Concerns over infrastructure, wildlife, loss of farmland, flooding
"What is this committee for?" asks frustrated Councillor
Thousands of newbuild houses are set to be approved by Arun District Council at Pagham
and "West of Bersted" ie Chalcraft Lane. Thousands of residents of Pagham, Nyetimber,
Aldwick and surrounding areas had written to express all the reasons why this will
be damaging for the area, and are furious that this has been ignored.
Particular concerns are the dangers of thousands of new residents and their cars
adding to the already congested roads in Pagham, particularly Pagham Road. This
is a likely route for those heading for Chichester and the west for work, and there
is no significant work proposed to alleviate this.
The developers will be asked to contribute to a few junction modifications, but nobody
believes this will make any difference. One Councillor at Arun’s recent Development
Control meeting where three applications were considered, pointed out that this road
had been previously referred to as one of the most dangerous roads in the country,
and already had a bad accident record, specially for cyclists.
The committee was told by Acting Chairman Cllr. Ricky Bower (Con) that as the location
was included in Arun's recently approved Local Plan, all those matters had already
been considered and dealt with – and were therefore not open for discussion or objection.
"What is this committee for then?" demanded a frustrated Cllr Dawn Hall (Con) "Why
are we even being asked to consider this at all?"
Good question, Mrs. Hall. Other committee members had raised questions over Southern
Water's ability to deal with wastewater disposal and flooding, for which there was
no explanation given either. Only the platitude that it would be "subject to negotiations"
which clearly wasn't satisfactory. And it was clear from the WSCC highways representative
that nothing was going to be done about the inability of Pagham Road, Rose Green
Road and Vinnetrow Road to take all that extra traffic.
Schools was another issue raised. There is no secondary school near to the sites,
and the nearest, Regis School, being an Academy, is not within WSCC's control. Which
means that pupils will have to travel to Felpham, which is utterly ridiculous and
not likely to change.
Is there any provision at all within the Local Plan (as Cllr Bower had implied) to
do anything at all about all this? No there is not, and the Councillors knew this
although none had the courage to say it. Cllr Bower feebly bleated that the only
way to get the money for this was to grant the developers their permission and get
the Section 106 (or CIL) money that comes with it. Except, as is evident here, almost
none of it was going towards the needed infrastructure improvements anyway so we
end up with more houses and nothing to show for it.
The truth of the matter is that Arun, pressured by Government, has badly mishandled
the production of the Local Plan and this has to be at least partly the responsibility
of Cllr Bower. The Council has been pressured into agreeing the building of thousands
of houses in various parts of the District, without having the guts to say to government
that this cannot happen until funding is provided for the necessary infrastructure.
And now they are hamstrung by that Plan, which means that the legitimate concerns
of residents throughout the district will be ignored in the name of political forelock-tugging
and expediency. Can anybody imagine Council Leader Mrs. Gillian Brown (Con) telling
her son-in-law Chancellor Philip Hammond (Con) that he can't have all those houses
unless he forks out? You don't get recommended for an OBE for that sort of thing,
And so we come back to Cllr Mrs Hall's question. What are the Councillors for? They
should be for representing the interests of the residents, particularly those intimately
affected by the issue. In this case it would mean saying loud and clear to developers,
government etc that there can be no housebuilding on those sites until all the infrastructure
problems have been sorted out first. Not maybe later, or "by negotiation" sometime
later if ever. But before any housebuilding even begins.
And not only that, but proper sympathetic two way discussion over other concerns,
such as the effect on vulnerable wildlife, the real but intermittent dangers of flooding,
the loss of valuable farmland etc. The Councillors should be the people's voice
to those seeking to ride roughshod over their concerns, that this simply will not
happen unless the conditions are right.
Instead, it is the other way round. Government speaks, councillors nod and tell residents
that's what's got to happen. This has got to change, and everybody should remember
there is an election in May 2019. Cllr Hall (Con), of course, is anxious to retain
her Pagham seat and maybe her opposition to these proposals will help her with that.
We can only hope that she will be similarly vocal on behalf of residents in other
parts of the district when their turn comes.
However, nothing will significantly change until Arun's leadership changes. Cllr
Mrs Brown rules her boys and girls with a rod of iron, and it would seem that she
and a few of her cronies must go before Arun could even begin to represent its residents
as it should.
The regular morning traffic jam on Pagham Road. No widening or straightening is planned
by WSCC and nothing will be done except minor alterations to a couple of junctions.
What will it be like with a few hundred more cars added to the jam? Has the Local
Plan addressed this? ‒ No. Is WSCC addressing this? ‒ No. Does anybody care? ‒
answers on a postcard...