THE Church Commissioners have submitted a planning application for a development of 2200 homes on church land in West Sussex, as part of efforts to address the housing crisis.
The planned development for West Bersted, which would adjoin Bognor Regis, includes a primary school, a public library, retail space, and community facilities. A new road, along with paths for pedestrians and cyclists, is also included in the plans.
In a press release issued on Friday, the Church Commissioners stated that “up to” 750 of the new homes will be classed as affordable, and that the development “will alleviate the high demand for new housing in the area”.
The head of strategic land investment at the Church Commissioners, Joanna Loxton, said: “We’re extremely pleased to submit the outline application for this site, and believe the new community proposed will have much to offer both new and existing residents. We hope that the new development will be one of many that supports the Church’s vision for new housing, strengthening local communities in the process.”
The Church Commissioner’s head of real estate, John Weir, highlighted the C of E’s “ongoing commitment to delivering high-quality homes to support the economic and social development of local communities”.
He continued: “Front and centre of the Church’s commitments in the Coming Home report is the creation of healthy and vibrant housing, providing homes which are safe, sustainable, and satisfying, and where residents feel able to put down roots for the future. This scheme supports a range of different housing needs, and will make a positive contribution to the development of the Bersted area.”
Last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York published a report — Coming Home: Tackling the housing crisis together — which urged the Church of England to build more affordable homes on its land (News, 26 February 2021).
In May this year, it was announced that plans were under way to establish a Church of England housing association (News, 26 May). At a meeting to review progress on delivering the Church’s plans for housing, Archbishop Welby said: “If you are building a more just society, housing is one of the main building blocks.”
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, who is the lead bishop on housing, told the House of Lords in July that “the cost of the housing crisis falls largely on those who are financially poorest and resident in unaffordable or substandard housing (News, 8 July).”
Dr Francis-Dehqani argued that “a long-term, cross-party housing strategy that brings those at every level of government together with landowners, developers, landlords, homeowners, and faith organisations, is the only way that sustainable and meaningful transformation will happen.”