As you know, this has been one of the most challenging pieces of work we have ever embarked on, mainly due to issues we have faced with the roads, wastewater and water neutrality. 

Before any council submits their Local Plan to the Planning Inspector, they must show that they have tried and tested every possible way to reach the housing numbers set by Government. No stone can be left unturned. This means that the work that we have carried out to date is vital in demonstrating the complex situation we are in.

Due to the significant road improvements required and the fact that insufficient funding is available to deliver this, we have explained that the plan is unlikely to meet the full housing targets set by Government. Instead, we are working closely with National Highways and West Sussex County Council to establish a revised Development Strategy based on improvements that can be delivered to the A27 during the plan period. 

We have also held discussions with Southern Water, which is responsible for wastewater, and the Environment Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the discharges into the harbour from premises that require permits, such as wastewater treatment plants. We have worked with both organisations to agree a position through a Statement of Common Ground. 

Natural England's requirement that development within the northern part of our plan area must be 'water neutral' is a very recent, complex issue that will take time to resolve. In partnership with a number of other councils across the county and the South Downs National Park Authority, we have commissioned a water neutrality study which covers the northern part of our plan area. This study is crucial to the plan to enable us to complete the Habitat Regulations Assessment and provide us with solutions in relation to water consumption to allow new homes to be built. 

Effective and ongoing engagement and cooperation with these external agencies is vital. Based on the evidence we are presenting we need our partner agencies to agree what levels of development are deliverable within the infrastructure and funding constraints that we face. As we've said before, these are all issues that are unfortunately outside of our control.

A Planning Inspector has previously explained to us that before concluding that our housing needs cannot be met by the Local Plan, we need to determine what level of housing could be achieved based on deliverable improvements to the A27; whether our full housing needs could be met another way, which would include looking back at other parts of the local plan area; and investigate if neighbouring authorities can help meet need our housing needs. We have followed the advice given to us and are reviewing our housing numbers to show what we believe is achievable with the existing challenges we face.

Once we have the final pieces of evidence that we need, we will be ready to consult with you and submit the plan for independent examination. The feedback you provide us will be packaged alongside the plan and submitted to the Inspector. The Planning Inspector will then review the plan as part of the examination process. As soon as we are ready to do this, we will let you know. In the meantime, we will continue to update you on our progress.

We really appreciate your patience with this piece of work. Our priority is to do everything we possibly can to get the very best outcome for our district.

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Date: 10 June 2022