Local uproar over 475 home Goring Gap appeal decision as council ‘reviews options’

Tuesday, 1 March 2022 08:26

By Jessica Hubbard - Local Democracy Reporter

Chatsmore Farm, Image From Adur And Worthing Councils

Politicians and conservation groups have reacted to the news that a 475 home development in Goring-by-Sea will now be allowed.

Developer Persimmon now has permission in principle to build 475 homes and a three-arm roundabout junction on land to the north west of Goring-by-Sea railway station.

Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee rejected the plans in March last year but the developer lodged an appeal.
The potential effects of the development on traffic, the South Downs National Park, and the area’s heritage and character have been of concern to residents.

But on Friday (February 25), planning inspector Rory Cridland announced his decision to allow Persimmon’s appeal.

Councillor Kevin Jenkins, leader of Worthing Borough Council, said: “We are extremely disappointed and very surprised by this ruling as it is in complete contrast to what was agreed in the Worthing Local Plan examination. “We have worked closely with the Planning Inspectorate to reach an agreement on how we can meet our housing targets and protect our green areas, but this appears to have been completely overlooked.

“Worthing has one of the lowest areas of green space in the country, of which Chatsmore Farm is one.

“We will now be reviewing our options and will do everything in our power to protect this important green space from development.”
David Bettiss, chairman of the Ferring Conservation Group, said the decision was ‘disastrous’ and he is calling for a review.

“Hundreds if not thousands of local people, community groups, parish councils, elected representatives, and our MP, Sir Peter Bottomley, objected to this disastrous scheme,” he said.

“Even West Sussex County Council highways objected on the grounds of the effect on our local roads and infrastructure.

“Now one man with no local connection has overruled all of that, but we all know the issues.

“In my view the current planning system is broken and not fit for purpose, and I call on Secretary of State Michael Gove to call this scheme in for review now.

“It is a dark day for local democracy and local people.”

Planning Inspector Mr Cridland ruled that missed housing targets and the fact that the area has ‘no formal protections’ were good reasons to allow the appeal. He said that common ground had been found between the developer and the council and that most of Worthing Borough Council’s concerns could be resolved by imposing planning conditions.

Mr Cridland conceded that there would be ‘increased congestion and travel time along parts of the highway network’ but concluded that the impact ‘would not be severe’.

Because most of the homes would be located at the southern end of the site,  the overall visual impact would be ‘limited’, said the inspector.

But Kathryn Walker, chairman of the Goring and Ilex Conservation Group, said the decision was ‘an affront to local democracy in Worthing’.

“We heard the devastating news on Friday,” she said.

“1,250 local residents, all local amenity groups, and all Worthing councillors had vigorously opposed the scheme.

“Even if all the green spaces were developed, Worthing would never achieve the government housing targets.

“Once again, local democracy has been sacrificed and the consequences for Worthing are dire.

“There will be more traffic and delays, heavier demands on local services like doctors, dentists, and schools and the loss of a valued green space for all the people in Worthing, Goring and Ferring.”

One former district councillor added that the decision was ‘inevitable’ due to missed housing targets.

Ed Miller, also of the Ferring Conservation Group, was present during the public inquiry last month. He claims the government is prioritising housing targets over wildlife.

“Environment campaigners on the Ferring side of the gap that separates them from Goring were bitterly disappointed to see the inspector’s letter,” Mr Miller said.

“It is almost unbelievable that when 1,250 local residents, all local amenity groups, and all the Worthing Councillors, say ‘no’, the Government says ‘yes’.

“We all highly value these gaps – on both sides of Worthing – for the landscape, the farmland, the break in development, the wildlife habitat.

“But all the Government values it for is as a contribution to a nationally set housing target which is literally impossible for Worthing to deliver.”

Mr Miller said extra vehicles associated with the development could ’cause gridlock on local roads’.

“But worse than that is the loss of open green space, valuable farmland, wildlife habitat, and the distinctiveness of Ferring as a village surrounded by green fields on the north, east and west, and the sea to the south,” he said.

“This is a black day for Ferring, and for conservation in West Sussex.”

During the appeal, both Persimmon and the council came to an agreement that the development would do ‘less than substantial harm’ to nearby heritage assets.

A planning condition means the developer must also submit drawings showing how the homes will look and a construction management plan to minimise disruption to local people and wildlife.

 

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