With the Hastings/Rother decision and the Mid Sussex DTC decision it seems clear that one area where the Duty to Cooperate is having most impact is Dads Army Land – the Sussex Coast. And as it should be because the new South Downs National Park and the High Weald AONB mean that the tightly packed towns here have little room to expand without becoming the kind of sprawl you find around Seaford and Peacehaven. So now Rother finds it has to consider a tripling of its housing targets to accommodate overspill from Hastings. That is without even considering overspill from Wealden District (Which the inspector said needed to undershoot because of european sites – even on the basis of the now revoked SEP). There is one big problem . Rother is 80% AONB, and what is left is Romney Marsh (flood risk area and European sites, let alone areas protected because of proximity to Dungerness), or urban areas, ancient woodland or areas already allocated for major expansion of Bexhill. So where is it to go? Similarly the Sussex Coastal Towns SHMA requires an overspill of over 7,000 dwellings in the rest of West Sussex.
Compared to the SEP (South East Plan) Rother now has to consider an additional 9,000 dwellings. Those dwellings were allocated away from the District in the first place because of its constraints. There is now likely to be around 15k extra dwellings needed to be allocated arising from trend based need from Lewes, Wealden and Chichester considered together. You can add to that the 7,000 extra dwellings arising from the West Sussex SHMA overspill and a figure of overspill from Crawley, before you even consider the impact of any extra runway at Gatwick. Given that Rother patently wont be able to handle this extra growth where will it go? The obvious answers are further growth at Ashford (which was exactly the South East Plan Plan) and expanding Paddock Wood to New Town Scale. Similarly in West Sussex you could deal with the spillover with a new settlement, I don’t particularly like the idea of a road based one around the A23 (the New Country Town Proposal) and think the bolder and better approach is to ‘do a Milton Keynes’ and have a rail based corridor with a new station between Burgess Hill and Hassocks even if it means convergence of the towns, and/or between Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath. After all no-one these days bemoans the convergence of Wolverton and Bletchly do they? The best here would be the enemy of the good, and a proper masterplan led approach can ensure proper woods, green wedges and country parks at the most visually sensitive locations in those gaps.
So where next for these authorities? They have no choice but to cooperate now if they want haphazard appeal led growth in juicy villages (from the developers point of view). They will have to consider alternatives and SEA them. How if this any different from the process undertaken for the South East Plan? Not all all really, LPAs are having to reinvent the wheel after an interregnum of three-five years (as worked basically stopped two years prior to the election due to Spelman’s letter). The South East Plan process was reactive, the government set bigger targets LPAS called foul and it was all fought out at the EIP. What is desperately needed here is vision, a proper plan-led design led study on where in Sussex and South East Kent to take an overspill of around 35,000 swellings over 15 years and likely 70,000 over 30 years.
Liz Kendall MP has siad the DTC isnt working. Clearly these decisions show that it is but boy it is watching strategic planning in extreme slow motion, if it wasnt slow enough already. Labours ‘right to grow’ will do little as here it is not an issues of adjoining areas because of landscape designations but anywhere within sustainable commuting distance. How would the ‘right to grow’ work? If the same examination driven way as the DTC it would still be strategic planning in extreme slow motion.
For Private Bowls and Captain Pickles though all they seem willing to do is hold back the invading hordes of electors, whom they have pissed off everywhere now not just in growth areas, with the policy equivalent of broom handles and pitchforks.