The Society’s objections can be viewed here.
Chichester’s Draft Local Plan
Following protracted hearings during the autumn of 2014, dissecting and reviewing the District Council’s draft Local Plan, Sue Turner, the Planning Inspector for the Examination in Public (EiP), delivered her report which is available on the CDC website.
She has approved CDC’s Plan on condition that numerous amendments are added.
Here is the Society’s take on the result:
- Overview The Local Plan has to sit within the bounds set down by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which is created by central Government and underlies the entire plan-making process. Subject to the amendments mentioned above, the Inspector found that the Local Plan is indeed aligned with the NPPF.
- ‘Duty to Co-operate’ Draft Local Plans fail if they are not created as a result of co-operation and consultation between adjoining councils, public agencies and other stakeholders. The Society argued at the EiP hearings that CDC had not met this requirement. The Inspector disagreed. She decided: ‘in preparing the Plan the Council has … engaged effectively with prescribed bodies to address strategic matters. It has therefore met the duty set out in section 33A of the 2004 Act’ (page 5, paragraph 11)
- ‘Soundness’: ‘Soundness’ is fundamental when assessing whether a Draft Local Plan is fit for purpose.In assessing soundness, the Inspector framed the EiP hearings around nine ‘issues’, asking whether the Plan:
- Is a ‘robust strategy’
- Is supported by ‘robust infrastructure planning’
- Identifies ‘objectively’ the need for market and affordable housing
- Maximises housing delivery
- Provides for a ‘thriving local economy’
- Allocates strategic development sites based on ‘robust evidence’
- Identifies development sites through Neighbourhood Plans
- Has environmental policies that are ‘soundly based’
- Has effective built-in monitoring and delivery
Sue Turner concluded(page 27, paragraph 132) ‘that with the recommended main modifications set out in the Appendix the Chichester Local Plan satisfies the requirements of Section 20(5) of the 2004 act and meets the criteria for soundness in the National Planning Policy Framework’.
- A closer look at the Inspector’s opinions: the following comments focus on a few of the EiP report’s themes likely to be of interest to the Society’s members. The abbreviation “MM” signifies “Main Modification” (as listed in the appendix to the Inspector’s Report).
- A ‘robust strategy’: the Inspector accepted the Plan’s intention to focus new development in an ‘East-West Corridor’ (para 15) after receiving CDC amendments which include:
‘The East-West Corridor is the main focus for new development proposed in the Local Plan…The Plan seeks to accommodate new growth within and around the city and to enhance its role as a sub-regional centre and visitor destination. However it is recognised that new development needs to be planned sensitively with special regard to the city’s historic environment and setting, whilst also addressing key infrastructure constraints, particularly in terms of wastewater treatment capacity and transport….’ (MM26).
- Infrastructure planning: this technical section includes CDC amendments (MM22) about cycling and pedestrian infrastructure design; and about Apuldram Wastewater Catchment Area (MM 35). The Inspector observes ‘the Plan takes account of the need for strategic infrastructure and demonstrates that it can realistically be provided to ensure that the level of development that is proposed can be delivered’ (para 37).
- Housing need estimates: CDC has increased its estimates for new homes required each year (MM7) to 505, excluding the National Park. The Inspector concurs (para 42).
- Maximising housing delivery: the report identifies a mismatch between data on new homes needed, averaging 505 a year, and supply averaging 415. The reason relates to constraints in infrastructure such as A27 road works and wastewater drainage. This conundrum has been resolved for the present by CDC submitting an amendment (MM9) that acknowledges the supply gap:
‘For this reason the Council will review the Local Plan within five years to ensure that OAN (Objectively Assessed Need) is met…’.
The Inspector: ‘For these reasons I conclude that the Plan should be adopted now, subject to a commitment to a review to be completed within five years….(para 56).
- Four strategic development sites:
- West of Chi: target numbers during the Plan period increased from 1,000 to 1,250 (para 83). The Inspector notes local concern and uncertainty about sewerage treatment routes to Tangmere WwTW and proposals for an on-site treatment facility; but because the Plan is a strategic document detailed proposals are ‘not appropriate’ at this stage. ‘In these circumstances the provision of wastewater treatment facilities does not prevent a barrier to developing the West of Chichester’ (para 85).
- Westhampnett/NE Chi: ‘I am satisfied that the Plan’s flexible and pragmatic approach to addressing the buffer between Goodwood and new housing development is appropriate and effective’ (para 93).
- Shopwyke Lakes & Tangmere: are ’soundly based and deliverable.’ (paras 89 & 102).
- Environment policies – protecting heritage assets: English Heritage was concerned and the outcome is six amendments to the Plan (MM100-105). The Inspector is satisfied ‘that the Plan includes an effective strategy to ensure the District’s heritage assets can be protected and which is consistent with the NPPF’.
