Friday, 29 May 2020

Major agro-industrial site in the beautiful South Downs near Lewes - decision to be made on 11th June!


Beautiful landscape under threat! More heavy traffic likely on the C7 minor road though Lewes, Newhaven and the villages of Kingston, Swanborough, Iford, Northease Rodmell, Southease and Piddinghoe........

At the beginning of May the National Park tabled a recommendation to give permission for a major agro-industrial development site in the lower Ouse valley south of Lewes, just off the infamous C7 road. Thanks to the hundreds of people who wrote in and opposed the development the planning recommendation was deferred until the June meeting of the National Park. Sadly the National Park recommendation is unchanged - to give approval for this massive development. 

The planning officers intend to table a recommendation to give approval for the development at the meeting on Thursday 11 June. The agenda for this meeting will be published in a few days time - probably Thursday 4th.  

This 'stay of execution' give a little more time to write in: planning@southdowns.gov.uk. Please put the case number at the top of your email. To review the application documents go to:  

https://planningpublicaccess.southdowns.gov.uk/online-applications/  and input the case no:  SDNP/19/03768/FUL 

As time is short you may also wish to write to the committee members. The members are listed HERE  You can find their email addresses HERE

The National Park website doesn't say whether or not the meeting will be via video conferencing or whether it will be held in their large conference room with members spaced 2m apart. 

Public speaking: Pre-registration will be required if you wish to speak at the meeting. The Park doesn't tell you if you will have to travel the 45 miles to Midhurst to make your representations or If you will be allowed to speak via videoconferencing. 

The National Park says "Anyone wishing to speak at the meeting should register their request, using the Registration Form, no later than 12 noon on the Monday before the meeting. Further information on public speaking and registering as a speaker."  If you have any queries regarding this please contact   committee.officer@southdowns.gov.uk



PLEASE SHARE this update!
Earlier in May information about this major development was published on the Sussex Campaign website



Wednesday, 3 August 2016

East Sussex 'Transport Summit' lacking in substance and action!

The new Bexhill to Hastings Link Road
(referred to in the summit)
Earlier this year, I attended the Transport Summit  called by Amber Rudd, MP (now Home Secretary), in Hastings, (18th March 2016). I went along as it was the only non-A27 focused transport meeting I have heard of in recent years here in Sussex. I also wanted to hear what the speakers from Network Rail, the rail operator Govia Thameslink, the bus operator Stagecoach and the government’s Department for Transport had to say.

It is interesting to note that at this March meeting there was no mention at all of the wrangle which was already going on between the Department of Transport, Govia Thameslink (GTR) and the RMT union over Drive Only Operated trains and the role of the Guards/Conductors. 

Outside the building there was a protest against Amber Rudd both before the meeting and after. Clearly there are some strong feelings locally. There was a significant police presence both inside the nearby station and just across the road from the campus building. I understand that some people who had applied for tickets were turned down although in fact there were spare seats in the seminar room. This was a very tightly controlled meeting. 

Although I’m critical of the Hastings and Rye MP's efforts to use this summit as part of her marketing and PR campaign without addressing the actual problems, I must congratulate her on actually holding a transport meeting. I think the local MPs in Brighton and Lewes should follow suit. If any area needs the transport and rail problems being looked at it is Brighton & Lewes who suffer from all of the problems of the Brighton main line.

In summary I thought the meeting was a great PR job by Amber Rudd, the local MP for Hastings and Rye, but lacked substance and despite this lack of substance she had positive feedback in the Hastings Observer. It was a glossy marketing show with all of the speakers praising and thanking each other. The timetable was very controlled and questions were limited by the very smooth operator – Ray Chapman of the East Sussex Rail Alliance who seemed to be part of Amber Rudd’s team rather than the chairman of an independent group. Very little time was allowed for questions. In fact the whole meeting was over in two hours. I stayed on to put questions to Network Rail. If local people thought they were going to be able to voice their concerns and hear senior directors and politicians committing to taking action I think they must have been severely disappointed.

Amber Rudd opened the show, sorry 'summit,' with some fine words but seemed to take the opportunity to have a dig at the Department for Transport over the delays in implementing the Hastings Express rail service. She also referred to the dualling of the Pembury bypass and the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road. However to give due regard to her, at least she’s holding a transport conference.

Speakers

Ray Chapman East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA)
After Amber spoke we were back to the smooth talking Ray Chapman who took over and guided things through from start to finish ensuring that everybody spoke for their allotted short amount of time and questions were grouped and limited. In his opening remarks he talked about the Brighton main line being the most congested network in Europe and said there were now no margins for error and even a slight hold-up can cause lots of problems. He referred to a recent parliamentary meeting and said that the three Brighton MPs didn’t even turn up!

