John Templeton explains why your Society supports these proposals
Although the Local Plan for Chichester District was adopted in 2015 the Government has instructed it must be reviewed to address the ‘Objectively Assessed Need’ for yet more housing. Last winter Chichester District Council (CDC) consulted on revisions to the Local Plan that included a new Strategic Site Allocation for greenfield land south west of Stockbridge, between the Chichester bypass and Chichester Harbour. This has set alarm bells ringing loudly!
The Council’s proposal is to develop about 85 hectares of which around 35 hectares would be for employment uses, plus at least 100 new homes and a country park. Also included is a new road link from the A27 Fishbourne (aka Tesco) roundabout to the A286 Birdham Road, south of Stockbridge. The plan below shows an outline route for this road based on a transport study by Peter Brett Associates commissioned by CDC.
To the surprise of some of our members the Society supported this proposal. Whilst we have long argued that priority for new housing should be on brownfield land within the city itself we can see many benefits that could arise from this new proposal, and which we outline below.
Link road benefits
Firstly, a link road to Stockbridge would not only serve the new developments but would provide an additional link to the towns and villages on the Manhood Peninsular and at the same time reduce congestion and pollution at Stockbridge and the dangerous rat-run of Apuldram Lane.
Some 15 years ago CDC commissioned a major landscape strategy of all potential development land surrounding the city. It was published in 2005 as The Future Growth of Chichester: Landscape and Visual Amenity Considerations. Areas assessed around the city included fields west of Stockbridge near to Chichester Harbour. Land close to Stockbridge was found to be of poor quality with gappy hedgerows and no views of the cathedral or of the Downs. But to the west, medieval field boundaries still existed with mature trees and hedgerows forming part of the rural setting of both the city and the hamlet of Apuldram, with distant views of the cathedral spire and the Downs beyond.
Rural gap benefits
It is therefore essential that a new link road, well screened with trees and hedgerows, must form the western limit to any extension to Stockbridge, with land to the west retained as a rural gap between the city and the harbour. It should be carefully landscaped as meadows, indeed maybe water meadows because much of it is in a flood-risk area, with the meandering river Lavant (when it flows!) contributing to the proposed wildlife corridor between the Harbour and the Downs. At present the only access to this land is a poorly defined public footpath between the city and the harbour, with a footbridge over the railway to Terminus Road and a highly dangerous crossing of the dual carriageway A27 bypass. This is the shortest walk from the city to the sea, but please don’t risk your life even wearing a high-viz jacket! This route should be upgraded as a footpath/ cycleway with a pedestrian bridge over the bypass, also connecting to the new development (a case for Section 106 Planning gain?).
Housing and employment benefits
As for the development itself, the most obvious location for housing would be towards the southern end, close to Stockbridge to benefit from the shops and community facilities already there, as well as the quarter hour bus service along the Birdham Road. Further north, towards the A27, well designed employment development could take place, which would attract new firms to the city. Creating new employment north of Stockbridge would also enable vacant or underused sites on the city’s industrial estates at Terminus Road and Quarry Lane to be reallocated for much needed affordable housing within walking distance of the city centre.
Agreeing a master plan
Unlike other major greenfield developments underway which could provide no benefits to the existing city, this new proposal for south west Chichester if properly planned will have major benefits. It is however essential that the community is involved in the drawing up of an agreed master plan and that this is adhered to as the development progresses. The devil will be is in the detail!
(This article originally appeared in the September 2019 edition of the Society’s Newsletter)