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Archive for June, 2015

Opportunity for comments – Response by Tony Dixon of Ford Enterprise Hub (FEH)


The council has accepted that its submission Local Plan is unsound and has moved to a new “position”. The Inspector has given participants in the Examination in Public the opportunity to comment on the council’s new position. Here is the Ford Enterprise Hub (FEH) submission.

 

Thank you for allowing FEH the opportunity to comment on the council’s new position. In response, I would like to make the following points:

Over the last two years councillors have consistently ignored officer advice on the housing numbers and have, in essence, always aimed as low as they thought they might get away with. By doing so, the councillors have created the situation the council is now in. By continually delaying, and avoiding difficult decisions, the council must now deal with significantly higher housing projections and the risk of planning by appeal.

If the OAN for the district is now 758 dpa then the council should be made to accept and work to that figure immediately. I am concerned that the council’s recent failure to adopt this figure illustrates continuing resistance to its housing responsibilities and is yet another delaying tactic.

If 758 dpa is adopted it would mean an increase of over 30% on the figure used as the basis for the submission ALP. This is of such a scale that it would be unsound to proceed without a full review of all strategic locations and associated infrastructure, and this time on equal terms. Also, given the council’s obvious difficulties, it might be tempted to retrofit the evidence to suit its already declared “preference”. Any such temptation should be removed – a fresh start is the best way forward.

The plan should be withdrawn, or found unsound, and returned to ADC to be updated, and for all proposed strategic locations and associated infrastructure to be reassessed in the light of the recent OAN and the “mistakes” identified in the SA. 

This will leave the district open to planning by appeal for a period of time, but it is better to face up to our responsibilities now rather than risk the ALP being found unsound after a period of suspension and further delay. Better to start again now.

The Council has failed to assess all proposed strategic locations to an equal degree, in particular a strategic allocation of  5,000 units at Ford is questioned because “there is a lack of sufficient data” (SA, para.8.47, p.97.). If there is a Iack of sufficient data then on what evidence did the council decide not to proceed with a new settlement at Ford Airfield? If the council does not already have sufficient evidence to reconsider all strategic locations on equal terms then isn’t that in itself an indication of unsoundness?

The new OAN figure provides an opportunity for the council to reassess its strategic locations and, this time, on equal terms.

Evidence has already been provided to demonstrate that the council led a campaign against a new settlement at Ford, one of its own Core Strategy Options for Growth, making that consultation unsound. By leading a campaign against the principle of an Eco Town in the district, at the same time as its Eco Town Select Committee was “considering” the Eco Town proposals, the council was in breach of the laws of natural justice and acted unlawfully.

Since April 2014 there have been two major “game changers” which the council has not properly considered. Funding of £250 million for an A27 Arundel Bypass has been announced by central government and the council’s second Enterprise Zone bid did not make the short list announced in the Chancellor’s recent budget statement. These are important issues and are material considerations in determining the ALP.

The council has failed to consider how it might capitalise on central government’s investment in an Arundel Bypass.  The A27 Arundel Bypass Wider Economic Impact Study by Parsons Brinkerhoff in March 2013 said:

“Based on the extensive Business Survey undertaken in the area and initial analysis, the preliminary results indicated the following:

An additional £493m would be added to total West Sussex GVA of £15.257bn;

Employment Impact: an additional annualised total of 12,600 jobs would be added throughout the seven districts in West Sussex;

Personal Income Tax Receipts: across all seven districts, an annualised total of £82m would accrue to Government in the form of personal income tax receipts from new employment;

Reductions in Jobseekers’ Allowance: across all seven districts, Government would gain approximately £38m from reductions in Jobseekers’ Allowance payments;

Increase in Disposable Income: the increases in employment will support additional disposable income being spent in the county. The preliminary estimate of this is £108m throughout all seven districts;

Attracting investment: the existence of the Arundel Bypass will remove the current bottleneck on the A27 and will significantly improve the ‘attractiveness’ of the corridor in terms of attracting investment and inducing land development (through distribution centres and business parks etc);”

So how does the council propose to play its part in making this happen, and to capitalise on its share of the identified benefits?

Ford Airfield comprises 268 acres of brownfield land (measured to the curtilage of the airfield) and is believed to be the largest available brownfield site in West Sussex. Further greenfield land is also available. The site overall has capacity for up to 5,000 houses.

