Agenda item

Public Question Time

Questions must be submitted by members of the public in writing by noon on the previous working day (for a period up to 15 minutes).


The following public questions were asked:


Question from Mr Holcroft:


My question relates to the Chichester Local Plan Policy AL6: Land South-West of Chichester (Apuldram and Donnington Parishes)


This parcel of land is totally unsuitable for industrial/housing development and an accompanying link road.


Hundreds of individuals and organisations have now objected or negatively commented on the proposed development, far more than any other strategic development in the Local Plan. These include Chichester Harbour Conservancy, CPRE Sussex, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Chichester Harbour Trust, The Environment Agency, West Wittering/Earnley/Birdham/Fishbourne/ Donnington Parish Councils, Southern Water, Natural England and many others including the Harbour Villages Lib Dems Campaign Team and Green Party members who I am sure are now represented in numbers here today.


The most common objections include:


·              Major development on the fringe of the AONB

·              Loss of the buffer zone outside the AONB.

·              Breach of current and emerging AONB Management Plan

·              SSSI Interest Impact Risk Zone, which affects the SAC, SPA and Ramsar designations.

·              Wildlife loss

·              Flooding concerns

·              Historic and priority Chichester views

·              Loss of highest quality agricultural land

·              Urbanisation

·              Light, air, noise, and soil pollution.

·              Wastewater

·              Lack of support for link road


This proposed development is a travesty and I urge the council members here today to consider what we will lose forever if it is allowed to proceed.


My question is will the Council and especially those new members who have campaigned against this development please propose and take a vote to remove this from the plan once and for all before it’s too late.


Mrs Taylor provided the following answer:


Thank you for the question concerning the proposed allocation of land Southwest of Chichester for employment and residential development and the provision of the Stockbridge Link Road.  The Council has a statutory duty to prepare a Local Plan to accommodate identified needs for development in accordance with government policy.  Members of the Council recognise that difficult choices need to be made about which land to allocate for development and how to mitigate the impact of that development to take into account the need for infrastructure and to protect the natural and built environment.  The Council has previously approved a Preferred Approach Plan which included the proposed allocation of land Southwest of Chichester and this was the subject of extensive public consultation earlier this year.

In due course, members of the Council will need to consider all of the representations made on the Preferred Approach Plan and determine the content of the next iteration of the Plan before it is subject to further public consultation and then examination by a planning inspector.  Further evidence will be sought to aid the Council’s consideration of potential allocations in the Plan. 


West Sussex County Council is promoting the land Southwest of Chichester for development and will need to provide further evidence of how the site could be developed in an acceptable manner which addresses the various planning constraints and concerns raised. 


Furthermore, the Council is considering issues raised in representations relating to the proposed measures to mitigate the impact of development on the highways network.  As part of this work it has asked transport consultants Peter Brett Associates to consider any potential options for mitigation that do not include a Stockbridge Link Road.


At this stage therefore no final decisions have been made by the Council regarding this site. The content of the Plan to be submitted for examination, including whether the land Southwest of Chichester remains in the Plan as an allocation, will need to be agreed at a future meeting of the full Council.


Question from Ms Godsmark:


Why are there no fresh food shops in the city centre? Chichester has not had a butcher’s, a fishmonger’s, a greengrocer’s in the city for over 20 years due to high rates and rents.


Mr Dignum provided the following answer:


It is true that there used to be butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers in the city centre over 20 years ago but those businesses closed due to the impact of shoppers’ preference for using supermarkets. This was a national trend and driven by market forces. At the time there were very few vacant shops in the city centre with plenty of other retail businesses ready to take on the premises, selling products which consumers wished to buy.


However the last few years have seen considerable change on high streets across the country – this is a national trend and is not peculiar to Chichester


Retailers are trying to come to terms with:-


  • the shift to online shopping , 20% retail sales currently online and expected to rise to 30% within a few years.
  • lower consumer confidence
  • consumer preference for out of town options
  • increasing staffing costs leading to cut backs on staffing at a time when the consumer is more demanding
  • consumers looking for ‘experiences’  - younger consumers in particular moving away from owning things and spending on experiences.


Chichester is performing better than most with the current vacancy rate of 8.2% being lower than the South East average and lower than the national average at 10.2%


It is important to note that the District Council does not set business rates; the council collect them on behalf of central government with the majority going to central government and WSCC.


Business rates are set by Central Government, which sets the multiplier, a pence in the pound value, which is then applied to the rateable value. The rateable value is set by the Valuation Office Agency on behalf of Central Government, the rateable values are linked to rental values and the rents are set by the landlords, the District Council has no control over either the rateable value or the rate multiplier.


The District Council owns a small number of retail units in Crane Street and one other in the city centre. All the other premises are owned by a mixture of Pension and Investment funds, local private landlords, other private landlords and a small number owned by the Cathedral.


