GAINING more consideration for the needs of charitable and religious groups to expand in the future was the aim of a petition presented to Worthing Borough Council.
Organised by John Davey, a Worthing Christian, the petition called for the council to review its core strategy and planning policies to take into account the needs of such organisations.
In response, James Appleton, the council’s executive head of planning, prepared a report looking into Mr Davey’s concerns that there were “a number of churches in Worthing where plans for expansion have been frustrated by the planning system”.
It was presented to Adur and Worthing councils’ joint planning committee held at the Civic Centre in Ham Road, Shoreham, last week, when Mr Davey addressed members.
He said: “The problem I raised in the petition is not that there is a shortage of church buildings in Worthing, it is that the current buildings are too small or unsuitable for one or two of the larger churches.
“Item 2.9 of the report acknowledges that churches were in discussion with the planners at the time the core strategy was being drawn-up and suggests the contents of the strategy were made clear to the churches concerned at the time.
“I don’t think this is quite right. Had the relevant churches been made aware of the emerging policy, the absence of any proposals to assist them and the implications of this on their aspirations, they would obviously have made representations.”
He then asked that the town’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) be reviewed so provision for larger, more suitable premises for churches could be made.
Mr Appleton responded by saying he had “no objection to the slight amendment to the IDP being made” so that there was “more engagement with the voluntary community sector”.
Councillor Stephanie Hedley-Barnes supported the amendment, and said: “We are talking about Big Society now, and we are talking about a situation where our faith groups are going to be providing a bigger role in the community.
“I do think we should be planning to support faith groups in the future, and we need to recognise that if there are going to be big developments of housing in the future that our faith groups are needed to support them.”
Councillors agreed with officer recommendations that the council’s core strategy did not need to be reviewed, but that the IDP could be amended to allow for more recognition of the needs of community groups.