Letter: Councillors should be standing up for community and environment
Letter published by the West Sussex Gazette, 15 May 2019
Could it be that the loss by the Conservative Party of its substantial majority in Arun District (WSG 8May19) is a stinging rebuke by voters there of the Conservative Government and its inequitable shaped-by-developers planning regime?
After all, the Government has imposed on the District and its communities a huge and environment-harming housing target of 20,000 new houses minimum to 2031.
In his ‘Report to Arun District Council: Report on the Examination of the Arun Local Plan’, 4 July 2018, the examining planning inspector advised that
“This scale of development will have a range of adverse impacts, including urbanising of the countryside, loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land and placing strains on existing infrastructure, including the highway network” and that “the Sustainability Appraisal records that significant negative effects will occur as a result of the allocation policies”
To add insult to injury, Arun District through no fault of its own has failed the Government’s rigged ‘Housing Delivery Test’ and must now allocate yet more sites for development, in compliance with Government diktat.
Not only that, but in consequence of changes made to the NPPF at the behest of developers, communities with Neighbourhood Plans more than two years old, of which there are 15 in Arun District, are especially vulnerable to developer-imposed house-building. The consequences for these communities, which are now without protection, are likely to be catastrophic.
This is particularly inequitable because whether a council passes or fails the test is dependent on the performance of developers and house-builders over the previous three years.
Developers and house-builders will not build more houses than can be sold at an acceptable-to-them profit, and housing delivery rates are therefore dependent on the health of the wider economy, as is acknowledged in the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts’ report: ‘Housing: State of the Nation’, 24 Apr 17.
Will newly elected councillors stand up for their communities and the natural environment and question and challenge inequitable and harmful Government policies shaped by and for the benefit of developers, not communities?
Dr Roger F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex