To consider a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copy attached as item 9
The Committee had a report before it attached as item 9, a copy of which had been circulated to all Members and is attached to the signed copy of these minutes.
A Member asked, “Can you explain how you think Lancings' needs can be met by, and meet the criteria for, securing this levelling up bid?”
Members were told that the council had undertaken a very in depth process to establish the challenges and opportunities that existed in Lancing and, maybe for the first time, explored people’s ‘lived experiences’. They were really confident that they had a good sense of what the Lancing ‘community’ needed, which was backed up by solid data and evidence, both of which aligned really well with the Levelling Up agenda.
In terms of the Levelling Up bid, it was important to reaffirm that this was a competitive process and whilst this was an immediate opportunity to secure investment into Lancing, this wouldn’t be the only opportunity. However, for the bid itself, the community voted on the top items that the Adur District, Lancing Parish and WSCC should focus on, one of which was improving the village centre in terms of visual appeal. This aligned extremely well with the criteria of the bid as ‘town centre regeneration’ was a key theme and with Adur (Lancing) being a priority 2 area they were confident they would not only submit a robust bid but it was built from solid community foundations.
A Member asked, “There is consensus that we need more affordable housing, so why did you support a housing development on the Howard Kent site for just 5 shared ownership homes, how are we ever going to reduce housing need if the few remaining brownfield land sites are not being used for affordable housing?”
Members were told Government guidance and the adopted Adur Local Plan stressed that the viability of a development is a material consideration in the planning process. The developer of the Howard Kent site submitted a viability assessment that was robustly assessed by an Independent Viability Consultant (appointed by the Council). This assessment recognised that the scheme could not deliver 30% affordable housing and the offer of 5 on site shared ownership units or £427k towards off site rented accommodation was considered reasonable in all circumstances by Planning Officers. The viability issues facing developments along the Western Harbour Arm had been known for some time and were due to the extremely high costs of providing a new flood defence and new cycle path along the river frontage and along the A259.
It should be noted that whilst some sites had not been able to provide affordable housing, other sites along the Western Harbour Arm were providing 100% affordable housing such as Kingston Wharf adjacent to Howard Kent. As a result the overall level of affordable housing being provided was actually significantly in excess of the Local Plan requirement of 30%.
The Local Plan and subsequent Joint Area Action Plan (JAAP) set a minimum housing requirement for the Western Harbour Arm of 1,100 dwellings and of these 30% (330) would have been expected to be affordable homes with the majority (247) being for affordable rent.
Since the adoption of the JAAP however, planning permission had been granted for 856 dwellings and of these 445 would be affordable housing. This represented 52% of all housing currently approved at the Western Harbour. The reason for this is that a number of the developers were Registered Providers (Housing Associations) and were able to utilise funding from Homes England to deliver much higher levels of affordable housing. This taken together with the affordable housing being delivered on Adur Homes land (e.g. at Albion Street) meant that the Council working together with key development partners would be delivering significantly higher levels of affordable housing than originally envisaged in the Adur Local Plan.
A Member asked “Do you think that with pressing WSCC, we are actually making headway with them, in relation to the sustainable travel plans , cycle routes , traffic mitigation...?
Never has this been more important than now, with more large building developments, children needing to cycle in a safe way and a properly managed route to school and looking to the future of the way that our travel will have to change. We urgently need this addressing. Do you see this actually happening?”
Members were told that a consistent message was going to WSCC and some progress was starting to be felt. That a constant dialogue was open and they would go into greater detail on this when answering a later question.
A Member asked, “On the site of New Monks Farm Development, a site is set aside for a new primary school. Do you still foresee that this will still go ahead as the national trend in primary school numbers are down and our primary schools in Lancing are increasingly undersubscribed, going down to a two year class intake instead of three, would this area not be better utilised for a large state of the art Health Clinic?”
Members were told the planning permission and the accompanying legal agreement reserved the site for a primary school and ultimately it would be up to West Sussex County Council as the relevant education authority working with the the Department of Education and Education partners (Trusts and Academies) to decide on the need for a school on this site. Whilst there had been a drop in birth rates and corresponding demand for primary school places this was often cyclical and planning for school provision had to take a longer term view. The Council was at the time reviewing infrastructure needs as part of the Review of the Adur Local Plan and this would identify future demand for additional school places.
A Member asked, “We are seeing new homes being built in Adur but not the infrastructure to complement them. As Cabinet Member whose portfolio includes the Local Plan do you foresee plans being made for a new school and a doctors surgery? For example there are a considerable number of new homes being built on New Monks Park but there is no provision there for either.”
Members were told there was a provision for a new primary school in New Monks Farm and were aware of the need for health care facilities however these decisions lay outside the remit of Adur District Council but representations were being made.
