Home > Brownfield or greenfield?, New Settlement versus Village Extensions > Villages Action Group, AGM, and its relationship with Nick Herbert MP

Villages Action Group, AGM, and its relationship with Nick Herbert MP


For those who are interested the Villages Action Group (VAG) AGM is being held at the Westergate School on November 22nd at 6.30 p.m.

On its web site VAG states “Mr Nick Herbert MP has kindly offered to attend and speak at the Public Session of our AGM”  and “Nick Herbert MP has been a very constant campaigner in support of our cause which is to prevent unsustainable housing development in rural areas.”

I am uncomfortable with VAG’s relationship with Mr Herbert and so I shall not attend. (in fact, I can’t even understand why VAG would want him there!)

Here are a few non-sycophantic thoughts instead:

When brownfield land at the disused Ford Airfield was under the spotlight for development (a new settlement as an alternative to village extensions) Mr Herbert probably did more than anyone in the Arun district to “steer” development away from Ford Airfield and instead towards the villages of Barnham, Eastergate, Westergate and Angmering.

Mr Herbert was fully aware that merging the three historic villages of Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate and a smaller development at Angmering were the most likely alternatives when he campaigned against a new settlement on brownfield land at Ford Airfield. VAG appears not to have noticed this.

I fail to understand why VAG see Mr Herbert as their ally?

Of course, Mr Herbert can always be relied upon to oppose housing whenever or wherever there is a development proposal. He will never say where housing should be located – instead he trots around his constituency saying, not here, not here, not here etc. Mr Herbert’s position is unrealistic, and that is now becoming increasingly apparent, but many will be taken in by it.

It’s quite obvious that the housing will have to go somewhere. In days gone by MPs generally acted in a more responsible manner than today’s career politicians. For instance, a more responsible MP might have recognised that the housing is actually inevitable and even desirable (the average age of a first time buyer is now 35, the average age to leave home is 27), and instead, led a grown up debate to consider the merits or otherwise of a new settlement versus village extensions. Mr Herbert has never shown much interest in that kind of open-minded debate.

The Arundel & South Downs Conservative Association (ASDCA) is distributing flyers in the Barnham, Eastergate & Westergate (BE&W) area calling for residents to join them in opposing unsustainable development. The leaflet is, of course, deliberately not site specific.

At the same time Conservative councillors (many of whom are sponsored by ASDCA) are promoting strategic development in the BE&W area. They obviously believe it’s sustainable or they wouldn’t be doing it!

I recently wrote to the Chairman of ASDCA to seek clarification on the meaning of their flyer, asking “does ASDCA believe that the proposed strategic allocation at Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate in Arun’s draft Local Plan is UNSUSTAINABLE or SUSTAINABLE?”  The Chairman has not responded. She appears unwilling to describe the BE&W strategic location as unsustainable! No surprise there then!

I can’t help thinking that this flyer is a deliberate ploy by local politicians to face two ways at the same time.  (by being non site specific they can always say that they meant all the other developments were unsustainable not that one!). Is VAG seeking clarification on ASDCA’s position?

It seems to me that, as a direct result of delays to the Local Plan, most communities across the district are now facing a tsunami of unwelcome planning applications. A swift decision to create a new settlement on brownfield land at Ford Airfield is now the only way to ease the mounting development pressure on all other communities across the district.

VAG has not shown much appetite for making the case for an alternative to village extensions. If VAG doesn’t do it no one else will do it for them!

VAG has lost the argument on housing numbers. The SE Plan, SHMA, SHMA “critical friend review” and now the SHMA validation can’t all be wrong. It was, in my opinion, always an unwinnable argument.

However, from Arun’s perspective it has probably been a welcome diversion from the thorny matter of strategic locations and the process by which they are being decided.

Arun will now move forward as quickly as possible with its Local Plan and strategic allocations at BE&W and Angmering because it is in danger of losing control of its planning and needs to reassert control. Anything will do now, as long as it’s quick!

VAG must, of course, make the case that development at BE&W is unsustainable (which it is!) but that argument alone may not be enough to win. The further the process goes the harder it will be to achieve change. The Planning Inspectorate is unlikely to be sympathetic to anything other than a truly compelling argument.

So, does VAG have a strategy to persuade councillors to change their minds before they agree the strategic allocations in early 2014?

Or will VAG accept what Arun are about to serve up and hope that the Planning Inspectorate will see sense further down the line? In the current climate that is pretty unlikely!

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  1. December 13, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Sorry he needs to support this being disallowed I don’t know what his view is

  2. December 13, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    38 degrees have made me aware that there is no one in arun gone to nick herbert to stop the gagging law coming in I stated I’m happy for someone else to ask him as I’m not able to I’ve managed to find out that Peter bottomley does not support this new law if it comes in it will not be good we will be made to shut up wouldn’t do

  3. November 7, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    It ain’t over till the fat lady sings round and round the mulberry bush mps well who knows

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