if the full council did approve the CPO, the process would not be a quick one – it could take up to three years.

The matter would be referred to the Secretary of State, a public inquiry would likely be held, and time would have to be allowed for a High Court appeal.

The full council is expected to decide whether to take the CPO forward before the end of the year.