Since our last email newsletter, a special meeting has taken place in which councillors heard that the Local Plan Review is unlikely to meet the full housing targets set by the Government due to a lack of external funding for infrastructure improvements. This follows extensive work and research carried out by the council showing that improvements to the A27 Chichester Bypass, a Stockbridge Link Road, and sustainable transport infrastructure are required in order to attempt to meet the Government's housing targets.

In this email update, our Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning, Councillor Susan Taylor, explains more:

Chichester Local Plan is unlikely to meet Government housing targets due to infrastructure and funding issues

'I want to personally update you on our progress with the Local Plan Review. Firstly, before I go into the detail, it's important to explain that before any council submits their Local Plan to the Planning Inspector, they have to show that they have tried and tested every possible way to reach the housing numbers set by Government. No stone can be left unturned. This means that all of the work that we have carried out to date has been absolutely vital in demonstrating the complex situation we are in.

As you know, we have carried out extensive work and research that shows that improvements to the A27 Chichester Bypass, a Stockbridge Link Road, and sustainable transport infrastructure are required in order to meet our housing needs as determined by the Government. The most recent estimated cost for delivering improvements to the Bypass, which would be required to deliver the level of housing we are expected to take, would be around £65 million. As things stand, we may be able to secure £33-£45 million of this from developer contributions, and so the remainder would have to come from other funding sources.

Following discussions with those who fund strategic infrastructure, including West Sussex County Council, Highways England and Homes England, the council has concluded that the additional cost of the A27 mitigation package, after developer contributions are taken into account, cannot currently be met. Other funding options have been examined, including exploring other potential public sources of funding and discussions have also been held with Coast 2 Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, but the funds required are not available. As a result, the A27 mitigation scheme to accommodate growth arising from the Local Plan Review is not deliverable. It's also worth explaining that the A27 mitigation package considered in the Local Plan is not the long-awaited national road scheme on the A27; the mitigation package would deal only with additional traffic from the new development.

This means that the Chichester Local Plan is currently unlikely to be able to meet the full housing targets set by the Government due to a lack of external funding for infrastructure improvements.

It's important to explain that the work we have carried out so far is vital in demonstrating the complex situation we are in. We've always said that the roads and waste water are the biggest challenges facing the plan. However, we have to show that we have investigated all options and solutions before the Government will consider a lower housing target.

I appreciate that it may be hard to understand that while we'll be delivering the Local Plan, many elements of it - mainly roads and waste water - are totally out of our control. This is what makes this process so challenging. The Local Plan is a bit like a jigsaw, you have to make sure that all of the pieces fit.

It's also easy for people to say, we told you that the housing numbers couldn't and shouldn't be delivered, but this isn't how the planning system works. The Planning Inspector will want to see that we have investigated every single option and that we have the evidence to back this up. Just to give you an idea, our officers have already produced 41 different policy documents. They have been working flat out to try and move this forward and it has continued to be a top priority for us, even though we have also been responding to the pandemic. We need to go through this process and gather the evidence in order to get the best outcome for our residents and businesses and keep planning decisions locally.

We've spoken to a Planning Inspector who has 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.

Moving forward, we will follow the steps that the Planning Inspector has outlined so that we are in a strong position to make our case when the plan is submitted for formal examination. Within this, we currently expect to have to outline our intention to review the plan again if a national road scheme for the A27 at Chichester is brought forward, enabling a higher level of housing delivery. We intend to keep residents and businesses fully informed throughout this process, and will let them know as soon as we are ready to consult with them.

We understand that local people are concerned and we want to reassure everyone that we have robust measures in place to protect the plan area from inappropriate speculative development until the Local Plan Review is adopted. You can out more about these measures in our recent article on  the funding gap for infrastructure improvements on our latest news page.

Waste water update

'Discussions are also ongoing with Southern Water, which is responsible for wastewater, and the Environment Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the discharges into the harbour from premises that require permits, such as the wastewater treatment plants. While an engineering solution can be found to accommodate future growth, environmental limitations are a constraint, particularly in the western part of the plan area.

We are working with both organisations to try and reach an agreed position through a Statement of Common Ground, which is being progressed. Infrastructure options are being examined by Southern Water over the next year, but these will not be confirmed until 2023. All of these discussions and work will form part of the evidence to highlight the challenges faced by the plan area.

I hope you find this update useful. You can be assured that we are doing everything we can to progress this important piece of work and get the very best outcome for our district.'

— Cllr Susan Taylor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning

Find out more about the Local Plan Review

Don't forget that you can keep up to date on all of the work that's being done around the Local Plan Review, and view all of the evidence that has been prepared so far, by visiting our  webpage

You can read all of our newsletters here: Sign up to the Local Plan Review email newsletter.

You can also follow us on our social media channels:

Share this with a friend

If you know someone who would like to stay up to date on the work we are doing around the Local Plan Review, please encourage them to Sign up to the Local Plan Review email newsletter.