Is SOHV campaigning to stop new housing development at all costs? Not a bit of it. We all know we need new housing, but we need far less than the government and council is forcing us to take. We also need developers to build more affordable, energy neutral and better quality new houses to meet local needs, not for second home owners to buy.
Environmentally friendly ways of getting back to work after lockdown
With workers being told to avoid buses and trains for their commute to work post-lockdown, promoting cycling or e-biking (electric biking) among your employees could bring real benefits to your business and your staff. It could help to reduce pressure on parking spaces, improve physical and mental health, and reduce air pollution. Sustrans, a charity that encourages walking and cycling, offers details on the UK Government supported Cycle to Work scheme and a great way for employers to encourage cycling and e-biking. A quick internet search will show participating cycle and e-bike retailers on our doorstep. Another option is checking out the easit Chichester scheme. Join to access a range of fantastic incentives on cycling, e-biking, car clubs and discounts.
Life after COVID-19 lockdown looks very different for local and work travel
A new poll carried out by YouGov on behalf of the national cycling charity Cycling UK shows that one in ten people are now cycling more during the Coronavirus crisis. Just a glance along the A259 at weekends shows there are often times when there are more cyclists than cars. If that one in ten was replicated across the whole of the UK, then that would mean over 6 million people getting out on their bikes more.
36% questioned said they could rethink future travel habits to use motor vehicles less. But, if people are to continue to get out on their cycles more once this crisis is over, they want to see changes incorporated into the CDC Local Plan and WSCC transport plans:
- 63% want traffic free cycle tracks and paths to local high streets and towns
- 53% want dedicated cycle lanes on all of their local roads (like the A259)
- 30% want traffic restrictions in residential streets (see Milan plan to go traffic free)
- 24% want a reduction of speed limits to 20 mph in residential and built-up areas
The issue with Nitrates from house building simply won’t go away…
Last year building on 7,000 houses in south Hampshire stopped after Natural England ruled the amount of nitrogen spilling into the Solent as a result was damaging to wildlife.
After Hampshire Councils scrambled to find a solution they are now seeking to buy back areas of ‘poor quality’ farmland, which contribute large amounts of nitrogen through the previous use of fertilisers. They then plan to ‘re-green it’ by planting trees and plants and introducing animals. This idea has the support of Natural England, the Environment Agency and the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government. Hampshire Councils now just need approval for this from Natural England in writing. Oh, and a shedload of fresh money that they simply don’t have to buy the land…
A cabinet question from SOHV in October 2019 also confirmed that Chichester Council was in the same position. The problem is that agricultural land in areas like Chidham and Hambrook, famous originally for ‘Chidham wheat’, is much better quality, so not only is there very little land available to buy up, it’s also a lot more expensive…
The new Conservative government doesn’t care about carbon neutral homes
After waiting for two months for a reply to an SOHV email to Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, we received this back in an email that shows the new government has no intention of creating carbon neutral homes. “In 2006 the Labour Government set out the original plans for zero carbon homes in their consultation document ‘Building a Greener Future’ in 2006. The coalition Government amended the proposals with the aim of striking a balance between zero carbon goals and stimulation of growth in the house building industry. Earlier [Conservative] Government proposals for ‘zero carbon homes’ were cancelled in 2016.” So there seems little chance of them ever being resurrected…
And for Government help to improve the energy efficiency of your current home?
Wales: Warm Homes Nest scheme grant to make any home more energy efficient.
Scotland: wide range of financial support and for those struggling to heat their home.
Northern Ireland: NISEP £8m of grants per year for home energy-saving measures.
England: ECO offers most people nothing, unless on a low income or claiming benefits.
Southern Water needs taking to task over Chichester Harbour water pollution
Last Summer Councillor Michael Wilson, Leader of Havant Borough Council, demanded immediate action from Southern Water to ensure Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island’s beaches are safe for all to use. Why isn’t Chichester District Council demanding the same action from Southern Water about the woeful state of Chichester Harbour?
Chichester District Council study shows need for 47% affordable homes
In ongoing reviews of its Local Plan, CDC has identified that 285 affordable homes are needed per year (5,700 between 2016 and 2036), This affordable home need comprises around 47% of the objectively assessed housing need of 609 houses per year across the whole district. Whilst the exact affordable quota will be determined through the local plan viability study managed by the planning policy team, it shows that the current Local Plan target of just 30% affordable homes is woefully inadequate for future local needs.
Chichester lacking water treatment capacity for any new homes
Data provided by Southern Water via the Environment Agency shows the majority of the ten water treatment plants serving the Chichester District are over-capacity. This makes allocation of any new houses almost impossible without remedial work being done at the majority of these treatment works. With the pipeline between Apuldram and Chichester treatment works behind schedule and over budget, at £22m, you have to wonder how the £10m Southern Water stands to get from housing developers with the 13,000 new homes planned over the next 20 years will have any chance of paying for all the work that we need to make Chichester Harbour safe from unhealthy nitrates and algal bloom.
