Local Plan Review: Preferred Approach 2016-2035

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(21) Part One - Characteristics of the Plan Area

Map 2.1 Local Plan Area

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Characteristics of the Plan Area – A Spatial Portrait([1])

2.1 Chichester District covers an area of almost 800 km2, stretching from the south coast to the southern border of Waverley and East Hampshire in the north; and from Havant in the west to Arun and Horsham in the east. Over two-thirds of the district lies within the South Downs National Park. There are 33 parish councils located within the local plan area, including six parishes which are also partly located within the South Downs National Park.

2.2 The plan area is split in to three areas, each with different characteristics, landscapes and access to services:

  • The East-West Corridor, running across the width of the plan area, is varied in landscape with the inclusion of both larger settlements (including the city) and rural villages. It has the best transport connections and access to facilities in the plan area with the A27 and railway running throughout.
  • The Manhood Peninsula, located in the south of the plan area, is rich in coastal landscapes with the majority of the area covered by environmental designations. It also includes some of the plan area's larger settlements which rely heavily on limited road accessibility to the north towards Chichester City.
  • The North of the Plan Area is primarily rural in character with diverse landscapes, rich cultural and heritage assets and a number of dispersed settlements, some of which are relatively isolated and served by narrow lanes with limited public transport.
2.3 The cathedral city of Chichester is the main settlement with a population of around 28,500([2]), and is the main location for the provision of higher education and shopping facilities. The city is renowned for its cathedral, its historic heritage and university and is the largest centre of employment in the plan area.

2.4 Outside of Chichester City, the plan area has four other significant settlements that accommodate a range of facilities and services:
  • East Wittering and Bracklesham Parish has a population of around 5,200(2). Nearby beaches, especially those of West Wittering, are amongst the best in the south east, making them an extremely popular attraction for residents and holiday makers.
  • Selsey, at the tip of the Manhood Peninsula, is a town with a population of around 10,575(2). With one of the largest caravan parks in Europe, the population of the town more than doubles during the holiday season. It is also a focus for commercial activities such as horticulture, fishing and other marine related businesses.
  • Southbourne, to the west of Chichester, has a population of around 7,500(2) and has links to the nearby towns of Havant and Emsworth. Southbourne has a number of employment opportunities, a railway station, and a secondary school with a relatively modern leisure facility. The community facilities are dispersed throughout the settlement.
  • Tangmere, to the east of Chichester City, is a settlement of some 2,700(2) people. It hosts a number of local businesses, and has some dispersed community facilities including shops and a medical centre. However, it currently lacks many of the amenities and services normally associated with a settlement of its size.
2.5 The A27 runs east-west through the plan area, connecting the area to Portsmouth and Southampton to the west, and eastwards to Worthing, Brighton and Eastbourne. There are also rail links along the south coast and to London from Chichester City. North-south transport links are comparatively poorer in quality, and rural communities in the North of the plan area are fairly isolated.

Social Characteristics

2.6 The total population of Chichester District is 120, 200([3]), a growth of 17.36% since 1995, with average annual growth of 0.75%.

2.7 The percentage of the working age population (16-64) is below the national level of 63.1% at 56.27%. This is in contrast to those over the age of 65 at 27.01% compared to the national level of 18%.

2.8 By 2035, those of working age are expected to account for only half of Chichester District's total population([4]), whilst the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to account for 35%. An ageing population of this scale presents challenges for health and caring services, particularly in rural areas where access to transport, services and everyday activities is difficult. It also presents challenges in terms of service provision, particularly for high cost intensive services such as those related to primary health care.

2.9 The special qualities of the area offer a good quality of life, which creates a high demand for housing. This demand has caused a widening gulf between local incomes and house prices([5]). Whilst this affordability gap can be addressed in part by economic processes, the need to provide affordable housing remains a priority for the Council. There is a lack of opportunity for young people to move in to, or remain in, the plan area because the housing stock is dominated by larger, more expensive properties, especially in relation to other parts of Coastal West Sussex and Hampshire. The amount of detached housing is above average, in particular outside of Chichester City.

