Potholes – 83 years before the average road is resurfaced!

Potholes are a daily annoyance to us, however until a pothole is at least 4cm deep or 10 cm wide it is not considered of sufficient priority for a repair to take place – you can report them here.  The reason we have so many potholes and why the situation is getting worse is the lack of ongoing road maintenance, government funding to councils in England for road maintenance in 2021/22 was cut by £390 million on the previous year.  

As West Sussex County Council’s Director of Highways acknowledged in 2020, there had been ‘a significant reduction’ in the Conservative Council’s highways budget over the last ten years.  The £17 million earmarked for road investment by West Sussex County Council in 21/22 is a fraction of the funding required when the average frequency of road resurfacing is every 83 years, which means the situation will only get worse with irregular repairs increasing the likelihood of potholes developing. 

The real culprit is Conservative cuts nationally to local government funding, Liberal Democrats say stop spending on grandiose new road schemes and instead spend the money on road maintenance.  Even the Conservative candidate in the current Dunstall Ward by-election is appealing for more funding, the question is will our local MP Mims Davies and her government listen?

District Council overpromised on gigabit fibre but its potential remains

Hopes of the early adoption of a gigabit capable Full Fibre digital network have been dashed, as it seems it will still be some time before the service will be commercialised for small businesses and domestic residents.  The announcement in 2020 that the District Council would “deliver gigabit speed broadband to more than 6,400 homes in Mid Sussex” has yet to materialise despite the Council announcing last May that the “network in Burgess Hill is now ready to use and will soon bring dramatically improved broadband connections to homes and businesses within the town”.

Although the bare bones of the network have been successfully delivered, and ‘dark fibre’ connections will be made available to provide broadband, network services and digital services, wider use is dependent upon operators assessing a business case to make the required investment to provide a service for small businesses and domestic consumers.

The Council now says the completion of the fibre link between Brighton and Burgess Hill, and for its Rural project, will be tested and completed in Spring 2022, and that connections will be available “based on suitable demand in each area from Autumn 2022.”  Businesses and domestic consumers can register an interest at https://cni.coop/ and this is particularly important as the level of interest will be used to assess potential demand.

We are lucky in Burgess Hill to already have fibre broadband delivered by Virgin Media, however the new network has the potential to bring faster, cheaper broadband connections, not just in Burgess Hill but Haywards Heath and some surrounding rural areas.  The Council needs to be careful not to over promise on the benefits to end users, as the ultimate service delivery is dependent upon its commercial partners, but I look forward to the expected benefits of this project being finally realised.

Call for new Leylands Road/Mill Road junction crossing

Parents at Sheddingdean Primary School have started a petition for a pedestrian crossing at the junction between Mill Road and Leylands Road. Crossing at peak times is a nightmare and speeding cars can also be an issue when traffic is lighter. This has been made worse with the advent of the Lidl store as well as increased traffic from housing development. The junction is a key crossing point for those visiting the new store, as well as school children and those walking to town, and can also be a nightmare for cars trying to exit from Mill Road or Freeks Lane at busy periods, so a traffic light controlled crossing would also benefit road users.

Cllr Stuart Condie, our local County Councillor is taking this forward with the County Council and the petition provides a valuable indicator of the strength of local opinion in support of the proposal. Sign the petition here.

SID is back!

The Town Council’s Speed Indicator Display (SID) is back in action after getting new batteries. Complaints about speeding traffic on Sussex Way were raised with me at the Town Council’s Councillor Surgery, and it has now been temporarily installed to monitor traffic speeds on Sussex Way and deter speeding. This is a problem for pedestrians trying to cross Sussex Way between Howard Avenue and Saxby Road and I have asked Liberal Democrat County Councillor Stuart Condie to look into improved road safety measures. The SID is available for use across Burgess Hill – contact the Town Council if you have any suggestions on where to place it in future.

SID is currently in Sussex Way

Maple Drive Fly tipping

I have asked the District Council to remove the fly tipped planks, which were left on the footpath between 183 and 185 Maple Drive. Fly tipping can be a single bin-bag of rubbish to large quantities of waste, but is illegal and costs us all money to remove as council tax payers. If you see someone fly tipping on public land, the Council will investigate and issue fixed penalty notices to offenders, email wastematters@midsussex.gov.uk with details and photographic evidence.

A few weeks ago I highlighted this fly tipped rubble below, which was dumped in the Cyprus Road car park, an all too often occurrence, if you see something suspicious don’t approach the culprits, but do try to get photographic evidence of anyone involved.