Council meets UK Government Housing Minister to fight housing allocation
On 16th Oct Eileen Lintill (CDC Council Leader) and Diane Shepherd (CEO) will meet with Luke Hall MP, in order to try and get a reduction in the housing allocation for Chichester District, as well as a delay of the CDC Local Plan which is currently due to be submitted in July 2020. SOHV has written a letter outlining all of the key reasons why Chichester District should have less than 13,000 houses, including climate change threats on the south coast plain, lack of land to build houses in when you include the 67% area of the South Downs National Park, and protection of our unique coastal heritage and wildlife. We’ve got signatures to the letter from parishes, residents and the heads of the CPRE, Chichester Harbour Trust and Chichester Harbour Conservancy. Read the full text of the letter and signatories here
Home design guide and Housing Secretary promotes faster planning process
Good news in the launch of a new National Design Guide for homes – download it here
The government also confirmed proposals to speed up the planning system, including fees refunded if councils take too long to decide on specific planning applications. Great in principle but the government website says “The move will benefit all planning applicants, from housing developers to individual householders seeking to extend or modify their own home, as it ensures councils work at pace to decide proposals.”
Interesting that housing developers are mentioned first and, with the announcement that June saw an 11 year annual high in new house building at 174,000, we’ll take this with a pinch of salt and wait until the accelerated planning green paper is published in Nov 2019. Let’s not forget the latest ONS data says we only need 163,000 new homes a year. Sounds more like the government will do everything it can to help its friends like Persimmon rack up another billion pounds in house building profits, delivering big family homes that do little to benefit local families, who need more affordable housing.
Chichester District can’t take a third of the South Downs housing allocation
Following a Council Cabinet question from Andrew Kerry-Bedell, CDC Leader Eileen Lintill confirmed that the previous non-binding agreement made between CDC planning department and the South Downs National Park was under review. She said “The Council is not currently committed to taking the South Downs Park allocation.” SOHV hopes the Council will stick by this view, as the rest of the District is unable to handle the 880 houses they discussed taking from the SDNP. CDC & SDNP housing memo
“The allocation of housing between the SDNP and the coastal plain is not sustainable in terms of climate change or community cohesion. Communities in the SDNP are complaining of closing schools and shops, because of a lack of affordable homes in the Park, while flood prone coastal areas are having to absorb housing beyond their capacity to cope in terms of infrastructure or drainage.” – Carolyn Cobbold
Council agrees to review charges to help improve affordable housing
Following a question about increasing affordable housing, to help meet growing local need, CDC Leader Eileen Lintill confirmed to Jane Towers that ‘Our Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges are currently being reviewed’. SOHV hopes that the Council takes this opportunity to introduce a new range of CIL charges that ensure a higher percentage of affordable housing can be delivered than the current 30%, given the South Downs already has a target of 50% affordable housing.
Chidham & Hambrook residents vote a resounding ‘No’ to too many new houses
At Chidham and Hambrook Parish hall on 30th Sept residents at a public meeting called for a reduction in the 12,800 new homes planned to be built in the Chichester District, as well as reducing the 500 allocated by the Council in their small local parish.
Parish Chairman Philip McDougal said “We have a very special environment here. We have the South Downs National Park to the north and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the south but they’re going to then put a raft of houses across the barrier, the narrow corridor between those two areas of land.” See the full article here.
Council considers plan to build 200 Council houses and more affordable housing
Council members discussed the need for more affordable, council and social housing in the district. Kevin Hughes tabled a commitment to build new council homes in an attempt to make renting more affordable. There are 1,358 people and families on the housing register, with 42 in council-owned temporary accommodation and 18 in temporary homes which the council does not own. Read the full article here
“There is a pressing need for urgent additional council, social and affordable housing. But Chichester has a particular problem because people who work here, in a lot of cases, can’t afford to live here. Where you have house prices at 14 times the income you’re never going to have an affordable house.”
CDC Local Plan 2019 – 2039 feedback universally rejected by residents
SOHV has obtained a copy of the comprehensive 431 page report by CDC on all of the consultations received for the Local Plan review, despite the Council so far refusing to reveal its contents to District Councillors. Maybe the reason is because the report shows clearly 90% of Chichester area residents object to the specific housing allocation policies (AL1 to AL15) put forward by CDC in their allocation of 13,000 new houses.
The only areas in the Local Plan that get support from residents are Settlement Hierarchy (even thought this fails to cover Parishes like Lavant and Goodwood), Chichester city plan, major development sites, design, health and wellbeing, environment, green infrastructure and strategic wildlife corridors. This suggests that resident focus is on wanting more housing near the City and major development sites, as well as a more robust focus on key issues like climate change and sustainability.
Most damning of all are responses to East West Corridor plans where CDC decide to allocate 85% of new houses. 90% of people living in Apuldram, Bosham, Fishbourne, Chidham, Hambrook, Nutbourne and Southbourne object to these allocations.