2.10 Ethnic minorities make up 7% of the total population of the district. This is lower than county (11.1%), regional (14.8%) and national (20.2%) averages.

2.11 Residents of the district have a good life expectancy, for males, this is 81.1 years and 85 years for females. This is in line with South East averages and slightly higher than the national averages([6]).

2.12 The 2011 Census found that 15.61% of Chichester's households did not have access to a car or van; this is lower than county, regional and national averages.

Economic Characteristics

2.13 The largest employment sectors in the plan area are retail, public administration (due to the presence of the District and County Councils in Chichester City), education (in particular the University of Chichester and Chichester College), horticulture and health. Higher value jobs which provide an opportunity to improve the productivity of the local economy are focused on advanced manufacturing and engineering; construction and civil engineering; and finance, insurance and business services.

2.14 An objective of the Council is to foster a qualified and highly skilled workforce by improving opportunities for unemployed persons; working with the third sector and community based organisations; and supporting stronger links between the University, the College and businesses.

2.15 The University of Chichester has two campuses; one in Chichester and the other in Bognor Regis (within Arun District). The University makes a valuable contribution as an educational institution and employer, and helps brand Chichester as a 'university city'. It is one of the largest employers in the city, providing around 1,000 jobs (direct and indirect) and contributing over £109m to the local economy(6). It has some 4,600 full-time students plus 1,000 part-time students, with approximately 80 EU/international students([7]). The University is a top performer in terms of employability and retention rates, with nearly 93% of its students employed or in further study six months after graduating([8]).

2.16 The proportion of people in the district aged between 16 – 64 years with a level 4 qualification (degree level or above) is 39.3%. That is higher than the South East (33.2%) and in line with National (37.9%) figures(6).

2.17 There are four institutions in the plan area that offer further education for 16-18 year olds: Bishop Luffa Church of England School; Chichester High School, Chichester Free School and Chichester College. Chichester College is the largest further education institution in West Sussex.

2.18 There are a few large employers in the plan area (employing over 250 staff), particularly in Chichester City, but in general the local economy is based around micro (employing up to 9 staff), and small (employing between 10 and 50 staff) to medium (employing between 50-250 staff) sized businesses with high levels of self-employment. The majority of existing employment and business space is focused around Chichester City and the A27 corridor. This area benefits from good access to the main road and rail network and offers the best potential for attracting inward investment. However, there is also a need to support and diversify economic activity in the rural parts of the plan area, particularly on the Manhood Peninsula.

2.19 The employment rate of 16-64 year olds is slightly higher than the national average of 74.4% at 79.2%, however the proportion of people in part time employment is above both South East and National averages(6).

2.20 Due to the combination of climate, soil quality and high light levels which prolong the growing season, the district's horticultural industry is amongst the largest producer of salad crops in the country and supplies much of the South East region. Major growers have established large scale glasshouse sites, which are mainly concentrated on the Manhood Peninsula and along the East-West Corridor. In the Chichester and Arun coastal plain, horticultural production has a retail value of over £1 billion and employs over 7,500 permanent and seasonal workers([9]).

2.21 The visitor economy, including hotels, catering, campsites and other tourist facilities, is a significant employment sector. The district's scenic beauty, beaches, heritage sites, arts and crafts, festivals, museums and galleries and organisations in film, photography and new media, all have the quality and capacity to attract significant levels of visitors. Chichester Festival Theatre is the most influential regional theatre in Britain. It brings over £13 million into the local economy, through primary and secondary spend by the theatre and its summer season audience([10]). Outside of the city there are a number of other heritage attractions and events such as Goodwood, which also bring in visitors and generate income.

Environmental Characteristics

2.22 Chichester District has a rich and varied natural, historic and built environment, stretching from the lowland marsh and creeks associated with Chichester Harbour and Pagham Harbour, across the coastal plain to the South Downs National Park, and the Weald further north.

