I want to speak regarding the local plan and the various difficult decisions that local Councillors have to make in the coming months. It's a very complex situation, but I will attempt to try and explain the situation.
You may or may not be aware of the Local Plan process and the need for each planning authority to come up with a Local Plan which links to the local Neighbourhood plans. The Local Plan will govern housing and economic development for the next 15 years. The plan has to be supported by evidence and so there are numerous studies that go to back up any plan.
As you may recall I had previously supported the Local Plan numbers of 580 houses per annum, not because I want 580 houses locally, but because if we don't have a valid plan in place then we are leaving the District open to Planning by appeal. If Councillors reject a planning application the applicant can appeal to the local Planning inspectorate in Bristol., Some times it takes tens of thousands of pounds to defend an appeal and If you don't have a valid Local Plan in place,then the Planning Inspectorate can over rule local Councillors and grant the appeal and the application would be approved without any recourse. But also Developers could pick off the best greenfield sites without providing any infrastructure.
As previously mentioned the Housing numbers have to be backed by evidence, recently an up to date OAN has been run (Objectively Assessed Housing Numbers)and it has come out with a much higher figure than before, the figure is a ludicrously high figure of up to 758pa., this could result in us having to build locally over 11,000 houses over the next 15 years, e.g. an extra 2670 houses over what we have already agreed.
This can also happen if the Local Authority does not have a five year land supply in place, this is where a calculation is made with regard to Planning application approvals (yet to be built) totalling a total of 580 houses per annum x 5 years e.g. equalling 2900 houses, but rather than use our numbers (580pa) they use the higher OAN figure (758pa) to calculate the 5 year land supply figure which skews the numbers in favour of the Developers.
Unfortunately we have a system where we have an over powerful Planning Inspectorate, we have economic pressure from the Treasury, Pressure from developers and a homeless charity sector lobbying for houses to cater for demand of up to 250,000 houses a year. Councillors only line of defence is getting a valid local Plan in place ASAP, the longer we take in agreeing the plan, the greater pressure will build for even greater numbers.
I believe our first and most important priority is getting a plan in place what ever it takes, at the same time trying to defend sites which are inappropriate for new housing., I campaigned against development of the Horses Field site in Arundel and based on current evidence I am minded to object to the the large Fontwell planning application.
Councillors are attempting to try and hold the line by agreeing a new higher figure of 641 houses, strategically I believe this is the best course of action, but the Planning Inspector may not accept this new figure and if that happens, we will have to go away and find new ways of achieving the higher ONS figure, this is something I will find totally unacceptable. Until next month!
Paul Dendle is the Arundel & Walberton Ward Councillor and also Cabinet member for Leisure & Amenities on Arun DC. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his mobile is 07725359841.