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Hundreds of residents attended a public meeting recently, held by South Downs MP Nick Herbert at Fontwell Park racecourse, to discuss Arun District Council's proposals for thousands of new homes in the villages.

The proposals are contained in Arun's Draft Local Plan, and allowed for more than 2,000 houses in the greenfield open space between Westergate, Eastergate and Barnham.  Residents of these villages plus Aldingbourne, Walberton and other areas including Bognor Regis, were addressed by Mr. Herbert and a panel including Arun District Councillors Jean Goad, John Charles and Dougal Maconachie, together with West Sussex County Councillor Derek Whittington.

Mr. Herbert made it clear that he felt unable to support the Draft Plan in its present form in which it proposed a minimum of 400 additional houses a year over the next 16 years, and asked residents for their comments.

These comments ranged from those who felt that there should be no additional housing in the area at all, to one lady from Aldwick who suggested that all the proposed building should be concentrated in a new town "somewhere in the district." This proposal received little support.

Other residents commented on the proposed line of a new "Westergate by-pass" in the Draft plan, running north-east from north of the Lidsey bends to junction with the Barnham/Eastergate road at the Poling Motors strategic gap.  No-one at the meeting felt that this represented a satisfactory solution to the current road problems, and Councillor Whittington spoke strongly against it.

Councillor Charles questioned the need for large numbers of additional housing on greenfield land, pointing out that the official figure for the number of homeless families for the Barnham/Eastergate area is 39, and this could easily be covered by using existing brownfield sites and currently unoccupied housing.

The meeting concluded with show of hand votes called by Mr. Herbert on different proposed housing numbers.  However, the largest vote of support was for a proposal by a member of the Bognor Regis Civic Society that there should be no further housebuilding in the area until all the local flooding and infrastructure problems had been solved.

We understand that the Civic Society later asked Mr. Herbert if he will be taking the result of that vote to government levels for a directive to fulfil that aim.  No commitment was made that he would do this, and our request to him for a response to this question has not received a reply.


September 2012


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