Waitng for gigabit capable Full Fibre broadband

At Wednesday’s Council meeting I raised the issue of when local small businesses and domestic customers might get access to the much-trumpeted gigabit capable Full Fibre digital network.  The District Council has successfully obtained millions in funding from the Government to install the infrastructure to provide full fibre broadband, and for Burgess Hill this was completed last May, but it seems the commercial roll out which originally promised for last summer has been delayed. High speed broadband will bring significant benefits for local businesses as well as consumers and I have asked the Council to confirm when the service will be available.

Mid Sussex budget scrutiny

Tonight’s Mid Sussex scrutiny meeting considered the Council’s Corporate Strategy and Budget for 2022/23, giving all the uncertainties around the effect of Covid, the Council has rightly delayed taking significant action to remedy an emerging deficit (funded from reserves) projected to increase from 545k this year to 1,757k next year, particularly due to government funding changes.  Another key issue is the cost of subsidising the leisure centres whilst they recover from the effects of the pandemic.  

I raised specific issues around the need to consider demands on social housing, the relative lack of the urgency dealing with fly tipping, and need to give more priority to those who contact the Council by email or using e-forms.  I also raised the lack of any measures of economic health for the towns of Mid Sussex as this should be a priority for the Council.

I was pleased to get a commitment from CEO Kathryn Hall to include a sustainability appraisal in the Council’s assessment of capital projects after I highlighted the issue. Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Alison Bennett and other opposition councillors highlighted the need for the Conservative council to take more account of sustainability issues.

Litter pickup

Litter picking today with a bag of rubbish collected from the bottom end of the footpath from Wivelsfield Station and some larger items reported to the District Council for collection – responding to a Fix My Street complaint. Managed to also collect some dumped brambles on Maple Drive. New litter picker put to use was broken in ten minutes (!) so in future will borrow one from the Town Council which can provide resources for community litter picks.

Hawthorns Play Area finally to open

A reopening date for the Hawthorns Play Area has now been set for Friday 15th October, with the playground open to the public in the late afternoon. It is disappointing this is 12 weeks after the Council cancelled the previous opening date on 22nd July due to the developer Countryside Properties not having completed the work to the required standard. Residents have had to endure being able to view the play equipment all through the summer whilst waiting for issues with the ground condition and grass cover to be addressed. This has taken far too long, and I have received a commitment the Council will apply the learning from this debacle to aim to ensure it does not reoccur on future schemes.

Our planet is precious, we all need to help save it

Soaring temperatures worldwide, flash flooding and increasing numbers of wildfires. These are just a few ecological disasters we are seeing as a result of climate change. It is painfully obvious we must act. Locally we have seen extreme weather events such as with recent flooding.

We need to be ambitious. It is only by working with every single nation across the globe that we can hope to take on this challenge. Climate inaction is simply unacceptable. As president of COP 26, we should lead by example. The UK can lead the world in climate policy. We are hosting the UN Climate Conference (COP 26) in November 2021. We must lead the world to do what is required: limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. However, the Conservatives are delaying action on climate change.

They have failed to provide us with a plan to reach net zero emissions. We have watched as they have slashed incentives to switch to electric cars or upgrade homes for greater energy efficiency. Climate inaction is simply unacceptable. As president of COP 26, we should lead by example. Coming out of COP26, we want to see a major shift in energy consumption from fossil fuels to green alternatives.

Locally Mid Sussex District Council needs to lead the way and set its own targets for zero-carbon and to encourage and promote the adoption by businesses and residents of their own targets. We have a District Plan that allows developers to get away with minimal sustainable design requirements and build new houses and offices without targets to reduce carbon emissions or provide onsite renewable energy generation. We need more detailed planning guidance to require developers to estimate baseline energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions, and to commit to emission savings from energy efficiency measures and renewable energy micro-generation incorporated into the development.

At Liberal Democrat conference today, our members voted overwhelmingly in favour of protecting our planet. Here is what we want to do:
Lead with ambition and help all countries aspire to the 1.5 degrees limit for global warming
Keeping our 100bn a year pledge to low and middle-income countries to help with decarbonisation
Increase taxes and VAT on carbon-based activities such as first and business class flights. This will act as an incentive to switch to cleaner alternatives.
Introduce a protection and compensation package for those countries most likely to be worst affected by climate change.
Call for international agreements to phase out coal and protect our forests and work with the EU Carbon Trading System
Read our new policy on COP26
Read our new policy on Carbon Pricing
Using carbon has a price. We want to ensure that the price is fair to individuals and businesses and targets the biggest polluters.
We cannot continue as we are. The damage to our planet has already been done. We must all change our behaviour, change our economy and save our environment.