With regard to the Buttermarket, it is owned by the City Council and all decisions regarding leases were made by the City Council and their chosen developer.


The District Council does not have the powers to decide which individual business can open. If premises are designated as A1 retail, it can be occupied by a relevant business regardless of whether they are independent or a multiple, the council does not have the power to insist on an independent occupier and it is the landlord’s decision as to who they take on as a tenant.


The District Council has a number of projects to support the high street but this cannot be done in isolation and needs the support of partners including WSCC, the City Council and the Business Improvement District (BID).


Question from Ms Weeks:


The question is: what steps is the Council able to take to reduce the number of empty shops in Chichester?




Mr Dignum provided the following answer:


Working with key partners including WSCC, Chichester City Council, BID, Chichester College, University of Chichester, the Council adopted a vision for Chichester in December 2017. Within the associated action plan there a number of projects to support the High Street, these include:


·       An application to the Government’s Future High Street fund for funding to improvements  the public realm and the infrastructure in West Street  

·       Supporting the local tourism sector with investment in Visit Chichester.

·       An appointment of an Events and Promotions Officer to attract  visitors into the city and to coordinate an events programme working with national retailers and the BID

·       Reviewing the market provision, supporting the farmers market and introducing a new Christmas market 

·       A retail and mentoring programme to support independent high street  retailers in our City and rural towns and centres

·       New shop front premises grants to improve the external appearance of the retail premises

·       An enabling grant programme open to all small business

·       Business contact programme provided by our Economic Development Officers

·        Exploring the possibility of pop up shops where units remain vacant for a period of time.

·       A way finding and signage project being led by the BID

·       Improvements to the street furniture being led by the City Council

·       Reviewing the retail policies in the new local plan


Question from Mr Porter:


Summersdale's environment, both built and natural, continues to suffer, as none of its properties are listed buildings and many of its trees have little protection. I submit therefore that the District Council should, as a matter of urgency, appoint a conservation consultant to carry out the necessary work of appraisal for a Conservation Area.


This would, I imagine, involve drawing a draft boundary for a Summersdale Conservation Area, for consultation with local residents which builds on the excellent Summerdale Neighbourhood Character Appraisal., which was carried out as long ago as 2008 by the Summersdale Residents' Association: This Appraisal, although adopted by Chichester City Council was, for reasons which remain unclear, not adopted by the District Council.


The character of the local environment is not therefore a 'material consideration' when planning applications are processed.


Pending a full Conservation Area appraisal, I would like to request that CDC should adopt the SRA Neighbourhood Character Appraisal as a matter of urgency, before any more buildings of character are lost and the local environment is spoilt.


Mrs Taylor provided the following answer:


Thank you for the question concerning the proposed consideration of whether the Summersdale area should be designated as a conservation area.  When the Cabinet considered the Chichester Conservation Area Character Appraisal Review on 6 September 2016 it resolved, ‘That an assessment of the Summersdale area to assess its potential for conservation area designation, raised by a number of respondents to the Chichester Conservation Area consultation, be undertaken in connection with the future review and appraisal of the Graylingwell Conservation Area.’ 


The Council adopted the Historic Environment Strategy and Action Plan in February 2017 and this set out a programme for future conservation area appraisals.  Unfortunately due to vacant posts within the Conservation and Design Team this work has not progressed as quickly as anticipated.  However, the current programme sets out that the reviews of Fishbourne, Westbourne, Hunston, Donnington and Prinsted conservation area character appraisals be completed prior to a new appraisal for the Graylingwell area following the anticipated completion of development.


Recruitment to the vacant posts means that this work programme can now recommence. It is not correct to state that the character of the local environment is not a material consideration as such issues are assessed against policies in the Council’s adopted Local Plan. However, as the Neighbourhood Character Appraisal has not been adopted by the Council it would have minimal weight. Should the Summersdale Residents’ Association wish the Council to reconsider its decision as to whether to adopt the character appraisal as a material consideration it should write to the Council with a copy of the character appraisal and a statement of the consultation that was carried out.  The Council could then formally consider whether this would be appropriate or not.


Question from Mr Lloyd-Williams:


What percentage of newly elected councillors attended the training/induction sessions?


Mrs Graves provided the following answer:


Thank you for the question regarding member induction following the recent elections.


The member induction sessions are still in full swing, so it is not possible to give complete figures until later in the summer. However for the sessions that have taken place so far the numbers are as follows:


Session 1 – “getting started” – 22 of 36 members attended or 61%.


Session 2 – “Chichester contract services” – 13 members attended, or 36%.


Session 3 – “growth and place” – 14 members attended, or 39%.


In addition almost all members (35 out of 36) have attended 1 to 1 meetings with the Democratic Services team. The one remaining councillor is booked in for their 1 to 1 session in June.


I would encourage all members to attend the induction sessions where possible, and this is especially important for committee specific training sessions such as the training for the planning, and licencing committees.


