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A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury


Attn. The Archbishop of Canterbury

Lambeth Palace,

London,

SE1 7JU

contact@lambethpalace.org.uk

Your Grace,

Many members of our local community find it concerning that the Arun Local Plan 2011 – 2031 Publication Version quotes the housing allocation for the villages of Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate as “at least 2,000 homes” and that the Masterplan produced by the Church Commissioners (as landowners) and their associates outlines proposals for “approximately 3,000 homes”. Luken Beck who represent the Church Commissioners have made representations to increase the strategic allocation to 3,000 houses.

Did the Church Commissioners make representations to increase the strategic allocation to 3,000 houses at previous consultation stages, or is this an attempt to increase the housing number by stealth, by waiting until after the site has been formally selected by the council? Not surprisingly the Church Commissioners have declined to answer this question. We would like to know the answer.

It seems that the church, through the Church Commissioners, is acting more like a predatory developer than a community leader. Many developers have made similar representations and why shouldn’t they – it’s their job. But the church? We expect moral leadership from the church not predatory conduct!

The local community are very uneasy with what is seen as a particularly proactive and aggressive attack by the Church Commissioners on the communities of Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate as well as those downstream like Felpham, Middleton and Bersted.

Another matter that concerns the local community is that the land south of the church’s land is in flood zone 3 (land at most risk of flooding). The church say they have carried out surveys to demonstrate the suitability of the land for housing – so what did their surveys say about the possibility of flood risk in Bersted, Felpham and Middleton? Our concern is that the church is so strongly motivated by money that it has not considered the communities downstream. We would like to know what the Church Commissioner’s surveys say about the prospects for the communities downstream!

The church will argue that people need homes and that the church is providing land to help achieve that – an argument I and others strongly support. It is right and proper that the church should sell land to provide housing for those in need (after all, there is a national housing crisis) – but only as long at the moral and ethical arguments are prioritised over the financial arguments. We question if that is happening in this case?

Personally, I have always accepted the need for large scale housing provision and so I support the 580 houses p.a. number as expressed in the Local Plan. However, where I differ from both Arun District Council and the church is that I believe the houses should be built on brownfield land – why destroy historic communities and valuable greenfield land when there is a large brownfield site nearby?

Where is the church’s loyalty towards the Helyer family who have farmed this land for generations?

The church is, in essence, advocating the use of greenfield land before brownfield land, which is in conflict with the NPPF, and is morally and ethically wrong. We are concerned that, because the church does not own any brownfield land in the Arun district, it is prioritising use of its own greenfield land over the moral and ethical arguments relating to the use of brownfield land – which can only mean that the church is motivated by financial gain!

Representations from the local community so far have had no impact (in fact, the church’s response is to ignore such representations and instead to make it’s own representations for an increase in the strategic development allocation – something that might be interpreted as a two fingered salute!). The church listens but it does not hear!

Many feel that this situation demonstrates a lack of moral leadership, as exercised by the church, through its commissioners. We feel that there is little point discussing the moral and ethical arguments with the Church Commissioners – it is more a matter for the church.

Remember Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

We would like to request a meeting with you to discuss the moral and ethical issues arising from this matter. Our community, a community whose existence was recognised in the Domesday Book, is in need – please do not walk by on the other side of the road.

Yours sincerely

Tony Dixon

4 Barons Close

Westergate

Chichester

West Sussex

PO20 3YS

 

 

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  1. March 4, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    … and here’s the response from the Archbishop of Canterbury

    “Dear Mr Dixon

    Archbishop Justin has asked me to thank you for your message sent yesterday, but to explain that he does not participate in specific investment decisions made by the Church Commissioners. I shall therefore forward your message to the Commissioners so that they are aware of your continued unhappiness about their involvement in the Arun Local Plan and that you have written to the Archbishop about it.

    Yours sincerely

    Andrew Nunn
    Correspondence Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury”

    It’s quite clear that the church view this as a purely investment decision and that they have no interest in moral or ethical considerations.

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