Further homes pressure on Arun as target raised again

Councillor Ricky Bower
Councillor Ricky Bower

ARUN residents were dealt a further blow after government inspectors further raised the district’s annual housebuilding targets.

The local plan must now identify land for 845 new homes per year until 2031 – a 24 per cent increase in the district’s 2011 housing stock and 1,740 more homes than the council had argued for at a hearing last month.

Unless the authority can prove it cannot meet the target, provision for 16,900 homes will be needed across the plan period – 2011-2031.

The number could rise further if neighbouring authorities cannot meet their targets, as expected.

Arun District Council cabinet member for planning and infrastructure Ricky Bower said: “I come back to the point I have made many times. No collection of developers in Arun have ever delivered the figure now stated.

“They do not have the capacity to do it, therefore it is a fiction.”

The local plan – a document which sets out the district’s future in terms of housebuilding and employment – must set a yearly housebuilding target.

This is known as ‘objectively assessed needs’ (OAN). Once an OAN is set, based on demographic forecasts like population growth, sites suitable for development are identified to meet the need.

Last month saw residents and developers argue for an OAN of between 365 homes per year to 982 per year, based on various interpretations of population data.

Arun had argued for an OAN of 758 – having upped its position from a previous 580 – but the inspectors finally arrived on a figure of 845.

Eastergate resident Ian Truin, who made a case for building less than 500 homes a year, said: “It is no surprise that the inspector has followed the Government’s ‘growth at all costs’ agenda and increased the OAN to produce 16,900 extra houses in Arun by 2031 – not one of them for current residents.

“The key reasons he gave were the inability of that Government to measure immigration properly and that the London Plan has decided to reduce the number of people in the capital and to push them elsewhere in the South East.

“Localism and sustainability seem dead and buried, as may the district of Arun be as our farms and fields are concreted over. How will we feed ourselves then?”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Dr James Walsh repeated calls for Mr Bower’s resignation, pointing to cases in the long history of the local plan where members had voted against officer advice.

On the latest OAN, he said: “I think this will be around the final figure but who is to say, because the whole process seems out of local control because Arun wouldn’t make a decision earlier.”

Mr Bower dismissed the call. He said: “Trying to build a case against me on that ground is a ludicrous proposition.

“His simplistic criticism of me is quite frankly hogwash.”

Arun is not alone in its struggles, he added.

He pointed to a similar case in Swale, Kent, which was facing a similar increase in its OAN despite numerous constraints.

Neighbourhood plans will also be left in a ‘difficult position’, having been built around an older OAN.

Mr Bower said: “As agreed with the inspector last September, examination into the local plan has now stopped until further work is carried out by the council.

“Arun has already begun this work with a timetable for further work.

“This work includes additional studies, comparing different areas of the District to see how many homes they could accommodate per year and the testing of proposals which follows on from the increased house building figure.”