- Have the Community been listened to? – We have carried out 3 rounds of public consultation on our proposals for this site. In February 2019 we held two open sessions at the Meeting Place, to launch the Trust and show the early findings of our work that the land at the rear of Mill Road had emerging as a preferred option from the sites we had examined. In July 2019 we held two further open sessions, one in the Westbourne Primary School and another at the Parish Fete. At both these events a detailed scheme was displayed of the proposals for the affordable housing. During this consultation 58 residents completed a response form and of those 85% supported the scheme. In March 2020 we had planned to hold a further open session at the school to display the version of the scheme that would be submitted as a planning application and to see if there were any further comments that might require us to change the details. However, because of the Covid 19 Pandemic we had to change the arrangements and make this an online consultation. At each stage of this consultation process, including the March 2020 consultation we modified our proposals in response to the comments we received. Many features of the scheme have been provided in direct response to public comment and the details demonstrate that this is a community project not just an affordable housing scheme. WCT proposes to retain most of the park area as public open space and to significantly invest in improved and new facilities including new off-street parking spaces on Mill Road to ease congestion, new play equipment, a new multi-use games area, a new skatepark, a new jogging track and a new storage building to be shared between the Allotment Association and the Parish Council.
- What are the Prospects of any other development at Mill Road? – It has been suggested that there is no realistic prospect of the park being developed because it is not allocated for housing purposes in the Chichester District Local Plan and speculative development can be resisted because the Council has until recently maintained a 5 year housing supply. The fact is that Chichester does not now have a 5 year housing supply. A report was approved at Chichester’s Planning Committee on 3 June 2020 acknowledging that they have less than a 4 year supply and this leaves the District vulnerable to speculative applications. As recently as 2015 Chichester District Council approached Westbourne Parish Council asking them to consider surrendering the lease for the park so that the whole park area could be developed for housing purposes. The Trust’s proposals would mean that 62% of the existing useable public open space area would be retained with significantly improved facilities and the land would be permanently owned by the Community and protected from any further threat of development.
- Why have the CLT not shared its Sequential Test? – A sequential test is a requirement in national planning policy related to sites at risk of flooding, to demonstrate that there is no preferable alternative site available at a lower risk of flooding for the development proposed. WCT commissioned specialist consultants to carry out this work. The sequential test is available to inspect as part of the planning application details and can be found on the Chichester DC website at this link. The work carried out examined 37 potential sites within and around the edge of the village. The principles upon which the work was conducted were agreed with Chichester DC in advance to ensure that they satisfied their requirements. The sites were assessed to establish, if they were suitable for the Trust’s affordable housing proposals, the degree of flood risk, whether any site was preferable to the Mill Road site and if the land owner was willing to sell to the Trust. No suitable alternative site was found in this extensive and thorough search.
- Economic Viability – The Trust like most other community land trusts that have been formed does not have any financial assets to start with. The work we have undertaken so far on the Mill Road Site has been funded from both Chichester DC and Central Government (Homes England) to cover the cost of the architectural work and various consultants’ reports that have been needed. The Government and Chichester DC, are keen to encourage local initiatives for affordable housing. They will make substantial funding available to cover most of the cost of building new houses that are managed and led by local community land trusts like WCT. The balance can be covered by raising bank loans that are financed by the rental income from the new homes. We have taken preliminary advice on the viability of this approach and we believe the project is viable but this is dependent on being able to secure sufficient funding from Government for the project and this cannot be established fully until we have obtained a planning permission and can make further bids for funding.
- Why should Westbourne accept reduced Public Open Space? – WCT does not like to see the loss of any public open space and if an alternative site is genuinely available, we would consider it seriously. We have frequently asked in our public consultation work for alternative sites to be identified but nothing suitable has ever emerged. The existing open space contains equipment that is outdated and in need of repair or replacement. WCT proposes to replace the play equipment with significantly improved equipment and has been working with the local primary school on this issue to find out what facilities children, as users of the park, would prefer to have available. We are proposing to make a pedestrian gateway into the school grounds from the park, as this would be welcomed by the school. They could then make use of the new equipment and especially the jogging track which they would use as part of the measured mile runs that the children regularly make. We intend that the park would continue to operate as a public open space that will remain highly valued by the local community. It will be leased back to Westbourne Parish Council who will carry on maintaining it.
- What about the land at Covington Road? – Chichester DC own a small parcel of land at Covington Road which in the past has been subject to proposals for the construction of a house. The Trust has been offered the chance to have this land transferred to its ownership. The land is not officially a public open space. If it is transferred to WCT it will be protected from development by covenants and retained permanently as a public open space. This provides some compensation for open space that would be lost at Mill Road and it will be protected from development permanently.
- Who will Manage the Housing? – If WCT achieves planning permission for its proposals at Mill Road it will control the housing permanently. The intention is that the houses will be allocated only to local people or those with a local connection and who are in need of housing but cannot afford to buy or rent locally. This is no different to many of the community land trusts that have been formed across the country. We have a good range of skills amongst our trustees in terms of housing delivery and management. We will always welcome new trustees with complimentary skills to offer. We also intend should we achieve planning permission to apply to become a registered provider of housing. Again, there is nothing unusual about this many community land trusts have taken the same approach. The value in doing this locally is that we will retain control to make the accommodation available to local people who need it, rather than anyone who is on the council’s housing list or the lists of a large housing association.
The Trust has prepared its planning application with great care and extensive public consultation. You can examine the detail of this work in the various reports that have been prepared on our behalf by specialist consultants to support the planning application at the link we have provided. We understand that there will always be some who object to development proposals but our entire approach is based on local need and a desire to make the village a better place to live.
Please support our planning application and send your comments to Chichester DC. You can either do this by using this link or you can write a letter to Chichester District Council, Planning Services, East Pallant House, Chichester, PO19 1TY. quoting the planning application reference number WE/20/01061/FUL or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org