The merging of Chichester and Bognor Regis into one settlement could become a reality by the middle of this century if the current rate of housebuilding continues, one councillor has warned.
A review of Chichester District Council’s local plan, which allocates housing and employment sites up to 2029, is set to be completed by 2020.
Meanwhile the Government is consulting on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a document containing rules for where development should go, but campaigners have argued that what is proposed will neither solve the housing crisis nor protect the countryside.
Simon Oakley, who represents Tangmere, suggested the continuation of five-year reviews as set out in the NPPF would lead to the ‘incremental removal’ of the open countryside between western Arun and Chichester’s built-up areas.
He said: “At the rate we are going by the middle of this century we are going to get Bogchester and into Barnham as well.”
He pointed out that the open countryside gap also served as a green connection between the South Downs National Park and nature reserves at Pagham and Medmerry.
He asked that the issue of maintaining a green gap between the two settlements form part of future discussions between officers at CDC and Arun District Council at a meeting last month.
Andrew Frost, head of planning services at CDC, replied: “We must be aware of the need to meet our objectively assessed housing need in the most sustainable way possible so over the coming months when we progress our local plan review it’s appropriate for us to have close co-operation and working and sharing ideas with Arun.”
Officers pointed out that the concept of strategic gaps did not exist any more in planning terms, but the issue could be raised in discussions between officers of the two councils.
John Connor, CDC’s cabinet member for the environment services, echoed concerns about what he described as a semi-circular green corridor.
He said: “This does stand at huge threat of being disrupted or cut off by development.”
In its response to the NPPF public consultation, CDC disagreed with proposals to introduce a presumption in favour of sustainable development where delivery is below 75 per cent of housing required.
The council explained: “Failure to deliver on sites with planning permission cannot simply be attributed to a local authority.
“Although local planning authorities can allocate housing sites, they possess relatively limited powers to influence the rate at which housing sites are delivered thereafter.”
Financial penalties for developers to speed up build rates should be considered, the response said.
The council supported more transparency around viability assessments, which developers often use to reduce their contributions towards community facilities and affordable housing.