I include below a report from a Member of the Public who tried to attend Arun District Council’s Full Council Meeting this evening.
“Over 250 people were barred from a public meeting by Arun District Council this evening. The Council held a planning meeting to discuss building thousands of homes on green belt sites in the ARUN area. The result of a positive decision by Councillors would mean losing green gaps, joining up villages into a vast conurbation and laying down miles of asphalt over green belt land. Despite protests from the 250+ members of the public who were refused entry the Council, in their arrogance, refused to postpone the meeting to a larger venue. Names were taken by those present including members of the Villages Action Group to confirm the number of people barred.
Police were called to maintain Public Order and for a while a lone officer spoke to the crowd. Only after several comments and direct questions did a spokesman for the Council speak. He refused to answer any direct questions simply confirming the meeting was going ahead and that no further people could enter the council chamber.”
It was certainly a highly charged meeting and ended with the surprise result descibed below after a very lively debate.
The actual result was that the Councillors appear to have listened to their electorate, at least in some respects. They decided to split the decision process into two parts. Firstly they voted on the Houses per Annum figure. This was fixed at 580 hpa and the vote was unanimous. Their fear is that a lower figure would cause the Inspector to reject the plan. VAG has always supported a lower figure which we believe is quite adequate for local housing need.
The second decision was a victory of sorts for all the protests from local people and VAG’s own appeals via many emails to Councillors, but it was also greatly helped by the recent bad weather. This has caused them to re-think the BEW location following the closure of the Shripney Road again due to floods. Cllr Bower even mentioned the flooding problem as a reason for the re-think. The Councillors voted to put ALL the possible Strategic Allocations back into the melting pot with a view to coming up with a more equitable spread of the required houses over maybe several locations. Bognor Regis Eco Quarter and Ford Airfield were mentioned many times and caused much debate. These had been ruled out previously but are now back on the table. But then so are all the other ones, so we are still in a limbo situation and will now have to wait for the next Local Plan Sub Committee Meeting to see how it will all pan out.