‘Secret deal’ raised again over development plan in Birdham

AN OLD row reared its head at a parish council meeting on Monday (June 17), when Birdham Parish Council discussed a plan for 15 homes in the village.

Residents took the parish council meeting by storm to object to plans for 15 affordable homes in Birdham – and several residents questioned the ability of the parish council to comment on the plans, because of past issues with a nearby site.

Last year, at a Birdham Parish Council meeting, a secret deal came to light, whereby a contract had been drawn up which involved Chichester District Council and the landowner of a site at Crooked Lane in Birdham.

Part of the contract stated the district council could not ‘object to or allow any objection to be made’ to any future application by the landowner for the site.

A parish councillor at the time was implicated to have been involved, but since then the council has had a significant turnover of members.

At the time of the row last June, a Chichester District Council spokesman said: “The negotiations were a three-way process between the council, the landowner and a Registered Provider (RP) partner.

“As with all negotiations of these sorts, it was a confidential negotiation between the parties involved.

“The council does not own the site, nor would it be involved in the development of the housing. The intention was for the council to acquire the site before passing it on to the RP.

“There remains the possibility that Hyde Martlet, the council’s current rural Registered Provider partner, will purchase the site directly and will submit a planning application in due course.

“The council’s obligations as a planning authority are entirely independent of its role as a landowner or as a housing authority.”

The application for 15 homes on land at Crooked Lane has already been met with 66 letters of objection – and many of those objectors turned out to urge the parish council to do the same.

But one resident, Mr Wilson, said: “You have a very important role in this decision and already you have voted in support of it.”

The plans are controversial because the site is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and very close to the primary school in the village.

Birdham Parish Council objected on those grounds – but not before residents let their views be known.