The site is in flood zone 1, with easy drainage to the nearby River Arun.

It is close to the proposed route of the Arundel Bypass – providing an opportunity for a new link road from A259 to A27, starting with a roundabout at Comet Corner (to resolve the accident black spots of Comet Corner and the Oystercatcher junctions), bridging the railway at Ford and joining the A27 at the proposed Arundel Bypass and thereby connecting Bognor Regis to the SRN in the east (A24 and A23 – both of which are dual carriageway).  This would have the benefit of spreading new and existing traffic over three rather than the current two routes and resolving safety issues at two accident black spots.

Ford is adjacent to the south coast railway line, and the Arun valley line, providing an opportunity for a Parkway railway station – with ample parking at the centre of a new multi modal transport hub.  This could also serve as a park and ride for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.

It is adjacent to the Southern Water WWTW, which if utilised, could relieve pressure on other, more constrained areas of the district.

The site is also adjacent to the proposed Grundon EfW plant (which has planning permission), which would provide an opportunity for on-site energy provision and the utilisation of combined heat and power.

… and, of course, given its central location in the district, and relative distance from the urban centres of Chichester and Worthing, up to to 5,000 new homes could be provided that would look towards the local economies of Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.

The Joint Downland Area Committee passed a resolution, under delegated powers, requiring ADC and WSCC to consider this option alongside all other options. This resolution has been ignored.

It is clear that a new settlement at Ford could not only accommodate the higher housing numbers identified in the recent OAN (where BEW cannot), but that it could also provide capacity for future growth. 

Arun District Council’s approach to plan making was called into question during the 2003 Local Plan when the council failed to give lawful consideration to whether to hold an inquiry into objections to proposed modifications of draft policy SITE6 and erred in law in adopting the relevant allocation without first reviewing the infrastructure implications of the additional housing provided for by the allocation. This led to a high court judgement against the council and substantial costs for both Bersted Parish Council (as claimants) and Arun District Council (as defendants).

See http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2003/3419.html

The council is once again proposing a similar course of action, and on a much larger scale than 2003. I am concerned that, given the council’s difficulties, it is once again looking for short cuts.

You recently requested an update to the 5 Year Housing Land Supply (HLS) so that it would “assist the Council in reaching a judgement upon whether or not this assumed benefit would be a real one, bearing in mind also that a sound plan capable of adoption would have to provide a demonstrable supply of deliverable sites in its first 5 years.”

As you are already aware this update was not available in time for the Full Council meeting, and so, the council did not consider this key point when making its decision.

The recent (second) Enterprise Zone bid has failed to win government backing. The proposed location is a long way from the A27, and in flood zone 3.  By contrast, land at Ford is close to the A27 and in flood zone 1.

The council has failed to consider if a business park closer to the A27, in flood zone 1, might be more attractive to business and therefore, more likely to achieve the benefits  outlined in the A27 Arundel Bypass Wider Economic Impact Study.  

Has the flood risk sequential test been applied properly?

The council is in dispute with the local community over its plans to build flats on three key seafront sites – the Regis Centre, Hothampton, and Littlehampton Swimming Pool sites, all of which are candidates for flats (and, which may only serve weekend visitors, not local need). Two petitions with over 10,000 signatories have been submitted and the council’s regeneration partner St Modwen recently surrendered its development agreement. The community feel that these sites are too valuable for weekend flats and should be used for leisure purposes to attract visitors to our seaside towns, which are in need of regeneration.

If the council were to focus its housing at Ford Airfield valuable sea front sites like these could be utilised to regenerate tourism in both Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. By failing to consider a new settlement at Ford Airfield properly, other sites are likely to be badly used.

Special measures is a status applied by regulators of public services in Britain to providers who fall short of acceptable standards. Special measures are generally applied when a regulator considers that the body concerned fails to supply an acceptable level of service and appears to lack the leadership capacity necessary to secure improvements.

I am concerned that the council has created a situation where it is now making long term strategic decisions purely to avoid development by appeal and that it is failing to carry out its responsibilities to an acceptable standard.  

Are there any powers available to the Inspectorate that would enable it to protect the public from planning by appeal whilst this mess is sorted out?

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