There is fury in Petworth as the South Downs National Park is today expected to vote through a major housing development which flies in the face of their new neighbourhood plan (NP).
The NP will face its first big test when the committee debates a proposal from West Sussex County Council for 34 new homes on its land next to the Rotherlea care home in Dawtrey Road.
The NP which was set in stone by the national park earlier this year includes detailed polices on how the community wants to see the town develop over the next 15 years including where and how housing would be built.
It envisages 23 homes on the site and town councillors have strongly objected to the county council’s proposals saying the density and mix of housing types in its proposal does not meet the neighbourhood plan policies. There is also an issue with parking and traffic congestion on a road already stretched with residents and school traffic.
There has been a raft of objections but today the park planning committee is being recommended by its officers to give it the go ahead.
In a report to members they said it was ‘broadly in accordance with the policies and aspiration of the Petworth Neighbourhood Plan’.
But furious town councillors held an extraordinary meeting last night (Wednesday, November 7) to wage war against the proposal if it is given the go ahead today.
They say they will appeal to the secretary of state to ‘call it in’ if it is approved.
“We are going straight to the top to defend our NP,” said chairman of the town council Chris Kemp.
“I have a lot of respect for the planning committee at the park and I hope they will do the right thing for Petworth today, but if they don’t we are ready to fight this all the way.”
He said the dozens of volunteers who had worked hard for four years to get the plan right were now utterly frustrated.
“We worked hard and spent some £70,000 in public money and grants and then someone totally detached from our community decided to push the boundaries rather than support our NP.”
He said he was particularly angry because the NP had been praised by park planners for its excellence and put up for a national town planners award later this month.
“None of our objections are nimbyism. All those living around the site expect development, but our NP is about development that is good for the community.”
He said the NP policy was for a maximum of 23 houses on the site, but it was against any building until a site to the south was developed relieving traffic and parking congestion.
“It makes my very angry and very sad but it seems to be a pattern that neighbourhood plans are being completed flouted.”