Question from Mr Record:


My question is about how planning decisions will be made for adequate cycle provision along Westgate. There has yet to be any consultation over how existing cycle routes will be integrated into the West of Chichester Strategic Development's Southern Access Road. How can coherent cycleway infrastructure be guided by a steering committee without considering how it joins the next section of cycleway?


Specifically it refers to the S106 order associated with planning application 14/04301/OUT.


Mrs Taylor provided the following answer:


The outline planning permission granted by the Council last year for the first phase of the Whitehouse Farm development includes indicative plans that set the principle of requiring the developer to make off-site highway improvements in connection with the development. However, the final details of this work must be agreed by West Sussex County Council (WSCC). The planning permission requires this process to be subject to an advisory Infrastructure Steering Group, to include District and County Councillors, as well as appropriate resident and community groups.  This group will be managed and led by WSCC and must be set up no later than three months after the start of the housing development.  An agreed solution must be approved before the occupation of 140th dwelling.


Question from Ms Sabin:


Regarding the development that will affect the western end of Westgate, Chichester, and the flow of traffic, including bicycles, around a remodelled roundabout, which experts on sustainable transport have been or will be consulted by the relevant steering group? When will the documentation containing such expert advice be made available to the public? And can the Council please reassure its public that the ‘masterplan’ for the West of Chichester Strategic Development will be guided/revised in the light of some wisdom around sustainable transport solutions.


Having seen drawings that show what is being proposed at the end of Westgate, if I was facing this route in reality, I would probably choose to skip the silliness of all the backwardsing and forwardsing of an ill-conceived cycle route, take my chances and nip across the road. The trouble is, drivers would see a cycle way, that I’m not on it, and get annoyed, which I would really struggle with.... Actually, thinking about it, I’d quite possibly end up staying on the A259, taking my life in my hands and crossing the big ringroad roadabout. I think my point is, I wouldn’t want my kids, or anyone I care about, to have to make this choice. There must be a better way!


Mrs Taylor provided the following answer:


CDC has contracted a consultant to audit the existing cycling provision in Chichester. The work, which will include public consultation, will ultimately provide a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan incorporating a prioritised list of schemes for funding. West Sussex County is responsible for the local road network and, as such, CDC is working with WSCC on this work.  With regard to works required in connection with the West of Chichester Strategic Development Site; final details of this work must be approved by West Sussex County Council (WSCC), a process that will be informed by an Infrastructure Steering Group, involving District and County Councillors and appropriate resident and community groups.


Question from Mr Dicker:


When will we the “respondants” see the revised plan based on a very large number of comments?


When will the decision be taken that the proposed allocation for accepting the unmet housing need from the SDNP of 42 homes a year be coming for decision at this council.  When it does should those councillors whose wards are inside the SDNP vote on the matter as they have a clear interest?


Why when a recent environment agency report implores councils to not build in flood plain are we still contemplating building on the site at Donnington/Apuldram an employment space, link road and at least 100 houses?


As Rolls Royce has publicly asked to expand its site why are we not placing the employment site in that location a recommendation previously rejected by this council.  It would also have the added appeal of having a Technology/innovation focus for Chichester?


Mrs Taylor provided the following answer:


Thank you for the question concerning the progress of the Local Plan Review.  The Local Plan Review: Publication Plan was originally due to be considered at the July Council meeting.  However, given the number of issues raised through the recent consultation, and in particular the need to develop a nutrient neutral policy with regard to nitrogen deposition to Chichester and Pagham Harbours and the need to augment the evidence base for transport mitigation, there will be a delay whilst this work is carried out.  The Council will need to formally agree an updated timetable in due course.


The housing provision within the Local Plan Review and whether this includes meeting the need for some 41 dwellings per annum arising from the Chichester District part of the South Downs National Park will be a decision of the whole Council.  All members will be entitled to vote on this issue, unless they consider that they have a prejudicial and pecuniary interest which they would need to declare. It should be noted that whilst the proposed land allocation at South-West Chichester includes some land within flood zones 2 & 3, the majority of the land is within flood zone 1 and it is anticipated that all of the development for homes and jobs would be located in flood zone 1.  West Sussex County Council, which is promoting the land for development, has indicated it will be carrying out further preparatory work to demonstrate how the site could be delivered.


All representations, including those made by Rolls Royce, will be considered by members in due course when determining the content of the Plan that will be submitted for examination by an independent Inspector.


Question from Ms Turner:


Is the Council considering development proposals for the Cattle Market car park and if so, what plans are there to incorporate existing informal walking and cycling routes and existing and new greenery into the site?


Mr Dignum provided the following answer:


The District Council has no formal development proposals for the Cattle Market Car Park at present.  However, it is in the process of reviewing all of its landholdings and a report on the findings will be presented to Cabinet in due course once completed.