UK Conservative Government doesn’t care about climate change for new housing
Following a letter to Chichester MP Gillian Keegan about why the UK isn’t building more carbon-neutral homes on smaller developments, SOHV received the following reply:
“Following a consultation on zero carbon homes, it was found that achieving the zero carbon standard would be particularly challenging for small builders. The Government subsequently announced that there would be an exemption from part of the zero carbon commitment for small sites. The Government later announced that it would not proceed with the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards or with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme.”
- Watch the 3 minute video Climate 101 explaining climate change
- Video about UK flood and coastal erosion management strategy
ClientEarth threatens legal action over council lack of climate change planning
Environmental law firm ClientEarth has sent letters threatening 100 councils across England with legal action if they do not set out evidence-based carbon reduction targets to tackle climate change. The lawyers wrote to each local authority developing a new local plan, giving them eight weeks to explain how they will set and meet the carbon goals to ensure they are central to their new planning policy. Read more details here.
ClientEarth warns the councils will violate their legal obligations and risk a legal challenge if they do not introduce “proper” climate change plans. The environmental law firm said it launched the campaign in light of the “massive shortfall in compliant local planning policy” across the country and to advise local authorities of their legal duties under planning and environmental law.
We don’t have enough waste water treatment capacity for new houses
SOHV has read the 2010 MWH and 2018 Amec Foster Wheeler reports on the 10 CDC water treatment plants. Despite errors and inconsistencies in the reports, it’s clear we have almost run out of water treatment capacity for new houses.
SOHV finds it odd that some of the same capacity results appear in both of these reports eight years apart, despite adding 14% more houses! In these reports CDC has also been trusting Southern Water to be honest with them about future capacity for new homes but, with Southern Water’s recent £126m fine for waste water discharges and performance misreporting, their data just can’t be trusted. We contacted the Environment Agency (EA), who issued SW with a Freedom of Information request to find out what capacity Southern Water has at all District works, and what their recent environmental discharge performance has really been. Sadly, as the EA is due to prosecute, they couldn’t provide us with the data we need at this time.
So SOHV did our own calculations as well as review reports where the Council admits we have reached capacity, like at Appledram treatment works and where its reported other works in the south of the District are close to capacity. Sidlesham and Loxwood have no spare capacity and nor does Apuldram until the new £22m pipeline is completed to Tangmere in 2020. Kirdford, Thornham and Wisborough Green combined have less than 1,500 houses spare capacity. It’s also a sobering thought that neighbouring Emsworth’s planned 1,345 new houses via Havant Council will take up all of Thornham’s remaining capacity. It appears it’s only Tangmere and Lavant with any water treatment capacity left, with CDC not bothering to review Lavant in the Amec Foster Wheeler report and no sign of Southern Water making any recent investment in their aging works.
We’ve discussed all these queries with the Water Quality Group and other local groups reviewing water quality and capacity, and we’re planning to meet with CDC to discuss our findings on these critical issues in September.
Why doesn’t Chichester District have any Council Houses?
Architect and television presenter George Clark has made a big political noise following the broadcast on Channel 4 of George Clarke’s Council House Scandal. More than 60,000 people have rushed to sign his petition to get the Government to build more council houses. Clarke’s petition challenges the government to build 100,000 council houses a year for 30 years, seeing 3 million new council homes built in an ambitious long-term plan to tackle the UK housing crisis. Sign his Council House petition here
If 3 million sounds a lot, it’s less than 4.5 million we’ve lost since 1979, when 6.5m council houses were home to 42% of the population. After 40 years of controversial Right To Buy policy, 2 million council houses remain. Clark says “Right To Buy policy is bribing one generation and pulling a ladder up from the next generation coming through.” See George’s Council House Q&A video filmed by the Big Issue – click here
Southern Water under pressure again
Like SOHV, Havant Borough Council’s leader Michael Wilson is increasingly concerned and frustrated about the effects of untreated releases following heavy rainfall. He met with Sam Underwood, stakeholder engagement manager from Southern Water, saying, “I was told at this meeting that there have been 146 releases so far this year which is more than 20 a month. Whilst I understand the need to prevent flooding, I am surprised at the number of releases in that time period. Water quality is not currently monitored in Langstone Harbour. I will arrange a meeting as soon as I can with Portsmouth City Council, the Environment Agency and Southern Water to outline how we can step up robust water quality testing and monitoring.”
Campaigners start to see a beacon of hope on housing
Campaigners and residents say their efforts to protect Chichester Harbour from overdevelopment in the Chichester Local Plan are starting to create an impact. The Chichester Harbour Trust, SOHV, local parishes and District Councillors have combined their efforts in the Chichester Observer’s Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour campaign.
John Nelson, chairman of the Chichester Harbour Trust, said: “The atmosphere has completely changed. Before, the door was pretty well shut but now, the door appears to be at least ajar. There is the realisation that they can’t just railroad the Local Plan through, we are going to challenge it very, very hard.” Read more here.
