By Kelly Wickham
The district council has confirmed that the local plan for the area is not ready and a new timetable has been put in place.
Residents and councillors from opposition parties have voiced concern over the delay.
The government requires every council responsible for planning to have a local plan in place setting out opportunities for development. It also makes clear what types of development will be permitted and what won’t.
Without a plan, the council is unable to control where development goes. The plan also looks at housing, employment space and places where retail and leisure facilities should be provided.
Chichester District Council said government advisers had said the best course of action was to make sure all of the necessary evidence was in place to show the plan strategy was a sound one, even if this meant taking longer.
“While we were told that we could not be treated as an exception, the support we have received from government officials has been immensely helpful,” said council leader Eileen Lintill.
“By taking more time now and making sure that we work with our residents, businesses and partners to identify the best options, we should be able to access a quicker examination process and more importantly, deliver the right approach for the Chichester local plan area.”
This sentiment, however, was not echoed by resident Mike Dicker, of Bracklesham Bay. He said he had foreseen the delay and warned the council.
“I have attended multiple council meetings in 2019 and 2020 raising my serious concerns that the local plan was not fit for purpose and would not be ready for submission to the examiner in the summer of 2020,” he told the Chichester Post.
“None of my concerns was heeded and none of the councillors or senior officers of the council seemed to have taken this work or my warnings seriously.
“Failure to have a plan in place means we now have to have the full allocation of housing which increases the amount each year by circa 400 houses.”
Cllr Lintill went on to say: “It is imperative that we get this right because we are facing some very complex issues.
“Since we last consulted with our residents, businesses and partners, we have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to carry out further investigative work, as well as making the government aware of our complex situation.”
Cllr Kevin Hughes, a Labour councillor, was unhappy with the news: “New councillors like myself came into this process last year and were immediately pressured to accept the plan as it was, despite all of the questions about building on unsuitable sites.
“The reason given was that not meeting the timetable would result in a free-for-all for property development. Now, we are suddenly asked to accept this extension and exactly those consequences.
“One has to ask, what is the point of having a Tory MP and Tory council leader if they have no influence with a Tory government?”
Independent councillor Donna Johnson agreed: “Being elected last year, new councillors were aware that the local plan review was a priority.
“However, with the political change there is, unsurprisingly, a different approach to aspects of the plan, particularly with regard to potential development sites. This is extremely important to those on the Manhood Peninsula and overall extremely challenging because we are only able to allocate substantive development to 30 per cent of the district due to the South Downs National Park.
“I am very disappointed that, given our unique situation and the change in the political make-up of the council that the government did not consider that we should be treated as a special case and allow us some extra time. We are potentially left with speculative development which is to no one’s benefit.”
The timetable for the Chichester Local Plan is being updated and will be made available when it is ready.
Find out the latest information by visiting: chichester.gov.uk/localplanreview or sign up to regular updates by emailing your name and email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org