IMPORTANT NEWS FOR VILLAGERS
On Thursday 16th May a great turnout of Villages Action Group supporters attended the meeting of the Arun District Council Local Plan Committee where Councillors met to agree the final version of their Plan. VAG were lobbying the Councillors right up to the last minute, providing insights and detailed, factual analysis that called into question the headline Plan figures of nearly 10,000 houses to be built at a rate of 580 per year. The debate was interesting and passionate whilst the public could only look on with fingers crossed.
The Councillors decided to amend some key elements of the Plan, specifically to:
• Reduce the housing target to 455 houses per year, including 30 new Council houses.
• Retain the Eastergate-Barnham gap
The effect of these recommendations would be:
• No need to build a new town of 2,000 houses in Eastergate.
• No funding to build an A29 bypass from Lidsey to Fontwell Roundabout.
• The Eastergate-Barnham gap would be protected from development.
These decisions would initially apply to the first six years (2014- 2019) of the Plan through to 2029, whilst the longer term projections for the future of the District are appraised. A review would then be carried out, based on the trends as we emerge from the current, stalled economy. The housing goals would then be revised accordingly. Investments in infrastructure, that are difficult whilst government investment is not forthcoming, may also be more freely available at that time, to fund improvements that do not always link to developer contributions from new building projects. The effectiveness of the A29 remains a concern for the Council and they will try to define suitable improvements in the years ahead. We need to stay vigilant to all the emerging issues.
This week has seen positive progress for the Villages. Some of the threats to our way of life have receded. But there are still challenges ahead.
The Full Council meeting, due for 29th May 2013, the planned Consultation Process and presentations to us, the public, will undoubtedly be rescheduled to the second half of the year. But we have to achieve a positive vote from all the Arun Councillors to take these new plans to the next stage.
Then the Plan will be reviewed by a Government inspector who will test it for ‘soundness’ and conduct an ‘Examination In Public’, like a public enquiry, before the Plan is finally legal and sets the standard for future developments in the District.
In the meantime, as we have seen recently, there will be many bids by speculative developers to pick on sites in the Villages and try to build various schemes. Some of them may have merit and our support. Some may not and should be resisted.
In summary and to use a wartime analogy (which seems quite appropriate to our situation) we are at the end of the beginning of our endeavours. We need to continue to have a core of active people fighting our corner as the Plan develops. We need new people to step forward and help us do the work involved. But ultimately we rely upon everybody who cares about our communities, to support the many actions being taken, to sponsor and display our signs and badges to fund the expertise and dogged determination that we need to see us through this challenging time. Please stick with us. We will continue to build the campaign, to make more people aware of the issues and to fight for our communities, which is what it is all about in the end.
Let’s Celebrate A Little!
On June 15 we are running the I Love My Village festival in the heart of our Villages on Manor Farm. Music, entertainment, fun and refreshment (including Gribble Brewery ‘Villagers’ ale) will be the order of the day and we can now look forward to this with genuine optimism for a day of fun and celebration, exactly what makes these Villages a great place to live.
Buy your wristband entry tickets now, only £5 for adults and £4 for younger revellers (under 16), available from Earley’s Butchers, Barnham; Elm Tree Stores Post Office, Eastergate; SPR on Fontwell Avenue; Fyn and Wai’s on Westergate Street and The Parish Office, Barnham
Written by Ian Truin – VAG Committee member