Chichester residents vote CDC Local Plan a shambles
Submitted back in Feb 2019, CDC is spending more time reviewing 3,200 comments from 729 respondents. Poorly received to date by residents, the 2019 – 2039 Local Plan will be updated, with all of the comments then discussed by Councillors in November. The biggest concern is inevitably the overall new 13,000 house target. With 30% of the District outside the SDNP and AONB, there isn’t enough space to accommodate this volume of houses, plus meet the need to respond to coastal climate change, nitrate-neutral house building, safe transport, wildlife corridors, water treatment and better infrastructure. See the Manhood Peninsula’s view in the Chichester Observer here.
Affordability key to future housing needs
Every year Chichester District residents move out, mainly west to places like Havant and Portsmouth. Chichester is in the worst 15% in the South East in the ratio of average earnings to house prices, with buyers here having to stump up 14 times their annual salary to buy a new house. Further west, in Havant and Portsmouth, buyers only need 7 times their salary to purchase a home, making these areas much more affordable. The average price of a house here last year was £360,000, way beyond most local people’s reach. If we want to ensure we don’t lose young professionals, families and our older generation westward, we need to be building affordable 1 and 2 bed homes, apartments and flats right now, for both sale and rent. And £250,000 maximum is also an ideal start.
Chichester MP engages with SOHV
We’re pleased to say Chichester MP, Gillian Keegan met with SOHV and environmental groups on 29th July to discuss climate change, off the back of the video we recently produced, as well as pursuing a range of issues within government raised by local residents, including the outdated district council new housing allocation system, critical wildlife corridors and the need for more affordable homes in the District. We’ve raised key questions about many of these issues with Gillian and will let you know the results.
Do we have enough waste water treatment capacity?
There are only two full technical reports done on the 10 waste water treatment works that Chichester District uses (2010 and 2018). In both of these reports CDC has been trusting Southern Water to be honest with them about future capacity for new homes but, with Southern Water’s recent £126m fine for waste water discharges and performance misreporting, their data just can’t be trusted. SOHV finds it odd that some of the same capacity results appear in both of these reports eight years apart, despite adding 14% more houses! We’ve contacted the Environment Agency (EA), who issued SW with a Freedom of Information request to find out what capacity they have at all District works, and what their recent environmental discharge performance has really been.
Starter Homes a great idea but build total so far is zero
Starter homes were announced by UK government to great fanfare way back in 2014. 200,000 new homes were to be sold at a minimum discount of 20% to first-time home buyers aged between 23 and 40 with a combined income of less than £80,000 per year. Even better, most of these new homes were to be built on underused or unviable brownfield land, which the government would release to developers, free from planning costs. Despite selecting 30 Authorities to build them, none have appeared in 5 years.
“It’s important we get Starter Homes right and we aim to introduce regulations on them alongside our new planning policy before building gets underway.” Read more here.
Nitrate levels in Chichester harbour blocks house building
TV BBC1 South Breakfast Show 14th June led on a report from Natural England (DEFRA) that dangerously high levels of nitrates in Chichester Harbour and the Solent mean that all new planning applications should be refused. 15 councils including Fareham and Havant Borough Councils have stopped house building until this issue is legally resolved. We’ve raised this with Chichester Council too, as reported in the Chichester Observer.
Climate change threatens Chichester
Click below to see the new video about how climate change will affect Chichester Harbour and the added challenges of 11,000 proposed new houses on the coast.
Chichester has experienced river floods many times. It’s also seen rain like that experienced recently in historic Shrewsbury, which had the equivalent of two months’ worth of June rain in just two days. But the biggest threat to Chichester is not from rainwater, it’s from the sea. The whole coastal plain from Emsworth through coastal villages and on to the Manhood Peninsula is most exposed and at risk.
Today, sea level is over six inches (15cm) higher on average than it was in 1900. That’s a pretty big change and, since 1993, sea levels have been rising almost twice as fast each year. That’s nearly two inches in just the last 25 years, with few denying the cause as being global climate change.
When sea levels rise fast, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats, as well as farther inland. Unlike in other parts of the south, the coastal stretches around Chichester Harbour and the Solent are far from permanent. Our deep salt-water channels are bounded by soft mud banks, delicate sand dunes and shingle, all which are at risk from erosion, flooding and climate change. The effects of sea level rise causes destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt, as well as lost habitat for fish, birds, mammals and plants.
But it’s people who will suffer too. Last week Chichester City Council declared a Climate Emergency, recognising that global warming is a challenge that affects us all.
Given what is bound to happen, surely it’s madness to want to build another 11,000 new houses on a low-lying coastal plain? Don’t Chichester residents and their children deserve their new houses to survive centuries, rather than be at risk within decades?
A259 twenty times more dangerous than the A27
Village residents have long suspected the A259 is getting more dangerous. New research from Campaigning group Save Our Harbour Villages shows this is true. SOHV reviewed Crashmap.co.uk data, studying where vehicle accidents occurred on the A259 and A27, reviewing all along the eight miles between here the roads meet at the Warblington and Fishbourne roundabouts.
Whilst the average number of deaths and serious accidents on the A27 has stayed the same over 20 years, the shocking revelation was that they have gone up 50% on the A259 in the last five years.
