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District Dispatch - 1 February 2023

Last week, our councillors agreed to move to the next stage of consultation on Chichester's Local Plan.

Chichester Local Plan branding

This consultation (opens new window) is a very specific one, which invites people to comment on three specific questions or tests, and it will run from 3 February until 17 March 2023. Once completed, all comments will be packaged alongside the plan for the Planning Inspector to consider.

This is a significant step, following the many challenges we have faced. The number of houses the government requires the council to build has changed numerous times and due to the issues faced, including roads, wastewater and water neutrality, extensive work has been required to test various options. This has involved significant background evidence, as well as consulting with partners and residents.

Before submitting the plan, we have to show that we have tried and tested every possible way to reach the housing numbers set by government. No stone can be left unturned. This means that the work that we have carried out to date has been vital in demonstrating the complex situation we are in.

We have been very clear that we believe that this work shows that the Local Plan is unable to meet the full housing targets set by government due to a lack of external funding for essential infrastructure improvements. Due to this, we've revised our housing numbers to what we believe is achievable, based on the evidence we have gathered. We've also considered the feedback we have received from previous consultations as part of this process.

We've always said that the roads, wastewater, and water neutrality are the biggest challenges facing the plan. The Local Plan has to demonstrate that we have investigated all options and solutions before the government will consider a lower housing target and we believe that we have reached this point.

We also welcome the government's recent announcement to hand greater control back to councils and local communities over the number of houses built. We are a thriving and successful district and need new homes for social and economic reasons. However, we support the Government's view that the decision on how many houses we take should be based on local needs, the environment and local involvement. We're pleased to see that they are adjusting the emphasis from housing need being a mandatory target, to an advisory starting point, and that more allowances will be given for genuine constraints.

We do not believe that it would be of any benefit to our area to delay the Local Plan process any further. If we do, it will put us at risk of further speculative development, which is something that none of us want. By progressing with the plan, we will have far greater ability to defend ourselves from unplanned development.

The Government has indicated that where a plan is at an advanced stage of preparation it can benefit from a number of changes proposed. These include allowing planning authorities two years to review and revise their plan against the government's proposed changes if they wish to do so. In addition, to reduce the risk of speculative development they only need to demonstrate a four-year rolling housing land supply, rather than the current five years. The government has indicated that those considered to be at 'an advanced stage of preparation' will be afforded much greater protection.

We have been lobbying the government for years now regarding the challenges that our area faces and so it is positive that they have listened. We recognise that until these changes are implemented, we must continue to work with the current National Planning Policy Framework.

To find out more about the plan and our work to date, please visit our Local Plan webpages.

Best Wishes

Cllr Eileen Lintill Leader of Chichester District Council and Cllr Susan Taylor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at Chichester District Council