A Member asked, “Part of your portfolio is Transport. There is a bus service Compass Bus no.16 which was formerly subsidised by West Sussex County Council, who decided to stop doing so in 2019. The service is important to Lancing and Sompting residents who are elderly and have mobility problems as it goes into Lancing village to access doctors, shops, library and dentists. It also goes to Worthing Hospital and Town Centre. As a County Councillor at that time I organised a petition of more than 1,500 signatures which West Sussex Council still refused. As a Lancing Parish Councillor I took the request there under the Localism Act and fortunately got funding for a slightly reduced service for the bus. The service is still being run in this way and will do so this financial year.
Do you perceive that as public transport is now so important as part of our Green agenda that Adur Council might help with funding for this service in the near future?”
Members were told it was extremely important that bus provision existed for all of the residents to access local amenities, and the Adur Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Strategic Planning completely endorsed the approach of looking to retain this community service in one way or another.
Unfortunately the District Council wasn’t responsible for bus infrastructure and whilst the District might be able to look at funding feasibility work around routes, they didn’t have the mandate (both financially and in officer time) to resource this. However, they were extremely happy to take this up with County Councillors and the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Cllr Joy Dennis, to highlight this concern and see if there is anything that could be delivered, whether directly from WSCC or in partnership.
A Member asked, “On the basis that the Government has agreed to water down mandatory housing targets for local councils, please explain what powers ADC has under the Local Plan review to address residents' very real concerns about infrastructure provision to meet our growing population?
A good example of this would be secondary school provision, which has already reached crisis levels in Adur, even though many homes have yet to be built. Although education provision is clearly a WSCC issue, it does have a major impact on Adur's home building programme.
Members were told that whilst the Government was consulting on changes to the National Planning Policy (NPPF) and these may dilute to some extent the requirement to deliver objective assessed housing needs, it was not clear whether the proposed changes would be implemented. Furthermore it was not clear what criteria would be used to assess which authorities may have some flexibility to not meet future housing needs.
Nevertheless, the District had been able to demonstrate to previous Government appointed inspectors that the lack of land within the District meant that it was unable to meet future housing needs and the adopted Local Plan was approved with a 3,107 shortfall. The Local Plan Review would assess future infrastructure needs for the District and they would work closely with WSCC to assess the need for a new or extended secondary provision to meet current and future demand. Predicting future education requirements had never been easy and the current drop in primary school numbers would be felt in secondary schools in due course.
A Member asked, “Can you explain the mechanisms through which ADC will work with WSCC to ensure that good quality cycling and walking infrastructure can be put in place, how optimistic are you that there’s a realistic prospect of this being achieved in the next couple of years, and what will you be doing to help prevent any further delays?”
Members were told the Council were already actively working with WSCC to provide comment on existing cycling and walking schemes which, at the time, included the current consultation regarding new cycling infrastructure on two north-south routes and also two core east-west routes, the latter being the planned designs for Upper Shoreham Road and also improvements to the A259.
The Adur Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Strategic Planning was aware that Officers from both the District and WSCC met every other month to ensure there was a close working relationship around sustainable / active travel, which was fed into Members. Equally, Member conversations were picked up at places like the Shoreham Harbour Leaders Board whilst it was planned that this agenda would also be picked up under the new Growth Deal with WSCC which was planned to be agreed with the County that Summer.
The Council was fully committed to good quality cycling infrastructure, as this was vital infrastructure for the future, and The Adur Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Strategic Planning was pleased that as a District, had worked with WSCC to get these schemes out for consultation. They would continue to work with WSCC to focus efforts onto the next stages.
A Member asked, “More than 1000 flats have been approved or applied for along the Western Harbour Arm with more in other parts of Adur. Are you confident that Section 106 money from developers going to West Sussex County Council will be used effectively within Adur? Adur council’s annual report on its share of s106 money was extremely clear. WSCC’s report was without information on how much money comes from Adur developments and how much will be spent on Adur infrastructure. Could you influence WSCC to be clearer on this?”
Members were told that information had been received earlier that afternoon and would be shared in due course.
Members were also informed that both Adur and Worthing Planning Committees, in agreeing the annual Infrastructure Funding Statements (IFS) were keen to ensure that in future years the IFS included a summary of the s106 funding held by WSCC for each authority to improve transparency. WSCC prepared its own IFS but it was a large document covering the whole County and therefore lacked detail on the funding held for each authority.
As part of the Adur Local Plan Review and work on reviewing the Western Harbour Arm WSCC had been requested to provide a detailed breakdown of contributions held for each transport scheme identified in the Adur Transport Study. This information was contained within the individual s106 agreements for each development but a composite list and allocation for each improvement scheme was being prepared and would be shared with Members in due course.