Since 2013 the A259 has seen nearly three time more deaths and serious injuries in vehicles than on the A27. But the dual carriageway takes eight times more vehicles per hour. So, for every mile anyone travels by vehicle from Fishbourne roundabout to Havant, they are actually twenty times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the A259 than if they took the A27 route.
With modern cars getting safer by the year, it also shows that it’s the extra traffic from the 16% extra homes built in the area in the last five years that’s the main cause. And we’re now told by the council we’ve got to build another 2,400 houses along the A259.
Just imagine what even more houses will do to the rate of vehicle accidents, let alone more risks to pedestrians and cyclists from increased local traffic?
New planned wildlife corridors already under threat
Being so close to the South Downs National Park and Chichester Harbour AONB, most of our south coast area is key for wildlife. And we think that’s exactly why Chichester Council published new special maps with five ‘wildlife corridors’, critical to ensuring that otters, water voles, bats, birds and other wildlife have a clear and easy passage from the South Downs down to the coast and estuary. And, looking at the recent responses to the Chichester Local Plan published online here, we think this is also why it’s one of the few key areas in their whole Local Plan that gets universal local resident approval.
There are currently only four key strategic wildlife corridors along the A259 between Emsworth and Chichester proposed. The latest we hear is that the fifth corridor through Nutbourne Marshes has been inexplicably dropped from latest Council plans. All coastal parishes are also having to fight hard to get even the current four fully established.
This is all the more worrying given a new index measure, which assesses how intact biodiversity is, which suggests the UK has lost significantly more nature over the long term than the global average. The index also suggests that we are now among one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Shocking but true.
Click below to see the Big Wave video about the four critical wildlife corridors planned.
Why we need wildlife corridors
Proposed new housing in Chichester is putting wildlife and wild places under serious threat. The East-West corridor from Tangmere to Southbourne faces 7,200 new houses under current Council plans. This puts critical wildlife corridors connecting Chichester harbour to the South Downs National Park at severe risk from unscrupulous developers.
We have recorded every one of the UK’s 18 bats in our parish recently, including the extremely rare greater horseshoe bat and western barbastelle bat. Given these bats often navigate small watercourses, surely we need all the wildlife corridors we can get?
Few people realise one in ten of the UK’s native wildlife species are threatened with extinction and one in six of all our animals, birds, fish and plants potentially lost forever. Chichester has ancient woodland, veteran trees and hedgerows and coastal plains, providing a habitat and home to local wildlife including internationally protected species like water voles, bats, greater crested newts and even otters.
Wildlife like this doesn’t recognise man-made boundaries like fences, and cannot survive in isolation. To maintain healthy and vibrant wildlife we need robust corridors, allowing mammals, reptiles, insects and birds to travel freely between their natural habitats. We also need healthy and protected corridors to link to our local National Park, to ensure genetic diversity can be maintained.
Conservation and campaign groups believe the maintenance and provision of wildlife corridors is an absolutely critical part of this need, providing living landscapes for generations to come. These groups have clear and growing evidence that the area has reached the threshold where urgent measures are needed to protect our wildlife and rural habitats. The SOS-C Alliance is also bringing the opinions of many local groups together to raise awareness of our local wildlife under threat from excess housing.
Save Our Harbour Villages says, “These natural areas are also an essential local requirement, protecting homes from flooding, providing a healthy ecosystem to purify water, and leaving natural open spaces for everyone to enjoy the countryside. Wildlife corridors are under threat from the aggressive activities of housing developers, and from an apparent lack of will from the Council to protect our valuable wildlife.”
Help protect local wildlife
We want to prove local species need these wildlife corridors, or they could be permanently axed. We’d like everyone that has a smartphone to download the I-Record App and to start recording the wildlife you see in your local area. Particularly important are the wildlife corridors stretching from the coast north up to the border of the South Downs National Park. Data is power – if you live near a wildlife corridor, your records are critical to protect them, and the time to do it is NOW. Download your wildlife guide and start recording TODAY!
Why are villages like Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne East being treated by Chichester Council as the scapegoats for 7,200 new East-West corridor houses?
Whilst this background summary is about Chidham and Hambrook, this sort of scene is being repeated across small villages and many Chichester Parishes outside the South Downs National Park or harbour AONBs.
In February I turned into our home road in Chidham to be confronted by a group of people in yellow hi-vis jackets all standing at the side of the road along our lane. Each person had a measuring device on a pole, so I stopped and asked what they were doing. The first person wouldn’t say, but on the third attempt I managed to discover that they were surveying for future housing development. This was on the adjacent local farmer’s field, top quality agricultural land delivering several crops every year.
After conversation with a neighbour ‘in the know’, I discovered that a developer was prospecting the land for future building of 500 houses in our Parish of Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne East, a community of less than 1,000 houses currently.
