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On 9th February 2022, the Parish Council resolved to cease
the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan.
Chichester District Council's (CDC) additional Habitat Regulation Assessment (HRA) on the Neighbourhood Plan (the 'Plan') was completed. This additional HRA was triggered by Natural England’s concern over the accumulative impact on fresh water supplies in the North Sussex area from extraction at Hardham, Pulborough and the potential adverse impact on the internationally recognised and protected sensitive Arun Valley SPA , SAC and Ramsar. The HRA concluded that there is likely to be a cumulative adverse impact and recommended measures to control water consumption on new housing.
Janet Cheesley, the appointed Independent Examiner, reviewed the additional HRA. In an ‘open letter ‘dated 8th July she stated that Neighbourhood Plans are prohibited from making local technical requirements on new housing. Therefore the Plan cannot meet the requirements of the HRA and so cannot meet the Basic Conditions test and so she could not recommend the Plan goes forward to Referendum. Mrs Cheesley offered either that the Parish Council withdraw the Plan, or carry on with the examination process whereby she would conclude the Plan cannot go forward to Referendum. The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (NPSG) sought advice from Locality (a Central Government body supporting Neighbourhood Planning) for professional advice on this matter.
Locality advised: -
1) that the Parish Council obtain further Grant assistance for professional advice from AECOM;
2) in conjunction with CDC, ask the Examiner to suspend the Examination to allow time to determine whether there is an alternative course of action open to the Parish Council.
Running in parallel, CDC sought their own legal advice from a barrister, which they were willing to share with the Parish Council.
For full details please read the full Parish Council minutes minutes (pg. 4, C/21/130) and the NPSG Report from 14th July 2021
AECOM produced a further HRA for the Neighbourhood Plan area, which concluded that with modification to policy wording, the Plan would have no adverse effect on international designated sites. The Parish Council resolved to endorse AECOM’s HRA and propose the change of policy wording to CDC and the Examiner.
For full details please read the full Parish Council meeting minutes (pg. 6, C/21/168) and the NPSG Report from 13th October 2021
Following the meeting on 13th October, the NPSG received CDC’s legal advice. Whereas AECOM’s updated HRA suggested a ‘work-around’ with a form of words; CDC’s legal advice contradicted AECOM’s suggestions/ ‘work around’ and was emphatic in its conclusion that the Plan cannot make/suggest mitigation policy/wording.
The Steering Group sought AECOM’s views of CDC’s legal advice. AECOM acknowledged the conservative interpretation of the law by CDC’s barrister, but advised
“...since [CDC] are competent authority (the ultimate deciding authority) for HRA I agree that I don’t think your Plan can go forward…”
On 14th December 2021, CDC invited the NPSG to a meeting to discuss the implications of the legal advice and to consider the Examiner’s two options for the Plan (as posed in July 2021): -
1. to withdraw the Plan from examination; or
2. continue with the examination on the understanding that it will not be
recommended that it proceed to referendum.
Following this meeting, the NPSG met to consider the discussions with CDC and the global situation and formulate its recommendations to full
The Parish Council considered the the
Examiner’s question, posed back in July 2021, at its meeting on 9th February 2022; does it wish to withdraw the
Plan from examination, or continue with the examination on the
understanding that the Plan will not be recommended that it proceed to
The full Council received the following recommendation report from the NPSG:-
It had been confirmed by Locality that £10,000 grant assistance would be available to the Parish Council, rising to £18,000 if the Plan incorporated a Design Code.
Steering Group’s recommendation included a Design
The following considerations were included on the meeting agenda:-
a. To consider the recommendations of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group
b. To resolve to withdraw the Plan from examination
c. To resolve to continue to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan for the Parish
d. To resolve to modify the Plan in order that it can meet the requirements of water neutrality and ensure that the other policies benefiting the community can be retained
e. To resolve to withdraw the Village Design Statement from CDC and amend accordingly to become a Design Code for inclusion within the Plan
f. To resolve to apply for all available grant funding
g. To resolve to continue to instruct Colin Smith Planning Ltd to assist
and support the re-drafting of the Plan
The Council unanimously resolved to withdraw the Plan from
Following this decision, the meeting resolved, 6/2 in favour*, that that Parish Council CEASE the PREPARATION of A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN at this time.
The Council resolved to reevaluate this decision in one (1) years’ time. On this basis, the meeting did not progress further than agenda item c. above.
Cllr. Paul Jordan (Chair) – Continue with the Plan
Cllr. Sophie Capsey (Vice Chair) – Cease preparation of the Plan
Cllr. Phil Colmer – Continue with the Plan
Cllr. Nicholas Taylor – Cease preparation of the Plan
Cllr. Doug Brown – Cease preparation of the Plan
Cllr. John Bushell – Cease preparation of the Plan
Cllr. Angie Jeffery – Cease preparation of the Plan
Cllr. David Griffiths – Cease preparation of the Plan
(Absent from the meeting, Cllrs. Glavin, Whitehouse & Ribbens)
The Council discussed the following matters in coming to its decision:-
i. It was felt that there are too many uncertainties in terms of the amount of time (2+ years) and money to see the Plan to conclusion (Examination and Referendum).
ii. The amount of Clerk time required would increase the burden on the Precept, as the cost of the Clerk’s additional hours cannot be met by the grant funding.
iii. Local evidence demonstrates that made Plans do not provide adequate protection from development and other contrary decisions by the Local Planning Authority. Despite their legal status, Plans are seemingly ignored.
iv. Community appetite for the Plan had waned over the years and it is not supported within the Community in the way it once was.
v. The evidence upon which the Plan is based is out of date and will continue to become out of date over the 2+ years it could take to conclude the Plan (see point i above).
vi. That Plans, once made, must be reviewed and amended every 5 years, which requires further time and resources.
vii. Volunteer time / enthusiasm to progress the Plan is uncertain and low; the Council was not confident that it could recruit – and continue to recruit – enough people to take the Plan forward and that it was questionable if it should burden future Councillors and community members with this responsibility/requirement (see point vi above).
viii. Water neutrality is frustrating all planning applications currently and this situation will continue for an unknown period.
ix. It is unknown whether the housing aspect of the Plan could be reintroduced once the Plan is made, and the water neutrality issue has been resolved.
x. The Parish Council can reconsider the need for a Plan in the future once water neutrality has been resolved.
xi. Matters of importance to the community, e.g., traffic management, can and are being progressed by the Council without a Plan in place and this will continue.
xii. CDC have confirmed that if the Neighbourhood Plan is
withdrawn/fails they will immediately use their Interim
Planning Policy Statement until such time that the revised
For more information about the impact of Natural England's concerns in the Sussex North Water Resource Zone (SNWRZ) and how this is affecting planning applications and planning policy, please visit CDC's website here.
This web page includes a map of the SNWRZ and the various position statements / advice notes from Natural England to aid with applications and decision making.