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Archive for December, 2013

List of all reports/surveys/studies that the council intends to use as part of its Local Plan evidence base

December 23, 2013 4 comments

On 15th October 2013 a Freedom of Information request was made to Arun District Council, as follows:

“Can I please request a list of all reports/surveys/studies that the council intends to use as part of its Local Plan evidence base.

Where costs have been incurred in producing/commissioning these reports/surveys/studies can you please indicate the cost.”

Full details can be viewed here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/local_plan_evidence_base_and_cos#incoming-462248

In its response the council excluded information relating to the new settlement proposals for Ford Airfield (Eco Town).

However, the agenda for the Local Plan Sub Committee of 28th November 2013 stated:

“Additionally there was a Select Committee in relation to the site and its issues when it was proposed under the governments Eco Town proposals. The various papers that were discussed by the Select Committee also form part of the evidence base for the Local Plan…”

This raises some interesting questions:

  1. In the council’s response to this FOI request was the exclusion of  material relating to the Eco Town at Ford deliberate or inadvertent?
  2. Material relating to the Eco Town proposals does not appear on the Background Documents page of the council’s web site (which is what prompted the FOI request in the first place). Why has it been excluded?
  3. Are the public likely to be misled into thinking that information relating to the Eco Town proposals (including the council’s own Select Committee findings) does not form part of the council’s Local Plan evidence base?
  4. There is no link from the Background Documents page to the page with the Eco Town material (at 23rd December 2013). Is that likely to create a false impression amongst the public that the Eco Town material is not relevant to the Local Plan evidence base?
  5. How many public consultations have been conducted with this important  evidence effectively “hidden in plain sight” from members of the public who might have believed that all relevant evidence is published on the council’s Background Documents page?

In my submission to the next Local Plan consultation I will make the Planning Inspectorate aware that the council provided incomplete and therefore misleading information in response to this FOI request. They can decide its relevance.

It is a matter of public record that the council led a campaign against the Eco Town proposals and that: the Leader of Arun District Council, Cllr Mrs Gillian Brown, signalling the start of a council-led community campaign against the proposal said she was appalled that no account had been taken of the Council’s consistent and overwhelming objections to an eco-town at Ford.”

See Appendix 1 – Arun press release – Dismay at Eco Town announcement

It can therefore be argued that the findings of the Eco Town Select Committee were, in essence, predetermined. Why is this relevant? Because the council seeks to use the findings of its Eco Town Select Committee as justification against development on brownfield land at Ford, and instead, to justify development of large swathes of greenfield land across the district.

Could that explain why the council prefers to publish the Eco Town “evidence” without association to its Background Documents page?

In the meantime, it would be wise not to assume that all Background Documents are published on the council’s Background Documents page – look here too: http://www.arun.gov.uk/main.cfm?type=ECOTOWNS

Mid-Sussex Local Plan fails to meet Duty to Co-operate

December 5, 2013 1 comment

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The new NPPF requires a duty to co-operate, stating; “It is important for councils and other public bodies to work together across administrative boundaries to plan for the housing, transport and infrastructure that local people need.

A number of plans are not even getting to inquiry due to housing numbers not being objectively assessed against the evidence and the duty to cooperate with other Local Authorities.

It was announced on Wednesday that Mid-Sussex has not met the duty to co-operate see – http://www.midsussex.gov.uk/media/ID-16DTCOConclusion.pdf  and this was before the plan formally got to inquiry and before a full discussion on whether their housing numbers are correct.

Why is this relevant to Arun?

Does anyone remember Arun District Council’s press release of 2nd September 2011?

Chichester City Council’s planning and conservation committee (Bognor Observer, September 1st 2011) suggested talks with Arun District Council to consider the possibility of a new settlement (possibly at Ford Airfield) to serve the housing needs of both districts. On 2nd September 2011 the council issued the following press release in response:

Resolve your own housing issues, Arun Cabinet Member tells Chichester 

Suggestions that land at Ford could be used to create a new town to ease housing pressures in Chichester have been categorically dismissed today by Arun’s Cabinet Member for Planning.

Councillor Ricky Bower has ruled out the possibility of the area near Arundel being used for development so Chichester can meet its housing targets.

His comments follow local media reports that a suggested recommendation was made by Chichester City Council’s Planning and Conservation Committee urging the Chichester District Council to work with Arun to create a brand new town of affordable and eco friendly homes

Councillor Bower today dismissed the suggestion, saying: “These comments by the City Council are unhelpful. 

“We understand that this debate was part of a wider consultation by the District Council on their core strategy. I am dismayed that the City Council would promote such ideas with no approach beforehand to the District Council.” 

“We have significant issues around housing pressures ourselves and are committed to delivering more affordable homes through our Housing Strategy Raise the Roof. 

“Chichester’s housing problems will remain solely with Chichester to resolve within its boundaries. 

“I assure residents with absolute certainty Ford is not on the cards for development…… “  

By dismissing Chichester City Council’s suggestion to co-operate so quickly, Arun District Council, once again, demonstrated an inability for open-minded consideration of planning proposals…. and that they are at odds with the objectives of the NPPF.

At the same time the SHMA makes it clear that Arun is seen as capable of assisting neighbouring councils with their housing provision.

By expressing a preference for greenfield development at Angmering, Barnham/Eastergate/Westergate and Westbank the Local Plan Sub Committee has left the largest brownfield site in West Sussex, Ford Airfield, available for additional housing.

Will neighbouring councils and the Planning Inspectorate see Arun as capable of assisting neighbouring councils with their housing provision as long as it retains an undeveloped disused airfield?

Some might consider the council’s approach to Ford Airfield and the Duty to Co-operate as leaving the gates of Arun wide open to a second strategic development area!

If Councillor Bower and his political disciples continue to play with fire we might all get burnt!