New housing allocation: 4,900 houses
Having moved into the Parish eight years ago, I’d already seen a fairly steady 10 minute commute down the A259 to Portsmouth become a 20 minute slog, due to the dramatic increase in traffic all along the main road. It’s no surprise the A259 has also become one of the most dangerous roads in the area for cyclists. When taking the train from Nutbourne station I’d also seen the Lion Park development go up on the old Marshalls site, as well as multiple small and large new housing developments pop up, all feeding into the A259.
A week later, a conversation with a neighbour led to a suggestion that there might be some way of helping prevent new housing getting out of control, So I went to the Chichester District Council (CDC) housing planning open evening at the local village hall. On arrival I was confronted by a pop-up banner that said CDC required land for 4,900 new houses to be ‘allocated’ across the Chichester region. There had been no adequate consultation in advance about this with any local Parishes yet, looking down, I spotted the figure for Chidham and Hambrook. Yes, 500 new houses.
It’s pretty obvious the south coast is somewhere where many people want to live, so it comes as little surprise there has been a lot of house building here. However, the prospect of 500 new houses in three local villages is not just a small development, everyone knows this will inevitably change the character of our Parish forever.
And our Parish is not alone. Ten other small village Parishes have been allocated a quarter of all of the new housing allocation proposed by Chichester Council, over 1,200 houses across ten parishes that currently average only 430 homes in each Parish.
All the housing numbers listed for every local Chichester Parish allocation seemed to be simple numbers rounded up to the nearest fifty or hundred, so I suspected not much science had gone into the housing allocation calculations. I spoke to the local Parish Councillor, and he suggested getting involved with the local planning group putting together the Neighbourhood Plan for our Parish. This is a plan that every Chichester parish is encouraged to do every five years, as it’s a legal document that gets ratified by a planning inspector, and is the best chance of having a say in where any housing development goes as well as what facility improvements there are in the Parish.
New housing and parish facilities are closely linked, as for every new development there’s what’s called CIL money that goes into each Parish pot to spend on new facilities. Or at least that’s supposed to be how it works. But what the Neighbourhood Plan can’t seem to do is challenge the housing allocation number Chichester Council has given each Parish. If each Parish doesn’t put in the number the Council has allocated, then any control over future housing development is taken back by the Council.
Meeting in Chidham village hall at the first Parish meeting, and not sure what to expect, I was pleased to see ten articulate locals seated around a table. They all had the same aim, to ensure the local villages of Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne East maintained their unique character. Not having had any experience of writing neighbourhood plans, but being good with numbers, I decided the best thing would be to dig around and do a lot of research on how the 500 new house allocation had been arrived at.
The first shock was that the total District allocation number of 4,900 houses quoted on the Council pop-up banner wasn’t a figure just decided on by CDC, it was a number that had been directly allocated to the Chichester area by none other than the UK Government, that same bunch doing such a good job of managing Brexit. Using the Conservative Government’s ‘standard method’ housing calculation, it appears every Council in England is forced to take large numbers of new houses. Worst of all, they are houses we don’t even actually need, as I was to soon find out…
Government push for far too many new houses
A National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) for housing needs was set up in 2012, designed to build the future houses England needs for its expanding population. Fair enough. So obviously I expected the new housing requirement numbers to be based on sensible population assumptions and accurate data. Accessing government data online on housing is relatively easy, so imagine my surprise when the Government’s stated target of building 300,000 new homes per year was debunked by their own internal DCLG agency 2014 data, saying that only 220,000 houses per year were required to meet future population growth demand by 2035.
The obvious suspicion for anyone looking at the numbers above is that the 300,000 target has more to do with getting the house building industry making money, rather than helping local communities create the housing they need for the future. A quick look at how the likes of Persimmon operate tells you all you need to know.
Persimmon homes operations 2018:
- £32,000 – average price paid for plot of land (similar to an average deposit)
- £113,000 – amount spent to build each Persimmon house
- £215,000 – average sale price (obviously not many around here..)
- £4,000 – overheads per house, marketing etc
- £66,000 – profit made on every house sold
- 16,450 Houses built in 2018
- £1,085,700,000 – total 2018 profit
So Persimmon made £1 billion in annual profits last year, a lot of it off the back of the government’s help to buy program. So government money (your money) straight into the back pockets of house builders – read more here.
So the next task was to find out how the Government worked out future housing need, what sort of data and calculations they used, and how this dictated the number of houses each council would be forced to build. This was the start of a journey into the murky world of blinkered Government thinking on housing, ministers and other people in London that set annual targets for house building across England that simply can’t be justified, as the figures below demonstrate very clearly.
The Government’s own Office for National Statistics (ONS), took over housing data collation in January 2017. I contacted the ONS and they couldn’t have been more helpful, responding to every email within a day or two, providing both housing and affordability information for the Chichester area, and all based on their analysis of their latest data from 2016. Imagine my surprise when they said this data for England indicated only 163,000 new houses a year were required, about half of the Government’s ongoing house building target of 300,000.
