Almost two years of consulting, campaigning and fierce debate came to a head last night (Wednesday,October 3) as the controversial New Monks Farm Development was approved.
Councillors voted 5-3 in favour of the plans, which include an IKEA store and 600 new homes, at a heated planning meeting at the Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing.
The process has been long and complex – the application also includes provision of a country park, relocation of the Withy Patch Gypsy and travellers’ site, a pumping station and new roundabout to replace the Sussex Pad junction on the A27 – so we have broken it down to show how the key questions were addressed last night.
Our live blog provided updates from the event.
When is work going to begin and when will it be completed?
Before any work can begin, developers have to negotiate the section 106 legal agreement. This is a list of conditions they must adhere to in order for full planning permission to be granted, including provisions of mitigating infrastructure such as flood defences and the roundabout replacing the A27 Sussex Pad junction.
Speaking after the meeting, Martin Perry, director of New Monks Farm Development Ltd, said: “We have to negotiate the section 106 agreement, then plannning permission will be granted and we will move on from there.
“If we can get that process sorted out quickly, we are hoping we will be on site in January 2019, with IKEA delivered in early 2021.
“We will have homes within mid-2019.”
See more of Mr Perry’s reaction here: Developers ‘delighted’ as plans for IKEA and 600 homes in Lancing approved
Why has the process been delayed?
A decision on the plans was deferred at a meeting in July due to concerns around access to Lancing College from the proposed new A27 roundabout and the appearance of the IKEA store from the South Downs.
The lack of a 4th arm on the proposed new roundabout, combined with the loss of the Sussex Pad crossing, would stop Coombes Road traffic turning right onto the A27.
Less than 24 hours before last night’s meeting, Lancing College dramatically withdrew its objections to the proposal, after developers agreed to construct a 4th arm on the roundabout, subject to planning permission from the South Downs National Park (SDNP) planning committee.
Grey ‘fins’ on the roof have also been added to the design, which will break up the blue colour when viewed from the South Downs, councillors heard.
What were the main issues with the proposal?
In addition to the Lancing College access and views from the South Downs, there are several key issues which have dominated the application process.
New Monks Farm Development Limited agreed to provide two hectares of land for a school on the site.
However, West Sussex County Council has requested the developers also provide a ‘significant contribution’ to construction costs.
At last night’s meeting, councillor David Balfe said there was a risk of ‘creating a local education crisis’ if a school was not provided.
Planning officer James Appleton said funding could be taken from infrastructure projects elsewhere on the site or by cutting affordable housing provision from the 30 per cent required in the Adur Local Plan.
Councillor David Simmons said: “We have a great many people in temporary accommodation and on the waiting lists. Affordable housing and social housing for me are our priority areas.”
Mr Appleton concluded that it was up to the committee to prioritise infrastructure, housing or education. No decision was reached during the meeting but this will likely form part of the section 106 agreement.
Relocation of the travellers’ site at Withy Patch
The plans included the relocation and extension of the Withy Patch travellers’ site.
Concern was raised about disruption caused to the travellers being relocated.
In a letter to the planning department in July, residents of the travellers’ site said they would also be at greater risk of air pollution and flooding, would be living around a construction site for two years and had not been properly consulted.
The Environment Agency concluded the new location provided ‘significant betterment in terms of flood risk’.
Councillor Les Alden said: “The travellers aren’t getting a good deal out of this. These are people who are part of our community.”
Traffic congestion and air quality
Critics have argued the A27 will be unable to cope with the increase in traffic brought by the 600 new homes and IKEA store. The construction phase is also likely to lead to increased congestion and air pollution.
A new roundabout will be built to replace the Sussex Pad junction, but until then access to the site will be via Hayley Road through the Mash Barn estate.
In a written statement at the meeting, Mash Barn ward councillor Lee Cowen said he feared once construction was finished, temporary access to the estate would be opened up as a permanent solution to A27 congestion.
“Mark my words, this will eventually become a permanent access,” he said, while also questioning the new A27 roundabout. “We’re told this new ‘magic’ roundabout is the cure for the traffic congestion but it’s essentially a glorified Sussex Pad junction with the northern arm removed. The road congestion on the A27 is already severe and we face years of contraflows and temporary traffic lights.”
Highways England raised no objection to the suggested amendments to the A27 during the consultation process, including an underpass going underneath the road to replace the Sussex Pad crossing.
There is a fear that extensive development on the site will lead to more flooding in an area which is already at risk from heavy rainfall and tidal flooding.
The site will include a new pumping station, which developers say will provide sufficient mitigation.
In a letter following July’s meeting, Adur Flood Group (AFG) said ‘there is still no proper evidence to demonstrate the effect of rising groundwater on the aspects of flood risk in extreme wet weather events for this site which has a greater than 75% risk of flooding across its whole area.’
The group also raised concerns around connecting new sewage systems to the existing pipes and ongoing maintenance of flood defence systems.
The Environment Agency said it had ‘no objection’ to the development so long as it conformed with their conditions. These are likely to form part of the section 106 agreement.
Noise pollution and proximity to Shoreham Airport
The empty land which will hold the new homes sits under a flight path for planes and helicopters using Shoreham Airport.
John Davies owns helicopter company HeliFly, which operates out of the airport. He said the decision to move the flight paths from the centre of the development to the edge would ‘make no difference’.
“I believe it breaks a legal covenant and exposes residents to high noise pollution,” he said.
Resident Ian Perry owns a similar business and said the development will sit in the only clear space available for crash landings at the airport. He also believed aviation noise had not been allowed for.
No objections were raised regarding noise pollution by the consulted expert bodies.
It has been approved, so what are the positives?
In the meeting, councillor David Balfe said the decision was about ‘weighing up the economic benefit against the environmental damage’.
All of the expert consultees, such as Highways England, West Sussex County Council and the Environment Agency, approved the plan.
Supporters pointed to the number of jobs IKEA would bring and the amount of affordable housing.
Speaking in support, resident Colin Hannan pointed to the boost the area’s economy would receive. He said: “Lancing is seen to be dying on its feet. This is a rare opportunity to inject some adrenaline into the Lancing village.”
Critics complained the space could have been used to create more ‘high skilled’ jobs.
Martin Perry said the project had the potential to include the lives of ‘thousands of local residents’, was vital to securing the future of Shoreham Airport and would provide a £3.5 million boost to the county council’s budget.
What happens next?
The next step is for the section 106 agreement to be finalised.
East Worthing MP Tim Loughton, who has opposed the plan since its inception, has also called for the decision to be escalated to the Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brokenshire, who has the power to overrule the planning committee. More information on that here: MP calls for government to scrutinise Lancing IKEA decision
A full breakdown of what could happen next can be found here: What happens next with plans for IKEA in Lancing?