Build in resilience to extreme weather

Heavy showers are having an impact on our roads so take care, flooding and drain covers blown out (this one by the entrance to Worlds End Park on Valebridge Road), and flooding in Freeks Lane and nearby houses in Dumbrills Close, as well as the previous mentioned flooding at Wivelsfield Station. Some of these issues are just the effect of heavy rain, no doubt made more extreme due to global warming, but it also highlights shortcomings in drainage infrastructure which needs to be remedied, and the need to plan for and build in more resilience to extreme weather. A particular issue is the poor drainage in Freeks Lane which has to cope with water flowing down Mill Road and swamping householders in Freeks Lane itself, local County Councillor Stuart Condie is pressing West Sussex County Council to take action to remedy this.

Wivelsfield Station approach flooded again

Flooding on Leylands Road at the west side of Wivelsfield Station has been a longstanding issue, with accumulated water after heavy rain leading to commuters being drenched as they walk along Leylands Road towards the station, due to spray from vehicles, indeed accumulated water has at times topped the pavements. A key cause has been water flowing from a spring that develops after heavy rain on the south side of the road but now the new paths just being completed under the Place and Connectivity Programme channel increased water volumes to this point.

A new culvert on the south side of Leylands Road has been excavated as part of the current works, but it appears the drains under the Leylands Road have been left untouched. This may be why the two parallel road drains on Leylands Road are currently blocked (which I have reported) and with the recent rainfall the road is currently flooded. I have asked for urgent clarification on how this additional drainage will be managed to resolve this problem.

Burgess Hill litter pick

We participated in the Great British Clean Up this morning organised by Keep Britain Tidy. The Town Council has arranged seven public clean-ups between 28 May and 13 June, covering your nominated ‘Grot spots’, details here. All equipment will be provided by Burgess Hill Town Council and clean-ups will be led by Ward Councillors.  Thanks to Anne Eves and everyone else who participated in the Leylands clean-up this morning, and I would particularly highlight the need for dog walkers to take their poop bags home if they don’t pass a bin.

Action needed on empty residential home

Ernest Kleinwort Court in Oakenfield closed in 2018 and has been left unused since, despite being a modern purpose-built residential facility built with charitable funds, I have raised concerns about the delay in reusing the site with the Disabilities Trust and have been told that proposals for the site will be brought forward shortly – I look forward with interest to see if promises that the site would continue to provide services for people with complex disabilities are met.

Action on Marle Place footpath

Pleased that after I raised the issue, that the District Council has clarified with the contractors to ensure the footpath through Marle Place is kept open as far as possible whilst the current work takes place, they have apologised to those inconvenienced when it was closed off over the weekend.  The route will need to be closed again this coming Wednesday morning until mid/late afternoon to allow for the final surfacing to be made. I understand the Council has reminded the contractors to ensure that clear closure signs are put in the appropriate places so people can divert before reaching the point of closure. The work is taking place to increase the width of the path and is part of the Place and Connectivity Programme to improve foot and cycle paths in the town.

Moss away?

Following concerns that I raised about the state of some of our smaller play areas I have been reassured by the District Council that work to improve some of our smaller play areas like Forge Way is underway, the extended closure due to the pandemic left it and some other play areas covered in moss and with minor repairs needed.  I understand the moss and toadstools has been treated and the hard areas will be swept this coming week .

Freeks Lane tidy up

Its good to see resident efforts to tidy up Freeks Lane, Liberal Democrat candidate Stuart Condie and myself took some time off from County Council election campaigning to clear up some plastic netting which was apparently left by contractors several years ago and become intertwined with vegetation, so we put some time into removing it this morning. Where possible we would prefer to hold the relevant authority to account but given the time that has passed this is not always possible.

All play areas are back open but did they have to close at all?

It’s excellent news to hear that all our playgrounds are reopening but why did Mid Sussex District Council interpret government guidelines so differently to their colleagues in Horsham?  Does cleaning playgrounds once a week really make them Covid secure? Did they need to be kept shut in the first place, and was £44,000 wasted on extra cleaning costs?  

Freedom of Information requests submitted to Mid Sussex District Council and Horsham District Council have revealed two starkly different approaches to ensuring children’s playgrounds were ‘covid secure’ when Government advice allowed them to be reopened following the end of the first lockdown in July 2020.

Horsham District Council reopened all fifty-two of its play areas last summer, spent no money on additional cleaning, and just £100 on signage.a Other councils have taken a similar approach.

Mid Sussex District Council decided upon a very different course of action. In the response to the Freedom of Information request they say, “We undertook an initial cleanse prior to opening each facility in July 2020, and since then have carried out a weekly cleanse of all play areas and outdoor gyms that have re-opened. In addition, we have purchased and installed permanent A3-sized signage at each entrance point, providing guidance on social distancing, hand hygiene and the safe use of the facilities.”b The cost of this up to the week commencing 25 January 2021 was £44,152. When asked how those costs were arrived at, Mid Sussex District Council responded, “The costs were obtained from the Council’s existing cleansing contractor, so were based on a commercial assessment of the operational requirements associated with a weekly deep clean.” b

However, Mid Sussex District Council only opened 57 of its 123 play areas last summer despite Liberal Democrats raising concerns about the impact of keeping so many closed, and stated on its website that it would be too expensive to open them all stating that it would cost more than £220,000 a year to clean them regularly to ensure that they are COVID safe.  A weekly cleaning regime was not required, as demonstrated by the approach of Horsham District Council and other local authorities. In addition there is no evidence that this is more effective in reducing coronavirus transmission than no cleaning regime given the number of people who would use the playgrounds between cleans.

Play Charity, Play England wrote to all local authorities in England in January 2021 asked that all playgrounds remain open “to reduce the catastrophic impact of COVID and lockdown on children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing”.c Their letter also highlighted the impact of playground closures on the most disadvantaged children – those with limited space at home, no access to a garden or disabled children – to which access to these playgrounds are “often a lifeline”. Mid Sussex District Council failed to carry out an equality impact assessment to understand the impact of their decision to close play areas on the children in our community.

Residents in Burgess Hill have been especially hard hit by Mid Sussex District Council’s decision to keep over half of its playgrounds closed. When the location of the closed playgrounds is plotted on to a mapd, it is clear that the playgrounds in Burgess Hill were much more likely to be kept shut with 79% shut in Burgess Hill, 50% shut Haywards Heath, 36% shut in East Grinstead and 19% shut in the outlying villages.