LETTER: Policy does not tackle crisis

I write to furnish readers with some up to date information on planning statistics within the Arun District area. In the main the source is the latest annual monitoring report covering the year to March 17.

First, it is worth noting that housing completions in the district fell from the record high in 2015/16 of 912 to 659 in the year 2016/17.

This means that in achieving the Government requirement of a five-year land supply of housing Arun currently achieves 2.08 years.

Under government rules this deems housing policies in neighbourhood plans out of date. Given the fantasy figures projected in the local plan, currently in its final stages of consideration with years of projected completions way above 1,000 per annum, it is questionable whether redrafted neighbourhood plans with higher housing figures will fare any better.

Second, the percentage of overall housing units built which are deemed as ‘affordable’ in Arun lags well behind the 30 per cent target.

In the year to 2014 just eight per cent, year to 2015 21 per cent, to 2016 19 per cent and 2017 17 per cent. This, of course, is based on a Government definition of affordable which bears little relation to the reality on the ground in this area.

Finally, I am pleased that some local people have responded to the final stages of consultation on the Arun Local Plan, in particular rightly raising concern about the removal of internal and external space standards.

While taller buildings and higher densities must surely play a part in resolving the housing crisis that should not mean broom cupboard living with little amenity space. Representations have also focused on reducing the amount of employment land to be provided in Angmering with nearly all the new provision to be located in the west of the district. All these comments go to the inspector for consideration. However he, like councillors on the local planning committee, are instructed by government policy which overides all other considerations.

As recent by-elections appear to indicate, people are realising that it is a Conservative government dictating planning policy which is being implemented by Conservative councillors locally. The policy neither tackles the housing crisis in an effective manner but results in huge environmental damage and pressure on local infrastructure including GP services. Other parties may benefit from this Conservative calamity but they have a duty to set out an alternative before it is too late.

PS: Since writing this letter the Government have confirmed they intend to introduce a new nationally specified housing target which councils will have to deliver. This calculated in Arun shows a target of 1,199 units/annum (before any additional numbers imposed to meet the need in the wider housing market) and will be expected to be introduced five years after the local plan is most likely adopted this summer – setting the bar higher before the plan is even in force.

Derrick Chester, Worthing Road, Littlehampton

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