Friday, 25 June 2021

Is a £40 million 'roads only' scheme in West Sussex fit for purpose?

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) Planning Committee have before them a planning application under reference WSCC/052/20  for a road scheme on land to the north of Eastergate and north-west of Barnham, PO22 0D at their Planning and Rights of Way Committee on Tuesday, 29th June, 2021 10.30 am -  in a few days time.

I respectfully suggest that this £40+ million road scheme should be referred back to be replaced by a sustainable transport version that will help us meet our climate change commitments and provide integrated bus and active travel support for walking and cycling. If you agree that the scheme should be referred back please send an email to the committee members - see the list below.

The estimated cost of the scheme, at out-turn prices (excluding non-recoverable VAT), is £54.2m. [For Phase 1 (North) the estimated cost is £11.6m and for Phase 2 (South) the estimated cost is £42.6m]. 

CLICK HERE to read the Business Case   

CLICK HERE for the committee papers 

CLICK HERE to read about the scheme and watch a video of the proposed road

The £40+ million could be better spent on providing better bus services, bus infrastructure, integrated green cycle and walking routes, safe crossing where pedestrians don't have to dodge traffic, green car free bridges, safer paths for access to schools and access to rail stations.   

More roads - More traffic

When a new road is built, new traffic will divert onto it. Many people may make new trips they would otherwise not make, and will travel longer distances just because of the presence of the new road. This well-known and long-established effect is known as 'induced traffic'.

Business Case - fit for purpose?

The business case focuses on car and lorry transport with all the tables of figures relating to proving the case for motorized vehicle transport. In the 161 page of the business case it only mentions buses twice, cycling on only six pages. It only mentions disabled users once and doesn't mention mobility users at all! The references to all of these have no serious infrastructure proposals. There are no substantial sustainable transport offerings.  

The business case does not offer solutions to increased roadside emissions. How are we going to meet the Government’s commitment to net zero emissions in less than 30 years with road schemes like this? Please remember transport accounted for 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions CO2. The large majority of emissions from transport are from road transport.

Pollution from vehicle emissions & tackling climate change

All of this must be set against the backcloth of the UK’s commitment to tackle climate change. In 2020 transport accounted for 29.8% of all carbon dioxide emissions CO2. The large majority of emissions from transport are from road transport! How can WSCC approve a road scheme that will encourage CO2 emissions?  

Councils must take account of latest Government policy

The rationale for the business case uses a government paper published in 2011. The business case should be revised taking account of:  

 >> See my background notes below for more information on the above

WSCC Planning Committee Members: 

CLICK HERE to see the committee members full details on WSCC web site. I have extracted their emails as below to help with emailing them:

Councillor Richard Burrett (Chairman),

Councillor Noel Atkins (Vice-Chairman),

Councillor Zack Ali,

Councillor Janet Duncton,

Councillor Ian Gibson,

Councillor Dawn Hall,

Councillor Julian Joy,

Councillor Sean McDonald,

Councillor Pieter Montyn,

Councillor Simon Oakley,

Councillor Ashvin Patel,

Councillor Brian Quinn,

Councillor Sarah Sharp,

Councillor Kevin Boram (Substitute),

Councillor Richard Cherry (Substitute),

Councillor Bruce Forbes (Substitute),

Councillor Charlotte Kenyon (Substitute),

Councillor Mike Magill (Substitute),

Councillor Gary Markwell (Substitute) Councillor Gary Markwell,

Councillor John Turley,

Councillor Sujan Wickremaratchi,





WSCC Business Case 


References regarding buses, cycling and disabled users in the business plan.


2.2.5 The scheme also provides opportunities for more journeys to be made by cycle and on foot through the provision of:

  • Footways and cycleways;
  • Links to existing Public Rights of Way (PROWs) as appropriate;
  • Bus links; and
  • Link to Barnham Railway Station.

And on page 14: Transport Operators (bus companies, freight associations)

Interest in issues surrounding transport companies such as route changes and disruption due to construction. WSCC’s senior manager or the Project Manager will meet with organisations as required.

Page 2: cycle and pedestrian facilities 

Page 5: Cycle, pedestrian and equestrian facilities along the route have also been considered. 

Page 14; A combined cycleway/footway green corridor for the entire length of the A29 realignment. In some locations where development is only planned on one side the combined cycleway/footway will provide infrastructure that side of the development only;  Provision of verges and planting of trees between the carriageway and combined cycleway/footway; 

Page 29: Phase 1 (Northern Section) – Delivered first. Provision of new cycle and pedestrian facilities; 

Page 30; Phase 2 (Southern Section) – Construction following completion of Phase 1 (North) Provision of cycle and pedestrian facilities; and connection to a new dedicated pedestrian / cycle link planned as part of the associated strategic development; 

Page 90: Physical activity

4.8.19 The volume of cyclists and pedestrians affected by the scheme (based on informal observations) is not anticipated to be significant. However, improved cycle and pedestrian facilities will be provided by the scheme with a shared cycle/pedestrian path proposed along the route benefiting those who do use them. Appropriate crossing facilities will also be incorporated at intersections or provided by the associated strategic development. 

Page 121: Interest in promoting equestrian, cyclists and walkers use within the scope of the A29 scheme. A variety of communications tools will be used including face to face meetings, letters, press releases, website and public exhibition. (page 121)

Page 121: Disabled Group/s - Interest in creating a more accessible environment through scheme development and design. A variety of communications tools will be used including face to face 

Transport Emissions:

All of this must be set against the backcloth of the UK’s commitment to tackle climate change. The government has set “historic” targets on the climate crisis but has failed so far to come up with the policies needed to reach them, the Government’s independent advisers on theclimate have warned

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) published two progress reports on Thursday, showing the UK lagging behind on its key goal of 78% cuts to greenhouse gases by 2035 and making recommendations on how to get back on track. 

The government is to host vital UN climate talks this November in Glasgow, called Cop26, at which all countries will be asked to come up with concrete plans to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The CCC chair warned that if the UK did not have its own clear roadmap and policies, other countries would not come forward with credible plans. Greenhouse gas emissions plunged last year, but because of the impacts of the pandemic rather than policy. The committee found that while emissions from energy generation had fallen sharply in recent years, those from other key sectors – transport, buildings, industry and agriculture – were not coming down in line with the targets.

In 2020 transport accounted for 29.8% of all carbon dioxide emissions CO2. The large majority of emissions from transport are from road transport. See: 


Gear change: a bold vision for cycling and walking 

This document opens by saying: 

Actions, not just words

To make England an active travel nation, we need to take action to tackle the main barriers. We need to attract people to active travel by building better quality infrastructure, making streets better for everyone, and we need to make sure people feel safe and confident cycling. To deliver this, we need to ensure active travel is embedded in wider policy making, and want to encourage and empower local authorities to take bold decisions.


It goes on to say:

Putting cycling and walking at the heart of transport, place-making, and health policy (page 23)

Direct routes for cycling in towns and cities, physically separated from pedestrians and volume motor traffic, serving the places that people want to go. (page 16)

Cycles must be treated as vehicles, not as pedestrians. New cycle provision which involves sharing space with pedestrians, including at crossings, will no longer be funded. Again, we want many of the existing facilities to be upgraded with physical separation. Clear and regular direction signing is key to getting people walking and cycling, and to helping people understand that, particularly in urban areas, it really isn’t that far. (page 17)

For example, a small number of routes from key suburbs into a city could become bus and cycling corridors, while the other main roads remained through routes for motorists. (page 17)

Inadequate cycling infrastructure discourages cycling and wastes public money. Much of the cycling infrastructure in this country is inadequate. It reflects a belief, conscious or otherwise, that hardly anyone cycles, that cycling is unimportant and that cycles must take no meaningful space from more important road users, such as motor vehicles and pedestrians. It offers little protection from motor traffic and gives up at the points where any difficulty is faced or inconvenience to motorists is risked. These are often, of course, precisely the places where cycling provision is most needed. (page 20)

Key design principles

Cycling is or will become mass transit and must be treated as such. Routes must be designed for larger numbers of cyclists, for users of all abilities and disabilities. (page 21)

To receive Government funding for local highways investment where the main element is not cycling or walking improvements, there will be a presumption that all new schemes will deliver or improve cycling infrastructure to the new standards laid down, (Page 24)

Aspects of cost-benefit analysis may still undervalue cycle schemes’ longer term benefits, such as journey quality benefits from segregated cycle lanes and health benefits. (page 25)

While many local plans already say the right things, they are not always followed consistently in planning decisions. Developments often do little or nothing meaningful to enable cycling and walking. Sometimes they make cycling and walking provision worse. We want new developments to be easily and safely accessible and navigable by foot and bike, and to make existing cycling and walking provision better. (page 26)

