Nearly 18 months after plans for a major housing development and Sussex’s first IKEA were announced for Lancing, decision day is approaching.
Next Wednesday (July 18), Adur District Council’s planning committee will meet to decide whether development of New Monks Farm, immediately west of Shoreham Airport, will be approved or rejected.
The meeting is the culmination of a process which has ignited public debate, with hundreds of residents and numerous organisations having their say.
Today (Tuesday, July 10), the planning committee agenda was published, giving residents their first look at the recommendation of the council’s planning officers.
The recommendation – which is to approve, subject to referral to the Secretary of State and completion of a legal agreement – is not the final decision and provides advice to the committee based on planners’ assessment of the application.
Councillors will meet to discuss the issue, hear from speakers and the planning team and reach their final conclusion.
Opening with an admission that the application is one of the ‘most controversial’ in the council’s history, the report stated the recommendation is ‘finely balanced’.
It stated: “The report concludes that the matter is finely balanced. The delivery of this strategic housing allocation is vital in order to meet the council’s future market and affordable housing needs and the economic regeneration arguments and job creation are compelling.”
The report is lengthy, discussing the merits of the plans over 240 pages.
It takes readers through the responses from consultees, resident objections and support letters and discusses various issues, from traffic impact to air quality.
In its conclusion, it stated the starting point for considering the plans is in light of the approved Adur Local Plan.
The local plan, formed before the IKEA application, set out a policy of a minimum of 600 homes and 10,000sqm of commercial space.
The planning application varies, in that substantially more commercial space is needed for IKEA, while the country park is smaller than the 28 hectares outlined in the local plan.
The report, however, states there are ‘significant viability issues’ with what was envisaged in the local plan, which could be addressed through provision of a ‘large non-food retail store’.
Reflecting its earlier statement about the decision being ‘finely balanced’, the report’s conclusions highlighted some of the key issues councillors will have to balance next week.
It stated they will have to decide whether mitigation measures proposed will be enough to address ‘harm’ to the setting of the South Downs National Park.
‘Benefits’, the report stated, included providing housing ‘vital’ to meeting the needs of the district, whose council housing waiting list is approaching 1,000 households.
It noted business support from the likes of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce and argued the jobs created through IKEA were ‘compelling’.
But in contrast, the ‘economic benefits’ would need to be balanced against concerns raised by Lancing College, which argued the plans could have a ‘negative impact on its future viability’. Read our full story about the college’s concerns here.
The report concluded: “Notwithstanding the considerable public opposition to the proposed development, it is considered that there are significant public benefits with the proposed development which, on balance, would justify approval.
“The adverse impacts of the development are recognised but with the additional mitigation measures identified in the report, these effects are not so significant to outweigh the benefits of the scheme.
If councillors are minded to be approved, the plans would not be rubber stamped until the completion of a legal agreement and the Secretary of State confirming that he does not wish to ‘call in’ the application for his determination.
Next Wednesday’s planning meeting will be held at the Sir Robert Woodard Academy, in Upper Boundstone Lane, Lancing, from 7pm.
Read the full report at www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/media/media,149904,en.pdf