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CPRE Sussex Director’s column for West Sussex Gazette, April 2024

25th April 2024

We at CPRE Sussex might be known by some people for saying no. When it comes to inappropriate, unsustainable greenfield development which lines the pockets of developers while failing to meet the needs of local people, no is the right response.

But we also love to say yes. We support affordable, sustainable homes, built in the right place which will help to tackle the growing rural housing crisis.

Figures released by the national CPRE charity last month showed homelessness increased by 8% in the four predominantly rural Sussex districts from 2018/19 to 2022/23. The number of homeless people in Chichester, Horsham, Rother and Wealden rose from 825 to 892.

Social housing waiting lists also grew in five Sussex districts classed as largely, mainly or significantly rural – from 5,141 in 2018 to 6,195 in 2023. Across the whole of Sussex, there were 284 social rent build completions in 2021/22 – down from a peak of 1,001 in 2011/12.

From 2013/14 to 2020/21 no social rent builds were completed in Chichester and just 19 were completed in 2021/22. During the same period, Arun had 140 social completions.

It’s not just completions of homes for social rent that have fallen. Affordable home completions as a whole have largely stagnated. In 2021/22, 1,758 affordable homes were completed across the whole of Sussex, compared to a peak of 2,115 in 2014/15.

These figures paint a stark picture of the need for genuinely affordable housing, which meets local need. It is also vital this new affordable housing is provided in sustainable locations, with the correct infrastructure to avoid problems like flooding and sewage overflows.

The combination of spring tides and heavy rainfall earlier this month demonstrated all too clearly how vulnerable our county is to changing weather patterns.

Homes and holiday parks were evacuated after the River Arun burst its banks, with flooding affecting areas including Littlehampton, Bracklesham, Bognor Regis and Selsey. Shoreham was also affected as the River Adur breached its banks.

At the same time, our overloaded sewers continue to spill untreated waste into waterways and even streets and gardens.

This is one of the reasons CPRE Sussex is encouraging local planning authorities to make more use of so-called ‘Grampian conditions’ which stop development permitted by planning permission taking place until specific conditions have been undertaken. For example, appropriate upgrades to sewage works and flood mitigation measures.

The Sussex countryside is a wonderful place to live but we need to take action to ensure the homes being created here are affordable, fit-for-purpose and allow local people to stay in the area and thrive.

The national CPRE charity has launched a campaign to build support for rural affordable housing. You can read more about the campaign here:

Want to understand more about planning guidance and how it affects development in your area? You can access our resources here: