26 Oct Norman’s Notes October 2021
Site Allocations Development Plan Document Update
As part of the Mid Sussex District Plan, the examiner required that Mid Sussex District Council, as the Local Planning Authority, undertake an additional “Call for Sites” to landowners.
This involves a huge amount of work in assessing all the sites submitted for potential development. This review is undertaken using a set of criteria as agreed by Council. After the review of sites, again agreed by Council, they were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate who appointed an examiner to rule on the sites put forward.
The examiner held a public enquiry lasting 10 days, before considering all the information submitted. His ruling was anticipated last month, but these are often delayed due to the very considerable number of documents to be considered.
Depending on his decisions, MSDC may need to undertake a further round of public consultation. This is quite often the case. As the District Plan is the main planning document used by the Council when considering planning applications, it is essential that the plan is robust and that it stands up to planning law scrutiny. This plan covers the period to 2031 and includes the strategy, proposed level of development and a number of planning policies.
Inclusion of a site for development in the District Plan does not constitute planning approval; that is a separate legal process.
As planning is a continuous process, MSDC will have to shortly begin the process of considering the next period to 2038.
Here is a link to the District Plan page of the MSDC website. It will give you an appreciation of how complex the process is:
Community Portfolio update
It has been a busy month, which began with me attending East Grinstead Town Council and updating them on my Community portfolio which includes community safety. It is on this basis that I sit on the Police and Crime Panel which scrutinises the policy work of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Here’s a link to the Police and Crime Panel where you can see the breadth of our work:
Some other highlights included attending a meeting of The East Grinstead Business Association Executive Committee; a loyal band of volunteers who run the association for the betterment of business in East Grinstead. The Association worked with partners in Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath, to support MSDC in ensuring that over £48million in grants was distributed speedily, efficiently and to the right people across Mid Sussex.
MSDC also held a number of workshops in conjunction with all three associations to disseminate a number of Covid guidance notes and changes to the law as the business community adjusted to new ways of doing business.
If you have attended any of these sessions and know of a business who might also benefit, then here’s a link to join the EGBA. It is vital that we have a strong association as we rebuild from the impacts of Covid: https://www.egba.co.uk/join-the-egba/
The outdoor dining changes in East Grinstead have played a huge part in maintaining the health and vitality of our High Street. I worked closely with West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member, Jacquie Russell, to achieve the necessary policy changes.
Building Control and Environmental Health, including Licensing is a part of my portfolio. Officers have been busy assisting licensed and food serving premises, as they pivoted from in house service to new ways of doing business and dealing with the annual food standards inspections. The result of which is the star rating you should see prominently displayed at all establishments.
This month I have been considering a new fees policy for the licensing of Dangerous and Wild Animals and a procedure for dealing with requests for classifications of films and the level of fees to be charged in connection with the classification of films.
My responsibility for Democratic Services includes a small team who have a statutory responsibility to undertake an annual electoral canvass each year. This year even more people have completed this exercise online, which reduces costs and drives up response rates. Our work in this regard will be completed well ahead of the deadline for submission to government.
This month there has been more work involved in contributing to the work of the Boundary Commission’s review of Mid Sussex, something which they have not done for 20 years, and of course there is the Boundary Commission’s Review of Parliamentary Constituencies to come into effect in 2023.
Cabinet met formally to review the performance of the Council during the first quarter of 2021/22, which has been good overall, with most services performing to target or very close to it. Challenges to the delivery of Council services as a result of Covid remain and we are working hard to mitigate those effects. Amongst others, reduced parking income and costly impacts of closing, reopening and introducing new safe ways to visit our three leisure centres remain extremely challenging.
As part of my responsibilities for the charity sector, I chair the Cabinet Grants Panel with the Cabinet Member for Economic Growth as Vice Chairman. Cllr John Belsey, as Cabinet Member for Environment and Service Delivery, is also a member of the panel. This month we had a short agenda to consider just five applications for the Corporate Grants Schemes which MSDC offers.
Financial cost of Covid-19 continues to impact MSDC
The Council is projecting to use a further £1 million of General Reserve funds in 2022/23 to cope with ongoing costs associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Full Council met on 29 September to discuss the Council’s latest financial position and establish clear financial planning guidelines that will help the authority through the post pandemic recovery.
The financial cost of supporting local communities during COVID-19 has been huge and, even with support from the Government, Mid Sussex District Council has had a £1.4 million deficit in 2020/21 financial year and is forecast to require an additional £2 million each year over the medium term.
Whilst the direct impacts of the pandemic are starting to reduce, the financial effects will continue to be felt for many years to come. Rent from town centre properties, parking charges and planning fees all help to fund essential Council services, but that income has significantly reduced since the pandemic and its recovery is uncertain.
The medium-term financial picture is complicated further by funding changes that are expected to be made by the Government from 2023/24 onwards. The Fair Funding review is expected to reduce funding for Councils in the South East and a Business Rate reset is likely to take funding away from areas of strong economic growth, like Mid Sussex, and redistribute it in other parts of the country.
Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards, MSDC Leader said, “We can be under no illusions, there are tough times ahead and we must take action to get the Council’s finances back into balance.
“This is not a unique situation, Councils all over the UK are facing the same issues as they battle to make ends meet in the aftermath of the pandemic. The excellent work we have done to build up our financial reserves over the past decade can help us cope in the short-term but we must face these challenges head on.
“Our mission over the next 18 months is to put this Council in the strongest financial position we can, in order to protect services for local residents and support the economic recovery.”
This has been an unusually pleasant month in that I have attended the opening of two community centres, both of which have taken considerable commitment to deliver by those involved.
The first was at Kings Weald in Burgess Hill. Back in 2010, MSDC gave Planning approval for 475 new homes on the Keymer Brick & Tile site and signed a Section 106 Agreement with the developer.
In line with Planning Policy, the development provided 143 affordable homes for local people and made financial contributions toward the provision of a range of off-site amenities such as bus stops, library services and education.
The Kings Weald development is also delivering some excellent on-site facilities. These include a large area of public open space, a retail unit, a GP surgery, a playground, a multi-use games area, a mini-soccer pitch, a new public work of art and the great new community building, for which I was delighted to attend the handing over of the keys celebration.
The building contains a hall, two large meeting rooms, a creche and café area to help to generate earned income and make the building more self-sufficient in the future.
Age UK West Sussex Brighton and Hove will be leasing the building from the Council, to run an intergenerational community hub. Age UK will provide a dedicated team of volunteers and paid staff, who will manage a diverse and accessible programme for local people of all ages.
Although the building is not scheduled to open until Spring 2022, there have already been lots of enquiries about bookings for groups wanting to run activities like choirs and brownies, dance, drama and fitness classes and children’s parties.
The second building opening was for the Ansty Community Centre, which contains a new village hall and is home to the local cricket club. It has all the associated bar, catering and meeting rooms for a modern, thriving cricket club with facilities for both male and female changing rooms.
The cricket club also serves as home to a growing team of disabled cricket players. I enjoyed meeting some of them and hearing about their enjoyment of being able to play cricket and socialise with other people.
Mid Sussex parks fly the flag as some of the country’s best
Four parks in Mid Sussex will proudly fly the prestigious Green Flag in 2021/22, a special year for the scheme as it marks its Silver Jubilee.
East Court and Ashplats Wood in East Grinstead, Beech Hurst Gardens and Victoria Park in Haywards Heath and St Johns Park in Burgess Hill are four of 2,127 green spaces across the UK celebrating success.
The Green Flag Award scheme, managed under license by Keep Britain Tidy, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the UK and around the world. When a Green Flag is flying, it is a sign to the public that a park or open space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.
Research carried out by YouGov for Keep Britain Tidy over the summer, shows just how important parks are to the British public. It reveals that having access to a quality park or green space helped improve people’s mental health with almost six in ten (59%) saying they felt less stressed when using the park and 55% saying they felt more positive in general. That’s why it’s important that parks are managed to the Green Flag Award standard.
The survey also showed that more than half of people (53%) visit a park or green space at least once a week and more than nine in ten (93%) think that parks and green spaces are important to their local community.
Cllr John Belsey, Cabinet Member for Environment and Service Delivery said, “It’s wonderful news that Beech Hurst Gardens, Victoria Park, St Johns Park, East Court and Ashplats Wood have all retained their Green Flag status for another year.
“Parks and open spaces have always had a special place in our hearts but the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures we have experienced have made us appreciate them even more.
“Huge credit must go to our parks and open spaces team who have worked so hard over the past 12 months to manage these parks to such a high standard and ensure they are safe and accessible for everyone to enjoy.”
Cllr Helen Farren, the Amenities and Tourism chair at EGTC said, “It’s great news that Ashplats Wood has retained its Green Flag status. We are privileged to have such a beautiful green open space on our doorstep that we’re able to enjoy all year round.”
Brooklands Park improvements masterplan
A little while ago preliminary work was undertaken to gather user views on how Brooklands Park is used by local people in the town centre. It’s the land at the bottom of Dallaway Gardens and Orchard Way. It stretches through to Brooklands Way, behind Sainsburys.
The emerging masterplan and report are published here: https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/media/7346/691_brooklands_park_masterplan_report_update_211018.pdf
Scroll down to see the emerging master plan and then click here to have your say: https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/forms/?form=48684&w=2
Gatwick 12-week consultation on plans to bring its existing Northern Runway into routine use
This consultation runs from 9 September 2021 to 1 December 2021.
Her’s a link to take part: www.gatwickairport.com/futureplans
Please do make your views known as there will be impacts on our local environment, road and rail networks and employment, especially in Crawley, but the wider area too.
£5.9b investment for the NHS
It has been reported that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will announce that NHS England will be receiving £5.9bn to reduce the backlog of those waiting for scans, tests and other medical appointments.
More than 5.5 million people are waiting for NHS appointments, investigations and treatment; therefore, this money will be used on infrastructure and equipment to improve efficiency. It will include £2.9bn for diagnostic scanning equipment such as CT, MRI and ultrasound scanners. This will enable faster diagnosis and treatment.
It is said that increased taxes and National Insurance contributions will be put towards the new spending and that from 2022 the Health and Social Care Levy will be used to tackle staffing issues. There is a huge recruitment drive underway to attract more doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to the NHS.
In addition, £1.5bn will be spent on hospital beds and surgical hubs, each with four or five operating theatres and £2.1bn is to go towards improving IT and digital connectivity such as faster broadband and software.
You may remember that several years ago MSDC embarked on an ambitious super-fast fibre spine stretching from Brighton through to Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and across to Crawley before branching north to London and west to Chichester. Additional funding is being sought to link East Grinstead from both Crawley and the south, at Ardingly.