THE planning inspectorate’s approval of two appeals for outline planning consent for a total of 347 houses at Hook Lane and Nyton Nurseries in Westergate makes a mockery of the government’s flagship localism agenda.
These developments are over ten times more than the parish’s housing allocation in Arun’s local plan. The decisions ride roughshod over the democratically-expressed wishes of Aldingbourne residents through the neighbourhood plan process.
Does any government really want to send the tens of thousands of volunteers who serve as parish councillors, on neighbourhood plan groups, civic societies and other voluntary organisations throughout the country the signal that their work, and the views of local people, are irrelevant?
That other communities shouldn’t bother?
The government committee for communities and local government told parliament before Christmas that neighbourhood plans should be given weight even if they are not yet passed referendum, but the planning inspectorate appears to know better.
We should be looking for a promise from all political parties that this will not continue, that localism will be upheld in future.
Residents have been consulted on four occasions in the past three years about where they wish to see new housing in the parish but their views have been totally ignored by the planning inspectorate, who have just wasted a huge amount of time, goodwill and effort on the part of volunteers and a huge amount of public money.
Neighbourhood plan preparation is a convoluted, statutory process with many stages and it has taken almost three years to bring the Aldingbourne neighbourhood plan to its current final statutory consultation, prior to referendum. Those who have worked so hard to engage the whole community in this process are justifiably gutted, and those who responded will wonder why they bothered.
The Hook Lane decision wipes away the possibility of expanding the school to cope with these extra families, which the neighbourhood plan provides for.
Nevertheless I urge all Aldingbourne residents to look at the neighbourhood plan, on the Aldingbourne Parish Council website, and submit their comments by March 14 because it is now imperative that the design policies within it are watertight enough to force Arun to mitigate the damaging consequences of these appalling decisions when they come forward for detailed planning approval.
Aldingbourne Neighbourhood Plan volunteer