Louise Goldsmith, West Sussex County Council leader, is quoted under the headline ‘£676 million infrastructure boost’ that ‘For West Sussex to continue to be a great place to live and work means attracting high quality jobs, building more affordable homes and providing the best quality services’.
Whilst I would not directly disagree with this statement, I am concerned that there are other things that make our county ‘a great place to live and work’ which may well be threatened by releasing greenfield sites for industrial, office, retail, housing and transport developments. The article makes no reference to the principle of ‘sustainable development’which is now fundamental to consideration of planning applications. West Sussex of course has many areas of designated Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as the South Downs National Park and, of course, the coastline. Just as importantly, the county has many areas of highly valued open space and countryside criss-crossed by public footpaths which are enjoyed for their recreational value by thousands of people on a daily basis – even if these areas are not designated in such auspicious terms. The article seems to makes no attempt to balance the three strands of sustainable development - environmental, social and economic ; the ‘golden thread’ which I know is supposed to guide local Development Control Committees in their consideration of planning applications.
I was also interested to read that our Conservative county council is happy to borrow over £170 million to help to finance these infrastructure developments because ‘the financial conditions for borrowing are favourable with low interest rates’. This is not the message that emanates from Conservative central government – indeed other political parties are roundly criticised for suggesting just that!
Readers may also be interested that Labour Crawley county councillor and borough councillor Michael Jones was praised by a Horsham resident (C. Morris) in a recent edition of West Sussex County Times for persuading the county council to withdraw its preference for a new railway station in North Horsham rather than at Kilnwood Vale. ‘Cllr Jones was present, well-briefed and prepared to argue with logic, and look after the interests of his constituents’. What more can you ask?
Councillor Geraint Thomas, Crawley Borough Council (Lab, Northgate)
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