2.23 In the North of the plan area, the "Low Weald" landscape is characterised by a mix of pasture and medium to small scale arable fields. Further south, the Downland footslopes feature semi-open, large scale, arable fields and paddocks. The extensive coastline, which forms the southern border of the plan area, varies in character, with shingle ridges, sandy beaches, and a variety of wetlands, salt marsh and harbours, including the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The coastal and harbour areas are important for biodiversity, recreation and tourism.

2.24 The plan area has internationally designated habitats: Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, and Ramsar sites and nationally designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest. There are also various local designations for biodiversity, heritage and landscape, such as Sites of Nature Conservation Importance, and National and Local Nature Reserves, as well as a number of Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological sites – a local designation to protect geology.

2.25 The UK's largest exposed-coast Managed Realignment Scheme is at Medmerry in the low-lying coastal plain between Selsey and Bracklesham. The scheme is managed by the RSPB as compensatory habitat for losses elsewhere in the Solent, and is internationally protected along with Chichester and Langstone Harbours and Pagham Harbour, which together provide one of the largest protected wetland sites in the UK.

2.26 Former gravel pits, canals, river corridors and ponds are also important wildlife habitats as well as a resource for leisure and recreation.

2.27 The district is distinctive by virtue of the very high quality and value of its historic environment which play an important role in defining the character of the area. In addition to statutorily designated areas, there is a rich and diverse heritage of townscapes and landscapes. The key features of Chichester's historic environment are outlined below:

  • Archaeology – the district, as a whole, contains over 200 scheduled ancient monuments, and 580 archaeological priority areas (437 of these are in, or partially in, the National Park).
  • Buildings – there are over 3,200 listed buildings in the district, as well as a number of buildings which are identified as of "local importance". These include positive buildings, locally listed buildings and non-designated buildings identified as 'heritage assets' through the planning process.
  • Landscapes – the district has 86 conservation areas (of which 61 are in the National Park and 2 are shared between the District and the National Park), and 17 registered parks and gardens (2 of which are within the plan area).
  • Chichester City Centre – The city has a rich built heritage, including the city walls, cathedral, Bishop's Palace, medieval buildings such as the Market Cross, remains of monastic buildings in Priory Park and the Georgian city. The Roman walls defined the original city and survive today as one of the most intact city defences in the south of England.

2.28 The historic buildings and sites within the district are finite resources. A key issue is their management and protection to ensure their importance and value is retained, whilst recognising the need to accommodate new development([11]).

Challenges and Opportunities facing the Plan Area

2.29 This Plan faces a number of important challenges. To address these, it needs to:

  • Make provision for new development to address the future housing and employment needs of the area;
  • Provide a range of new housing that meets the needs of local people, including affordable housing and specialist accommodation;
  • Provide land and premises that enable local businesses to grow and flourish;
  • Support and diversify economic activity particularly job opportunities on the Manhood Peninsula to reduce out-commuting;
  • Plan to provide enhanced local infrastructure to support new development and seek opportunities to address existing infrastructure problems, such as those relating to the A27 and wastewater treatment;
  • Plan for new open space, recreation, education and leisure facilities to meet the needs of the growing population;
  • Preserve the attractive landscapes of the area, including the Chichester Harbour AONB, the coastline and the setting of the South Downs National Park;
  • Protect and enhance the area's biodiversity and habitats, including designated areas of international and national importance;
  • Protect the area's valuable heritage and historic assets.


[1] Where information is not available at plan area scale, district-wide information is referred to

[2]> ONS Mid-Year Ward Population Estimates 2016

[3] ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates, 2017

[4] West Sussex Population Forecasts 2018

[5] HEDNA 2018

[6] West Sussex County Council Life 2017-19

[8] University of Chichester

[9] HEDNA 2017

[11] Chichester Historic Environment Strategy and Action Plan 2017

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