- The ChiSoc view: The inspector’s conclusions are disappointing. On a number of points we felt that the evidence demonstrated failure of the Local Plan. The inspector concluded otherwise. On the issue of the duty to co-operate, we felt we had provided evidence of inadequate co-operation with Havant BC. The inspector concluded that there had been sufficient co-operation. On West of Chichester Strategic Development Location (SDL), despite numerous objections concerning inadequate transport infrastructure and wastewater treatment, which would make the site an unsuitable SDL, the inspector decided that these major difficulties were not a matter for the Local Plan but for resolution during the detailed planning process.
 The NPPF can be viewed at www. gov.uk Plan-making processes and policies are described from page 37
 NPPF, pages 42-43, paragraphs 178-181
 NPPF, page 43, paragraph 182
Local Plan – What’s been happening?
The Examination in Public (EIP) of Chichester District Council’s Local Plan took a break during the latter half of November while the District Council, on the recommendation of the Planning Inspector, reviewed its original housing target figure of 6,973 new homes to be built during the plan period (to 2029).
When the EIP resumed on 2 December, the Council outlined how it had reviewed its figures and proposed new, increased figures. The total number of new homes proposed would rise to 7,388 homes during the plan period, an increase from 410 per annum to 435. Of this increased number the overwhelming proportion, 250 homes were to be located at the West of Chichester Strategic Development Location, viz., Whitehouse Farm.
Notwithstanding the ‘encouragement’ from the Planning Inspector to review their methodology and maximise the number of homes to meet the objectively assessed need (OAN) for housing, there remains considerable doubt that the Council has come up with a satisfactory figure – anyway certainly not in the eyes of the developers.
The EIP sat for two days at the beginning of December before taking another break.
During the break the Council compiled its Draft Modifications to the Local Plan, which had arisen during and as a result of the Examination In Public. These modifications were approved by the District Council on 22 December.
On 8 January 2015 the modifications were put out for public consultation for a six week period ending on 19 February.
It is anticipated, though not certain, that the following will happen over the next weeks and months. First the Planning Inspector will consider the responses to the consultation on the modifications. A reconvening of the EIP may happen in late March. Sometime later the Inspector’s report will appear. The report may or may not approve the Local Plan.
Meanwhile there is the little matter of District Council elections, not to mention a General Election. The District Council will go into ‘purdah’ in April.
So one thing is for certain, it will be a different District Council, indeed a different Government that will be picking up the loose ends from the long-running saga of the Chichester Local Plan.
The Society has written two submissions for the Examination in Public of the Chichester District Local Plan.
For our thoughts about the Council’s “Duty to Cooperate” click here (PDF document*).
For our thoughts about housing numbers and where new houses should go, click here (PDF document*).
And for an earlier posting giving our (somewhat jaundiced) thoughts about the whole Local Plan process, click here.
*If the term “PDF” means little to you, click here.
The Draft Local Plan from October 2013 to September 2014
Chichester District Council compiled a new Local Plan and, as of October 2013 it arranged two substantial Public Consultations to seek the views of residents, businesses, and the wider community about the proposals. To consult the original draft Plan open this pdf file here
The first round of consultation lasted from March to early May, the majority of responses being via the District Council’s website. A copy of the Society’s formal response is available in this pdf file here.
During this first Consultation the Society briefed its members about the draft Plan and to view a copy of this four-page advice note see this pdf file here. – note the page-turning facility by placing your mouse-pointer on the page edges. This feature is made possible by software offered to charities free of charge although there may be a few adverts.
The Chichester Society opposed proposals to develop on greenfield sites on the city’s western and eastern margins as being hugely detrimental to Chichester’s unique character. We believed that more emphasis must be put on developing ‘brownfield’ sites such as Shopwhyke Lakes to the south east. We also questioned the methodology for calculating the number of new homes required. We also questioned whether the Council’s development aspirations can be fulfilled while there are notable infrastructure problems – principally roads and drainage. The Society explained its position in a memorandum mailed in July to each District Councillor in person, and later published in the September edition of the Newsletter. To view this briefing, see this pdf file here – note the page-turning facility by placing your mouse-pointer on the page edges. This feature is made possible by software offered to charities free of charge although there may be a few adverts.
Chichester residents will be increasingly aware that the Draft Local Plan proposes extensive new areas of housing plus a small amount of employment on what the District Council calls ‘strategic sites’ around Chichester.
As the Society reviews the developing Local Plan, these sites feel very far short of real strategic planning. Rather they have come to the fore simply as a result of developers proposing patches of land that they own (or have options on). And the Council has not had the resources – or the foresight – to do much more than acquiesce.