Charles Horton, CEO of Govia Thameslink
He followed the previous speaker's theme by talking about the network being at capacity. He then went on to talk about boosting capacity which didn’t seem to sit well with his other remark when he said they were trying to “squeeze trains into a constrained infrastructure.” He admitted that the reliability of services was an issue and that punctuality is a challenge.

Alex Foulds, the Passenger Service Director of Southern Railway
He referred to a series of points:

  • Improving customer information
  • The fact that they now have a permanent twitter team
  • Providing real-time information to staff on tablets etc.
  • Taking people out of the ticket office to deal with customers directly. (I think that was another way of saying that they are dramatically cutting the opening times for ticket offices). This has since proved to be the case.
  • The introduction of local development managers
  • Cutting back vegetation
He summarised by talking about some local improvement and some current problems.

David Statham, the managing director of Southeastern Rail 
Mr Statham then took the floor, and like other speakers, he talked about performance being a particular challenge. He added that they had had particular difficulties since Christmas and added that the impact of failures had had a substantial effect on the network. He then went on to talk about some detailed plans in Kent.

Paul Best, Senior Strategic Planner for the south-east at Network Rail
Paul Best then spoke. He talked about Marshlink which is an important issue to the east of Hastings. As far as I could detect he didn’t give any positive dates or highlight any major improvements. It seems to me the policy on the line towards Ashford from Hastings is one of incremental steps. However it wasn’t clear what those steps are. Mr Best made reference to electrification and looking at trains that could run as diesel/electric and also battery/electric. Though he was trying to do his best it seemed to me that there was no clear way forward as to how the line was going to be improved. In part of his talk he referred to route studies and Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) Studies. It seems the RUS studies really form a kind of ‘wish list’ in the hope that the government will allow some of them to go forward. Route studies are really the detail around this and also cover some more practical solutions at a lower level. None of the discussion around either of these actually helps the public understand where we are with Network Rail.  After the meeting I questioned Paul Best about the restoration of the Uckfield to Lewes line and he was depressingly frank with me saying that the government are completely focused on HS2 at the moment and until that’s under way they won’t look at anything else. So, it looks as though any significant improvements, like the Uckfield to Lewes line, in the south-east will be kicked into touch until possibly 2033 or beyond! Not what I wanted to hear.

Huw Merriman MP for Bexhill and Battle
Huw Merriman, a new MP, spoke next - he was upbeat and positive but very little information came forth except to say that he was campaigning along with Amber Rudd for extension of the HS1 (high-speed line in Kent) through to Sussex. My take on HS1 is that without significant infrastructure improvements and a second track between Sussex and Kent the possibility of volume high-speed rail services will remain just a dream. Huw referred to his lobbying efforts towards the Rail Minister. He referred to his membership of the Transport Select Committee.

NB: Claire Perry is responsible for: rail major projects and growth, rail infrastructure, safety and security, passenger services, strategy, funding and sponsorship, integrated delivery and accessibility, rail fares and ticketing.
It’s a pity she wasn’t at the meeting! Claire resigned in July 2016 and Paul Maynard MP has taken over.

The meeting facilitator (Ray Chapman) then took over again and managed to impart some bad news about the Metrobus to Gatwick being withdrawn. He quickly went on to talk about finding alternatives.

Matthew Arnold from Stagecoach
Matthew Arnold from Stagecoach then spoke. He had only just joined the company so had a limited amount of information. He said he was waiting for bus priority measures, whatever that is, between Eastbourne and Hastings in relation to the new Bexhill to Hastings link road. His talk included a few points about providing services between hospitals and services to the Conquest Hospital. One positive point he put forward was that in country areas he would be looking for the provision of smaller buses for narrow country roads. He also mentioned the introduction of buses which will meet the new European lower emission standards.

Prof Nick Reed of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL)
We then moved on to more of the glossy PR of the meeting with Prof Nick Reed of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). However it was good that he opened by talking about his laboratory being a centre for research into road, rail, walking and cycling.

I really don’t know why he was there presenting the case for the driverless vehicle as I can’t see it helping transport issues in the short and medium term. In fact afterwards I spoke to him and he was talking about 15 years before we would see them being introduced. After the meeting was over there was an opportunity for people to see a driverless vehicle. It was positioned outside the Sussex Coast College building. In part of his speech he made a point about the driverless vehicle helping transport problems for villages in rural areas. Afterwards I queried him on this saying that firstly the government would have to restore the funding to provide the money for all the potholes in country areas so that the driverless vehicle didn’t hit a pothole and end up in the ditch! We both had a laugh over this point. However I believe that talking about driverless vehicles will not solve the problems for people in East Sussex and Hastings area over the next two decades.