It turns out that every English Council has been forced to use the same dubiously crafted government calculation to work out how many houses they have to build in the next 20 years. This calculation uses a mix of projected future local population and an ‘affordability factor’, how expensive it is to buy a house in any given area. Trouble is affordability doesn’t include income from those who are self-employed (and Chichester has the highest proportion in West Sussex). That’s just one example of why the house building ‘formula’ is highly questionable. Yet despite the house build numbers it churns being way too high, any council that has fought against their housing ‘quota’ has been dealt with in a heavy handed way by central government and just told to ‘get on with it’ by the government’s house planning inspectorate.
Chichester district forced to build 12,500 new houses
Based on the 2016 data ONS supplied, the latest available, it’s no surprise to discover Chichester needs far less houses than the Government’s ‘dodgy’ calculation suggests.
We sent a letter directly to the Council from Chidham and Hambrook parish regarding this issue, and several other local parish councils did the same around April 2019. The predictable response came back from the Council saying government policy effectively tied CDC’s hands, insisting we had to plan to build 12,500 new houses across the whole District.
So if there was no debate possible on the 4,900 CDC housing allocation number, the next step was to try and work out how the Council had worked out the individual Parish housing allocations. A meeting was set up to debate the parish allocations and to talk about our local Neighbourhood Plan, but no credible answer was given on how the 500 housing number was calculated for our own Parish.
How were the parish housing numbers calculated?
So I began to delve into the how the Parish housing allocation might have been calculated. Logically I assumed housing allocations would be based on several factors. Things like the scope of local community infrastructure to deal with new housing, what new housing had been built before in the Parish over previous years, and the type and area of land potentially available for new housing development.
What possible area there is to build on is really key. Chidham and Hambrook, Bosham and Fishbourne all have about the same available area outside of the AONB to the south (the red line of the A259 above), and they’ve had a total housing allocation of 1,000 houses. Yet Westbourne and Funtington combined has over twice the available land area outside of the SDNP to the north (the bit in green), but with no housing allocation at all. So the maths of housing allocation by area from the Council just doesn’t seem to add up.
It seems that to the West of Chichester, if you’re on the A259 you have to build lots of houses, if you’re above the A27 then you don’t. That makes even less sense when, after 4 years, we still haven’t sorted out the best upgrade route for the A27. CDC also hasn’t reviewed or considered Lavant ward at all, with no landscape capacity study, no settlement hierarchy score and not water treatment capacity review for this ward. Why?
Here are the Parish housing allocations on a local map of Chichester District:
The Council actually has a special ‘settlement hierarchy’, published in Dec 2018, that is supposed to guide how future housing is allocated, based on all of the amenities in each parish. What is strange is that it seems to have been largely ignored, especially for what the Council has loosely termed ‘service villages’. Many of these are small village communities, previously classed as ‘rural’ (which they genuinely are) and now conveniently given this new ‘service village’ classification, to add to ‘settlement hubs’ like Tangmere, East Wittering and Selsey.
What 500 new houses will mean in Chidham and Hambrook
As an example of what’s happening across all small Chichester communities, it’s worth looking at our Parish of Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne East. We’re made up of less than 1,000 houses, all split across three villages. We’re one of 23 CDC Parishes originally classed as rural, with the Chichester harbour AONB area sitting to the South and the South Downs National Park (SDNP) close by to the north. So the reality is this leaves a very small strip of land north of the A259 that any new houses could possibly be built on, and this is mostly highly productive prime Grade A agricultural farming land.
Our whole Parish is just under 700 Hectares (1,700 acres) and the remaining land left to the north of the A259 is just over one quarter of this.
And, as a small rural Parish, the suitable area available for any houses is a lot less than many other Parishes.
So for 500 new homes we’d have to fill in most of the land north of the A259 with houses!
Why are some parishes getting housing allocations and others none?
Good question. Comparing Chidham with the other Chichester rural parishes, it’s interesting that many of these have had no housing allocation at all. Whilst some are in the SDNP, there are still big areas above the A27 and south of the SDNP that do not seem to be taking their fair share of new housing.
There really doesn’t appear to be a clear rationale why the Council chose our small Parish to have such a large allocation of 500 houses, and left other parishes with zero. So it’s a challenge for our new group of District councillors to tackle.
As an example of how daft the allocations appear to be, our Parish, Bosham and Fishbourne are all on the A259, and we all have about the same amount of land to build houses on outside the AONB. But the difference is that our parish has a quarter less people than Fishbourne and 60% less than Bosham, and yet we have twice the housing allocation of the other two parishes! So the council’s system (or lack of it) of housing allocations just doesn’t seem to make much sense.
When comparing all of the rural Parishes that are in the Chichester area, it looks like our Parish and a number of other small rural Parishes, including Fishbourne and Bosham, clearly appear to have been unfairly singled out for major housing development just because we’re on the A259. I could be cynical and suggest this might be because it looks like we’re the scapegoat because West Sussex County Council and the Highways Agency haven’t sorted out a cost effective A27 solution yet. Again, seven other parishes, including Funtington, Lavant and Westbourne, have escaped any housing allocation altogether, with no adequate explanation by CDC to date as to what makes Chidham and Hambrook so different.