Be that as it may, the approval or otherwise of the sites now rests with an Examination in Public in September, when the Plan will be scrutinised by an Inspector appointed by Whitehall. Somehow, this process again seems to fall short of the much-vaunted idea of Localism!
Further, despite this official timetable, the developers are now doing their best to jump the gun. They are preparing plans (as at Whitehouse Farm) and submitting planning applications (as at Westhampnett) in advance of any approval under the incoming Local Plan. Presumably, they see an advantage in being ready to go as soon as the Local Plan is approved, rather than starting from scratch when – or rather if – it is.
Another incentive for developers to push the pace is that, if development begins early, they are likely to be liable for much smaller contributions to local communities, in terms of playing fields, village halls, road improvements and the like.
This is because, at present, developers give back to the community through “Planning Gain” in the form of ‘Section 106’ agreements, which are widely seen as less onerous than the system of Planning Gain through the ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’ (CIL) that will come in with the Local Plan.
To oppose this juggernaut, the District Council has invested some effort in erecting defensive screens called ‘Concept Statements’. These are intended to be indications of how the council would like the site to be developed, formulated by ‘community planning’. Which is admirable, you may say, and in principle that is true.
But in practice, the community meetings have been squeezed into a foreshortened timetable. The Tangmere one was brought forward from September to June without due notice, and the Westhampnett one happened before anyone in Chichester City had heard about it!
Local parish councils did know; but the developments are on a district-wide scale and would weld the new strategic sites irrevocably to Chichester itself. This is an extension of the problem of pitting under-resourced local councils against over-resourced developers backed by central government.
Worse, it now appears that these Concept Statements may be worth little more than the paper they are written on. They are apparently only a ‘material consideration’ which effectively means that a developer can ignore them if they can find any reason for doing so.
To illustrate the point, the developers who want to build on the corner of Stane Street and Madgwick Lane managed to get through a 2-hour presentation and question session without mentioning concept statements once; and the developers for Whitehouse Farm mounted an exhibition of their plans for the site before the concept statement for that area has even been published.
We will look back in 20 years’ time and wonder how Local Government ever deserved that name.
So says Mr. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the chief executive of Rolls Royce Cars, about plans to build on the green fields between Chichester and Rolls Royce’s “Telly Tubby” (sedum roofed) factory at Westhampnett.
In a report in the Chichester Observer, he explains “Rolls Royce will effectively be located within a housing estate that is indistinguishable from any UK urban location; exactly the situation we sought so hard to avoid” when they planned their move into the area.
The Society has its own reservations about this planning application, which is just the latest instance of growing piecemeal destruction of the rural surroundings of the city and the wider district.
In fact, we have rather a lot to say. In our response to planning application 14/01159/OUTEIA, we have commented that this development:
“would meet none of the three dimensions to sustainable development as required under the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework: Economic, Social or Environmental;
would adversely impact on the Economy of the Goodwood Estate and the Rolls Royce plant, both of which derive major benefits from the ambience of their settings;
would fail to integrate with, and would indeed overwhelm, the social character of Westhampnett village; and
would destroy the rural environs of Chichester, Westhampnett and Goodwood, and harm the setting of the South Downs National Park.”
We also noted that the Draft Local Plan identifes no need for extra housing at Westhampnett. But permission has nevertheless been given for 100 houses on another nearby site. So Westhampnett is already delivering more than is being asked of it.
The Society objected to the large scale housing at Westhampnett. The following is a summary of its submission to the Chichester District Council.
1) This site conflicts with ‘saved policies’ to “protect the rural area” (Policy RE1), protect the identity of settlements (RE6), and to protect the local environment and setting in the landscape (BE11).
2) Any outline planning application here is premature.
3) The site is well beyond the Settlement Policy Area … and can’t even be integrated with the existing village.
4) The site failes no less than six of the criteria set out in Interim Policy Statement on Housing (FAD) of July 2012. Sadly this statement no longer has force, but it’s reasoning remains sound.
5) Any housing here would intrude into views from and into the South Downs National park, and hence would detract from the experience of visitors to the National Park, not to mention local events including the horseracing at the top of the hill and the festivals at the bottom of the hill at Goodwood.
6) The prosed link road into the development would detract from the rural quality of the lane and would also destroy a section of mature hedgerow identified as part of a Bat network.
7) The Draft Local Plan identifes no need for extra housing at Westhampnett. Even so, planning permission has been permitted for 100 houses on another nearby site. So Westhampnett is already delivering more than is being asked of it.
The Society has responded to Chichester District Council’s second round of consultation in 2013. To see the Society’s comments click here And to find out what the Society said in the first round (which ended last May) click here.
To see a rather more easy-to-read brochure we produced about Draft Plan, click here.