After months of delays, the first 750 of 1,600 homes at Whitehouse Farm in Chichester is about to be granted planning permission.
However, serious concerns have now been raised over construction of a southern access being pushed back because of a land dispute between the developer and Bishop Luffa School, with fears the timetable for the whole development could slip.
Planning permission for Phase 1 was deferred by Chichester District Council’s planning committee in November 2016 with legal agreements known as Section 106 between the council and developer expected to be signed by April and then June.
At a planning committee meeting earlier this month, Joanna Bell, development manager at CDC, said the agreement was finally due to be completed by the end of July, beginning of August, and outline planning permission would then be granted.
As well as a permanent northern access to the strategic land development (SDL) off Old Broyle Road and temporary access from clay Lane, a southern access close to Bishop Luffa School will also be built.
However, commercial discussions due to be completed by July have stalled over the need to relocate the school playing field to accommodate the new road, Luffa’s desire to have exclusive use of two playing fields in compensation and plans to move the school’s access further east which ‘have the potential to undermine the agreement thought to have been reached’.
Addressing CDC’s planning committee on July 19, Ms Bell said she didn’t think ‘it would have an impact on the overall delivery of the southern access and the start of development of Phase 2, which is set for the spring 2020 and early 2021’.
However cllr Simon Oakley said: “I do not take as optimistic a view of the timetable as Ms Bell I’m afraid.
“The implications are that if this continues to drag out, especially having to go back to the developers and say the school wants exclusive use of this and more, where are you going to get your compensatory community-use playing field?
“That’s going to have a considerable effect on the land available for housing within the site.
“It’s all introducing more and more delays and more and more vulnerability to our five-year housing land supply.”
Cllr Oakley said having ‘waited and waited’ for land owners and developers at Tangmere’s SDL to then not ‘get their act together’ on an agreement, the council has had to set the course for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the land allocated for housing.
Referring to Whitehouse Farm, cllr Oakley said: “I have considerable concerns that we could be waiting a long time for this lot to get resolved, and unless we start waving the CPO flag at these parties I can see this being strung out for a very long time.”
CDC officer Andrew Frost said officers shared the concerns but that negotiations were at an early stage but ‘if in three or four months’ time no progress is made we could talk about a CPO’.
A huge amount of pressure during the planning stage from neighbouring residents’ associations, worried about the huge volumes of additional traffic, saw the developers commit to constructing a southern access road earlier then planned, for construction traffic once the 125th home was built and for residents after the 225th.
Cllr Richard Plowman said: “The worry I have with this uncertainty is the concern it’s going to cause with local residents because this was not the easiest of applications going through the process.
“When it came to the planning committee it was quite a difficult decision and I think we put a lot of trust in the timetable being delivered, particularly the southern access because that was the main issue and we did compromise a bit.
“Certainly if you say the southern access is going to take more time then we start to think about revising the timetable so some of the uncertainties are taken away from people when things are going to happen.
“At the moment it seems the very first thing we agreed, the 106, is already four months delayed, so what’s going to happen to all the rest?”
Cllr Carol Purnell added: “It isn’t just Phase 2 that’s in jeopardy, it’s Phase 1 as well.”
Mr Frost said more would be known about any potential delays at the planning meeting in October.
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