Chichester District Council has announced that it has reached the point where it can show it has a 5 year housing land supply.
This improved position strengthens the council’s ability to protect the area against inappropriate development.
The purpose of the 5 year housing land supply is to provide an indication of whether there are sufficient sites available to meet the Government’s housing requirement over the next five years. This is required by the National Planning Policy Framework.
For decision-taking purposes, where an authority can demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply when dealing with planning applications and appeals, more importance can be given to the adopted local plan. Without a 5 year supply, applications are considered against less stringent tests set out in national planning policy.
The 5 year housing land supply is assessed on a rolling basis each year.
“This is really good news because it places us in a much stronger position when protecting against inappropriate development. This doesn’t mean that we will turn down all development - we just want to see appropriate schemes in the right places,” says Cllr Susan Taylor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at Chichester District Council.
“A huge amount of work has gone into reaching our five year housing supply. We have achieved this by being proactive in our approach and progressing appropriate development, such as the strategic site in Tangmere.”
The council has also secured a Statement of Common Ground and a Position Statement for Thornham Waste Water Treatment Works with Southern Water and the Environment Agency. Following concerns about the capacity of the works, the documents set out how waste water will be considered in the planning process. In the case of the treatment works at Thornham, once capacity is reached, proposals for new development will have to find an alternative waste water solution.
Susan adds: “We know this is not the full solution, or the answer to all the concerns raised regarding Southern Water, but it is an important step. We will continue to work with both organisations to secure tangible improvements in the way that waste water issues are incorporated into the planning and development process.”
The council has also revealed that National Highways has agreed that the level of development achievable in the southern part of the plan area is not likely to be deliverable at the moment due to the inability to fund the necessary road improvements.
Talks are still ongoing with National Highways and West Sussex Highways and it is hoped that a formal agreement will be in place soon.
Although all of the road improvements can’t be funded at this stage, talks with the highway authorities have identified that improvements to the Fishbourne and Bognor roundabouts are an immediate priority for the A27. Funding has been identified to move forward with improvements to the Fishbourne roundabout in the next five years.
“These are positive steps forward,” adds Susan. “As people may remember, when we met with the Planning Inspector he said that before concluding that our housing needs cannot be met, we need to determine what level of housing could be achieved based on deliverable improvements to the A27; consider whether our full housing needs could be met another way, which would include looking back at other parts of the local plan area; and investigate if neighbouring authorities can help meet our housing needs. While the inspector did not rule out us proceeding with a lower level of development in the emerging local plan, he did emphasise there is a ‘high bar’ to justify such an approach.
“Since then we have been working hard to address all of these points. We are continuing discussions with National Highways and West Sussex Highways; we have identified improvements that can be made to the roads in the short term; we have started to relook at other areas of the district that could accommodate growth; and we are talking to our neighbouring authorities to see if they can help us. However, this additional work means that the plan is now likely to be considered by our councillors in July 2022, followed by a public consultation.
“Although this means a slight delay, we will be in a much stronger position. It is vital that we get all of the pieces of the jigsaw in place, before we present our findings to the Planning Inspector. No stone must be left unturned. The 5 year housing land supply also strengthens our position and protects us from unwanted development.
“We recognise that this has been and continues to be a challenging journey – but we want assure our residents and businesses that we are doing everything we can to progress this important piece of work and get the very best outcome for our district.”