Bus Back Better: national bus strategy for England


By the end of October 2021 each LTA will need to publish a local Bus Service Improvement Plan. Each plan will need to be updated annually and reflected in the authority’s Local Transport Plan  (Page 2)  

Outside London, with a few exceptions, that lesson has not been learned. For governments of all colours before this one, the bus has been last in the queue, with a fraction of the investment and political attention given to other, shinier things. Traffic has increased, but bus priority has stagnated, and some councils are actually taking bus lanes out. As services get slower, they become more expensive to run and less attractive to passengers. (page 4)

There should be significant investment in bus priority – bus lanes, at a minimum. (page 45)

We expect to see plans for bus lanes on any roads where there is frequent bus service, congestion, and physical space to install one. Bus lanes should be full-time and as continuous as possible. They should be part of a whole corridor approach, including other physical measures such as:

• Traffic signal priority;

• Bus gates, which allow buses to enter a road that prohibits access to other

traffic; and;

• Clear and consistent signage. (page 46)


Sunday, 20 June 2021

New Exceat Bridge - Cuckmere Valley

 Please would you consider writing in about this?  Thanks 

East Sussex County Council wants to install a new bridge in the Cuckmere Valley to take two-way traffic but they are not going to provide any cycle or foot paths. This valley is used by many walkers and cyclists and it would be logical to provide safe cycling and walking from Exceat up the Eastbourne road to Seaford and from the bridge up the hill towards Friston. Sadly the proposal for a new road bridge completely ignores walkers and cyclists.

If you agree with me please would you write in and object to the new bridge? .... and pass this email on to your contacts? Here's how to give your comments:

Here is the link to a planning application on the National Park website:

If this doesn't work go to:

go to "Simple Search"  then enter the planning application number:

or write to:   using the planning application number in the title of your email.

Here is a set of words you could use in an objection:

This application completely fails to provide for cycling and is poor on walking provision despite an estimated cost of around £6 Million.

ESCC is totally out of step with the need to establish safe, continuous infrastructure, particularly on a National Cycle Route. Exceat Bridge forms part of National Cycle Route 2, the long-distance South Coast Cycle Route and is part of the Avenue Verte, linking London and Paris.

ESCC's analysis on cycling is deficient. There is an attempt to justify the lack of provision for cycling, but ESCC should be implementing Government guidance on planning for cycling and walking such as: Gear Change, A bold vision for cycling and walking, Department for Transport, July 2020 and Cycle Infrastructure Design (LTN 1/20) "Guidance for local authorities on designing high-quality, safe cycle infrastructure" July 2020.

There is a lot of potential in the Cuckmere valley for family cycling. The area is a very attractive destination in itself, and should not be treated simply as a corridor for motor traffic on the A259. There are off-road cycling and walking routes in Friston Forest, along the Cuckmere and to Seaford. Plans should aim for traffic reduction and prioritising active and inclusive travel at this East Sussex beauty spot, rather than increasing road capacity which will bring yet more motor traffic. ESCC observing “lower levels of family recreational cycling" simply demonstrates the low level of cycling provision acceptable to such groups. It does not justify doing nothing. 66% of people think it's too dangerous to cycle on the roads. There is no dedicated path for cycling in these plans. If there were, it would enable families and individuals to cycle.

E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular and go up hills easily, so hilly landscape is no longer much of a deterrent for cycling, but close and fast moving motor traffic definitely is. The bridge widening and facilitation of motor vehicles will increase motor vehicle traffic speed and create more dangerous conditions for anyone cycling, walking, wheeling including bus passengers.

A signalised crossing should also be provided so that pedestrians, cyclists and all vulnerable groups can cross more safely. Longer distance motor vehicle journeys should be done on the A27. 

Road cyclists are more at risk of injury on roads with fast motor traffic, and rural roads are worse. The speed limit across Exceat Bridge should be 20 mph, and this should be made clear through road design. 30 mph limits should be extended rather than 40 mph. The National Speed Limit of 60 mph is too high. Lower speed limits, traffic calming and enforcement measures are necessary to control bad driving.

ESCC needs to radically update its approach to transport, take note of the latest guidance on Active Travel and implement a strategy to reduce motor vehicle traffic so that the very considerable disbenefits to health and the environment coming from this mode of transport are greatly decreased. There needs to be investment in provision so that people have an opportunity to experience the countryside by active, inclusive and sustainable travel without constantly having to dodge motor traffic.

Thank you 🚴🚴🚴

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: Please put the case number at the top of your email. To review the application documents go to:  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

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.


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] 
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