Andrew Jones, MP Transport Minister
The last speaker was Andrew Jones, MP. He talked about the dualling of the A21 but then focused on the work which is currently going on to develop a road investment strategy. He said that real progress was being made. He said that Highways England are producing their priorities with a view to them being published in March 2017. He pointed out that local councils and local people will have the opportunity to make an input to the road priorities proposals.
[Andrew Jones MP is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport and has a mixed bag of responsibilities including Northern Powerhouse, national roads and Highways England, bus policy and devolution in England]

Question Time
The first questioner referred to the optimistic future ideas being spoken about at this transport summit but he then went on to ask about how we deal with problems we have currently. This was followed by a few other questions on a similar vein with some quite smooth answers being given. In answer to the question about electric trains one answer was given that Claire Perry had
Javelin electric train - unlikely to come
to Hastings any time soon
promised to look into the new types of hybrid trains. Amidst the questions about electric trains reference was made to the Javelin electric train although there seemed to be no conclusive answer given.

In answer to a question relating to roads, Minister Andrew Jones said the government was moving towards allowing decisions to be made as near as possible to the local area which is affected. I must say this doesn’t seem to line up with the way in which Highways England are operating with regard to the A27 'improvements' in West Sussex currently!

There was a question from a representative from the Campaign for Better Transport who said he was absolutely staggered at the high cost which members of the public are asked to pay for their rail services and asked for prioritisation for commuter transport.

Steve Hardy of the CPRE asked for a station at Glyne Gap and for the Willingdon Chord to be reinstated. The response was given by Ray Chapman of the East Sussex Rail Alliance group who offered support but actually have no power over such matters. There seemed to be no ministerial take up to support this request.

Right near the end there was a question from a lady who commutes regularly to London and complained bitterly about rail delays and asked for something to be done about this. Again our master of ceremonies Ray Chapman smoothed over this serious complaint but not before she got a round of applause.


PS:  The poster at the entrance to the room was titled Fast Track Regeneration. It featured high level diagrams of the rail network and listed underneath key issues such as:

Reducing poverty and deprivation, driving freight and passenger infrastructure, enabling connectivity between sea and airports.

None of these things were actually discussed and there were was certainly nothing said by any of the speakers that anything was going to be fast tracked! 

Monday, 25 April 2016

District Councillor Role in a Rural Area

The Role of a Ward District Councillor – by Cllr Vic Ient

This is a copy of a talk I gave to Southease Parish at their annual parish meeting held on Saturday 23rd of April 2016. The meeting was held last Saturday, early evening in the beautiful ancient parish church. It was a lovely sunny evening. Clearly they are a very active parish and for such a small population they seem to do quite a lot. It was also a social occasion for people to get together and I enjoyed meeting catching up with residents. 



Here is a copy of my talk: 



Kingston Ward - Click for a larger image
Thank you for inviting me along. I am lucky to represent such a beautiful part of the South East.  My Council Ward includes the villages along the lower Ouse from Piddinghoe to Kingston as well as Falmer and St Ann Without. Some 11,000 acres in all – most of it the South Downs. Nearly 900 households and a population of just over 2000.  There are five parishes as well as hamlets.
I was elected last May for a four-year term, that’s if I last that long! I was first councillor in the 1970s in Kent. Then my working career took over but now I’m ‘retired’ I found myself councillor again. Norman Baker asked me to stand and the irony was that I got elected and sadly he didn’t. I probably came to his notice because of my campaigning on local issues either directly or via the South Downs Society and the CPRE.

As you may know there are 4 Democratic tiers of elected government: parish, district, county, national and European. In some areas there are also elected mayors and we are just about have our second election for a Police Commissioner.

Of course services and responsibilities between authorities differ. The Lewes District Council has direct responsibility for things like housing, Environmental health, Waste collection and planning.

In addition to district and County councils there are other powerful bodies involved in our local area including the local enterprise partnerships. We sit within the Coast to Capital LEP which stretches right up to Croydon and we border the Southeast LEP which stretches right up to Essex. Since 2012 we have had the South Downs National Park. The whole of my ward is in the park.

Members of the District Council get appointed to these bodies but for an ordinary member like myself it’s not usual. Though, I believe it’s important for a ward member to keep a close watching brief on what those bodies are doing. Indeed, it is important to keep a watching brief on all of the things which affect our area including public transport, government agencies and to be aware of how we can use the EU funding to the best benefit of the area.

At the district council members are appointed to various committees and I sit on Planning and Scrutiny committees as well as some others. I also try and shadow the lead member for waste and recycling.    
     
Planning keep me very busy. The District Council deals with delegated planning on behalf of the National Park and thus handles some 95% of all planning applications in the area. On top of planning applications there are planning issues to deal with.

The scrutiny committee should be able to scrutinise anything which is going on in the district as long as it is operated by a public body. In practical terms it is quite difficult to bring new things up at the committee so one often uses the item on the agenda for ward members questions in order to raise matters. This also applies at the full Council and the Cabinet.

