‘Local plan doesn’t protect Arun communities from increasing flood risk’

Independent Arun councillors Tony Dixon and Hugh Coster
Independent Arun councillors Tony Dixon and Hugh Coster

Arun District Council will ask the government to freeze large-scale development in the area while the impact of climate change on homes along the coast is explored.

At a meeting on Wednesday (September 18), a notice of motion was tabled by Tony Dixon (Ind, Aldwick East) calling on chief executive Nigel Lynn to ask for a meeting with the relevant government minister to discuss the matter.

The motion also declared that the council had no confidence in its own Local Plan – policies which will guide development in the district up to 2031.

Describing development in areas at risk from coastal and tidal flooding as ‘irresponsible’, Mr Dixon said: “This council believes that the Local Plan does not adequately protect new and existing communities from increasing flood risk.

“Therefore, we have no confidence in the Local Plan.

“The council calls on the government to introduce a moratorium on large scale development in the Arun District whilst climate change and its potential impact on coastal plain development is properly assessed at governmental level.”

A lengthy and often heated discussion saw some Conservative members claim the motion was a red herring and had more to do with not wanting more housing in the area than with climate change.

Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East), who had been cautioned by the chairman for his language, said: “It seems they want a fantastic land with no one actually living in it. People need houses.”

Richard Bower (Con, East Preston) said the motion was ‘misleading and misdirected’ and would lead to a loss of control of the planning system in the district.

Paul Dendle (Con, Arundel & Walberton) added that the motion would ‘kill any hope’ of today’s young people being able to find their own homes because ‘basically you will not have any affordable housing’.

Henry Jones (Lib Dem, Yapton) countered this, saying: “The whole point of the motion is to make sure that when we do build houses they’ll still be there in 100 years. If we build where it’s going to be under water, what’s the point of building the house?”

The discussion threatened to descend into farce at times, with accusations that one councillor had taken photos during the meeting and incredulity from one member that another had spoken about ‘stopping housing’ when he worked for a building society.

There was a bit of Winston Churchill from Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East) who seconded the motion, and said: “The further back you look, the further forward you can see. In other words, look at history and that will tell you what’s going to happen.”

Speaking about rising sea levels Mr Coster added: “Some people like to bury their head in the sand and try and ignore it but we know it’s going to happen. As responsible people we must plan for that possibility.”

A record vote was held and the motion was agreed by 24 votes to 18, with five councillors abstaining.