16 Dec Norman’s Notes December 2021
As instructed, as part of the acceptance of the current District Plan for Mid Sussex in 2018, the examiner required the Council to initiate a public call for sites to be developed as homes or employment. After a process, which Cllr Rex Whittaker described as thorough and robust, Mid Sussex District Council submitted its Site Allocations Development Plan Document to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in December 2020.
Following the June 2021 public examination, the independent Inspector, who is appointed by the Secretary of State, did not propose to remove any sites. He has however suggested a reduction in the number of requested homes on one site in Ardingly. His other modifications are comparatively minor and relate to strengthening and clarifying some policies.
As required by planning law, the proposed Main Modifications, as they are called, are subject to consultation and run for 8-weeks from Monday 29th November 2021 until 23:59 on 24th January 2022. Comments must be focussed only on the suggested modifications, so the time to object to specific sites has passed.
The Inspector will consider all the comments and in due course he will provide his final report for consideration for adoption by Council in Spring 2022.
It is important to understand that inclusion of any site in the final adopted document does not mean planning permission has been granted. That process must be initiated by the landowner or persons wishing to develop a site. As part of the planning process, S106 infrastructure funding is negotiated and legally agreed between the planning authority and the applicant. Cllrs, at any level, are not involved in that negotiation, although we all ensure our wishes are clearly known to the planners.
In the case of Imberhorne Farm and Crawley Down Road sites, the planners are aware of the need to improve highways access into East Grinstead on the A264 and A22. They are aware of education and GP pressures too, although provision of all these is not within the remit of MSDC.
The National Planning Policy Framework provides rules of negotiation and how S106 funds can be combined to undertake costly infrastructure improvements. There are limits to the number of sites’ S106 can be pooled and they can only be used to mitigate impacts caused by that, or those, developments. They can not be used to improve pre-existing circumstances.
You may wish to look here: https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/planning-building/development-plan-documents/
Boundary Commission Electoral Review of MSDC
In January I wrote about the proposed Boundary Commission Review of Mid Sussex District Council ward boundaries.
Electoral Reviews are a statutory requirement and must take place regularly, to ensure councils are able to conduct their business and provide effective representation of their electorate. The last Electoral Review of Mid Sussex District Council took effect in 2002.
MSDC recommended that the number of elected councillors should be reduced from 54 to 48 from 2023. The Commission has accepted that recommendation and we await their final report as to how Mid Sussex will be divided into new wards to ensure a fair spread of voters per councillor.
Do you ever wonder what happens to all the census data that is collected every 10 years, as it was this year?
It keeps statisticians at the Office of National Statistics busy for some time and it is hoped the final output is in a useful format to both government and the private sector in identifying risks and opportunities.
Here is the link to where the ONS has got to thus far: https://www.ons.gov.uk/census/censustransformationprogramme/census2021outputs
Covid-19 business grant funding exceeded £48 million
During the course of 2021 MSDC paid Covid-19 business support grants amounting to over £48.5 million, to help local businesses through the Coronavirus pandemic.
The grants helped businesses to reopen safely after social restrictions were lifted. The community support of local businesses has helped the local economy to recover from the damage of the pandemic and the consensus seems to be that the outdoor dinning arrangements in the High Street and London Road have been a resounding success.
The EGBA and MSDC worked closely throughout the pandemic to ensure that all available grants were distributed as quickly and accurately as possible. If you haven’t been an EGBA member this year you really should consider it a valuable investment in your business success in 2022.
Gatwick Airport consultation on northern runway
As you will know, the Gatwick Airport Ltd consultation on proposals to bring the existing Northern Runway into regular use has ended.
MSDC took the opportunity to engage fully on a number of highly technical issues by appointing industry experts to consider our position. We have also worked closely with neighbouring authorities to make our concerns and expectations known to GAL.
MSDC agreed a new flexible season ticket offer and to increase parking charges in line with inflation
The decision was taken by Full Council at a meeting on Wednesday 8 December 2021.
Car park season tickets are primarily used by town centre workers and commuters. The pandemic has dramatically changed the way people work, with many more people working from home, and this has had an impact on the demand for season tickets. The number of people using town centre season tickets is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, so an additional flexible 3-day season ticket will be introduced to fit in with new working habits.
Public sector organisations across the UK are facing serious budget gaps as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In local government, the financial cost of supporting communities through the pandemic has been huge. Even with additional funding from the Government, the cost to Mid Sussex District Council was £1.9 million during the 2020/21 financial year and Covid-19 will continue to have a significant impact on the Council’s finances over the coming years.
Parking charges in Mid Sussex town centre Pay and Display car parks have remained the same for the past ten years, which means they have not kept pace with inflation or rising management and maintenance costs.
The Council is increasing car park charges to help protect essential public services and enable continued investment in the parking estate, particularly in new technologies to improve customer service.
Mid Sussex is currently one of the cheapest places to park in the area, when compared to neighbouring Council areas, and this will continue to be the case. Parking for one hour in an MSDC car park will increase from 80p to £1 and parking for two hours in an MSDC car park will cost a maximum of £1.50 compared with £1.80 in Lewes, £2 in Crawley and £2.80 in Horsham.
Cllr Stephen Hillier, MSDC Cabinet Member for Economic Growth said:
“The financial pressures created on council finances by the coronavirus pandemic are here to stay for the foreseeable future. We must plan ahead if we are to protect our services and safeguard the long-term sustainability of the Council.
“Our parking charges have remained frozen for the past decade and by bringing them back in line with inflation we will be able to support our key statutory services while also investing in the modernisation of our car parks.
“The decision to increase parking charges is not one we take lightly, but we must make some tough choices over the next few years if we are to effectively manage our budget and recover from the effects of this awful pandemic.”
MSDC moved to a new online payment system and a new automated telephone payment line
The new number for automated telephone payments is 0330 088 9360 and it went live on 9 December. Residents who make card payments via the Council’s automated telephone service are encouraged to update their records because the old number will be disconnected at the end of the month.
The process for making payments through the www.midsussex.gov.uk website will remain exactly the same, however residents will notice that things look a bit different. The payment screen will have a new design, which is predominantly white, with a drop-down box for residents to select the service they wish to pay for.
Cllr Ruth de Mierre, Cabinet Member for Customer Services said:
“If you have any concerns about the validity of our payment webpage then you can always send us a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org to double check the address details and make sure you’re on the right page.”
“All payments will continue to be processed using a secure server that encrypts payment card details as they are sent and received. For reassurance, the address for the secure site will always begin with ‘https’ and a padlock icon will be displayed on the address bar to indicate that the connection is secure.”
All that remains is for me to wish you a healthy and happy Christmas period.