Whilst some parishes have steadfastly refused any new housing developments, from 2012 to 2016 over 200 new houses were built here in Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne East. Our own Parish accounted for two thirds of all houses built in rural parishes in all of the Chichester District. This means that, with current house building permissions already given, in under a decade the total number of houses in Chidham and Hambrook will have grown by nearly 40%.
With 500 more houses allocated, the local population in all three of our Parish villages will effectively double.
So why hasn’t Chidham and Hambrook been able to fight more effectively against this housing allocation compared to other parishes? Well a lot of it is because we’re small with not much cash, and because of the behaviour of housing developers before we had our Neighbourhood Plan in place in 2015. The reality is that from 2011 to 2014 developers challenged any planning refusal to build, but central government then gave many developments the go-ahead on appeal. Let’s face it, developers have lots of money to wage constant appeals to central government, who are quite content to build more houses, even against local opposition.
“That’s why we have to develop what’s called a parish ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ every five years and submit it to Chichester District Council. It’s actually our best defence against too much housing development, the wrong type of new housing or lack of future amenities in the parish.”
New housing developments to date
For background research, our Parish decided to look at six of the developments from the last eight years of local house building, to see what they were like. We discovered that there were indeed good new housing developments, but many others where they failed on all three of the important criteria for local buyers:
- Providing housing of a quality to match existing local houses
- Affordable pricing to meet satisfy local resident’s needs and budgets
- Housing development locations that work with the local infrastructure
Affordability was the biggest issue. With an average sale price of £351,000 for any new houses built in our Parish, and with nearly two thirds of these being three and four bed detached and semi-detached, it is no surprise these types of homes have almost all sold to people outside the Parish. A useful online map tool showed that, in the last five years, lots of people have moved into our Parish from the East and north and from as far away as Guildford. At the same time lots of local residents have had to move away, out to Havant and Portsmouth areas, where new housing is cheaper.
There is always local demand for more affordable housing, but what that means is homes priced under £250,000, because this is the maximum threshold for Starter Homes and Help to Buy ISAs. So it is interesting to note that, where past local developments have included flats and apartments priced under £350,000, they have grown by almost 30% in value. In comparison, new housing developments that only featured ‘executive’ semis and detached houses have fared a lot worse in recent value performance.
A review of housing websites shows that big, more expensive new homes sit on the market a lot longer before they are sold, with one developer going out of business due to lack of sales.
“Good value housing benefits everyone, local people and developers alike”.
Even the affordable housing that has been built in the Parish has been regarded by home buyers as uninspiring in design, and also dubious in build quality. The Lion Park development built in 2012, and extended in 2016, has had poor reviews from both potential house buyers and current residents.
“This is an overly developed and unnecessarily cramped high-density site with a railway line running along the boundary – not much going for it in our opinion.” – housing blog.
One issue has been the siting of housing in bad locations. How many people want to live in a new house within 50 feet of a high voltage electricity pylon? It was hardly a surprise when many potential buyers of these new houses were denied a mortgage by funding providers, who refuse to fund house purchases within 100m of a pylon.
In a final desperate attempt to sell the new homes CDC had to put in £165,000 from its affordable housing funds to plug the funding gap from the developer, Radian homes. Money that arguably could have been used on developments elsewhere in our Parish.
To be fair, the Council does have good guidance on how to buy a new home here.
But, the Council is focusing 85% of its new house building plans along the East-West corridor. There can only be one conclusion. Chidham, Hambrook and the route along the A259 past Bosham, Fishbourne and Southbourne is seen by the Council and developers as an easy, sacrificial target. And that’s despite the A259 being in the top 30 most dangerous road in the UK for accidents (Road Safety Foundation 2019).
To date no pragmatic account has been taken by the Council of the relatively small amount of land that is available to build 500 houses on outside of the Chidham peninsula AONB, the highly rural nature of our parish, and the fact that prime agricultural land would have to go under housing. More importantly, there has also been a blatant disregard of the substantial number of two hundred plus new houses our small Parish has already delivered towards the District’s housing targets.
Unless things change the future outlook for local villages all along the south coast looks depressing. The Government’s own agency, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), says we only need about half of the new houses the Government is telling us we must build.
Our Government seems to refuse to listen to local people’s needs and concerns. We are stuck with a broken housing system, in the only country in the western world where the people who own the land and build the houses are one and the same people, the housing developers.
If space for 500 houses is allocated in Chidham, Hambrook and Nutbourne East, then the unique nature of three coastal villages is destined to be destroyed forever and subsumed under new houses. And this issue is repeated in housing allocations in Southbourne (1,250 houses), Fishbourne (250 houses) and many other parishes all along the East West Corridor through Chichester.
So what of help from our local Chichester MP, Gillian Keegan. Well, despite sending a letter about our concerns on the government’s way of determining local housing needs to her in March, no reply has been received to date, in common with the response to many other letter sent to her about concerns over housing numbers.
So what can you do?
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