The Cabinet is the most powerful group in the Council. Most councils around the country adopted the ‘Cabinet’ form of local government following its introduction in the year 2000. This effectively vests most of the power of the council in the hands of  7 cabinet members. These are called ‘lead members.’ I don’t agree with this system but I believe the roles of a ward member is  to keep a very close watching brief on what the ‘lead members’ are doing and to try and influence them to the benefit of the local community.

One of the other jobs for a District Council Ward member is to act as a channel of communication to the various government bodies to and from the residents of their Ward. For instance,  alerting them to upcoming issues and changes. Over and above this the Ward member has the opportunity to act as champion for his area. Unfortunately this isn’t how most of the officers of the council see things. Sometimes one gets the impression you’re being a nuisance to them!
Officers have wide-ranging delegated powers and are constantly making decisions which affect the local community. I see the role of the Ward member as someone who is constantly checking on what’s going on to try and influence the officer’s decision or to try and bring it under some form of democratic control.

This also applies to outside bodies. The Local Enterprise Partnerships are very powerful. They are directly funded by government and can affect the local area. For instance the LEP and our area actively supports a second runway at Gatwick. LEP members are appointed by the Government - it is not a democratic body. This happens a lot these days. By the way Newhaven has just been given economic zone status and that means the council partnering with the 2 LEP.
Another outside body to be involved with is the National Park. Unlike the LEPs this is a fully transparent body although its members are nominated by the government,  the local councils and parishes. I support much of what they have done in their draft local plan and many of their initiatives.

The Environment Agency is another important outside body which a local ward member has to keep an eye on. They are responsible for flood alleviation. They are just about to implement flood alleviation measures in Newhaven and along the River Ouse.

By becoming elected to the District Council one becomes aware of many more government initiatives and changes in legislation. For instance a piece of legislation which is going through Parliament at the moment is the Housing and Planningbill. Many local authorities and certainly my political party are very concerned about the effect of this legislation. The upshot of reviewing new legislation is that you have to study it to understand it and to then go no to provide objective comments or proposals to national government.

As an elected member one becomes involved in how we can save money with the reducing grants from central government. In this respect were partnering with Eastbourne Borough Council and sharing services and officers. That’s all very good but the government is changing the structure of local authorities alongside this. Something which I’m concerned about is the move towards a ‘Greater Brighton.’  A Greater Brighton City Region has been agreed with government before I became elected.  

I work closely with my County Council colleague,  Carla Butler.  Residents can talk to either of us about any district or county council issue. In this respect I am interfacing with the East Sussex County Council frequently with regard to highways issues and public rights of way matters as well as other things like the closure of Rodmell School. For a while now there’s been a consistent trend towards reducing services from the county council - because of government cuts  -  and that means there are lots of consultations. It is important to let local people know about those consultations via parish councils and directly if I have their email addresses but it’s also important for the ward member to make sure they comment adding weight to residents’ concerns.

A Ward member can also kick off his or her own initiatives. Amongst others I have 2 major initiatives - buses and safety on the C7.  The C7 issue has a working party made up of representatives from parishes along the valley and we are hoping to produce a long-term strategy for improvements. For public transport we have been working on ways of stabilising and promoting the bus services. One small victory we have had is to get the 132 bus to come up this side of the Valley on Sundays. I would also like to promote the CTLA dial a ride service.

There’s a myriad of other things which we are  involved with. For instance there is currently a review being undertaken by the Boundaries Commission to change the ward boundaries in our area. The important thing for the ward member to do is to make sure that the boundaries commission get the right feedback. Hopefully I’m doing that.

One of the nice things about being a ward member is getting out and about seeing people which combines seeing our beautiful countryside while helping residents ……… and, of course,  coming to events like this which is very pleasant.

Thank you

Cllr Vic Ient
Lewes District Councillor - [Kingston Ward: Falmer - St Ann Without - Kingston - Swanborough - Iford - Northease - Rodmell - Southease - Piddinghoe] 
T: 07788720929     E: vic.ient.libdem@gmail.com    W: http://sussexcampaign.com/

Sunday, 8 November 2015

SDNP Draft Planning Policies List


The South Downs National Park are in the process of holding a public consultion on their local plan. It is open until until 21 NOV 2017 AT 23:59. The results will be published by 31 MAR 2018. This list is designed to act as a simple ready reckoner listing all the policies.













For further information and to respond see:
https://consult.southdowns.gov.uk/consult.ti/localplanpo/consultationHome

These are the main policies. Individual town/village policies can be found in a section within the consultation document. 


I have suggested some new policies. See: 

https://sussexcampaign.wordpress.com/sdnp-local-plan/