Norman’s Notes January 2022

Normans Notes

Planning update

Last month I wrote about the additional call for sites, as mandated by the planning inspector who examined our current District Plan in 2018. The consultation on his changes to our submission is to end this week and we expect the examiner to issue his final report in the spring.

To maintain our 5-year Housing Land Supply beyond 2023 and retain protection from developer led site selection, we need to undertake a review to extend our District Plan by 15 years to 2038.

Following publication of this work last week and after careful consideration of new information, Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards, MSDC Leader, issued the following statement:

“The Council is mandated by national policy and by the Planning Inspector who examined the current District Plan to undertake a five-year review which is now due. The results of this review have now been published so the community can understand the scale of the challenge we face in Mid Sussex”.

“It is now sensible to press the pause button given the significant issues which impact the Council’s planning. I am writing to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, calling for our housing targets to be reset to a level more consistent with our environmental and infrastructure constraints and liaising with our local MPs to make our case in Westminster. The Levelling Up White Paper will be published shortly and I hope the Government uses this as an opportunity to review the housing numbers currently set for parts of the South East such as ours”.

“It is essential that the plan maximises the amount of brownfield and windfall development that can be counted, although brownfield sites are limited in Mid Sussex. The amount of unmet need from neighbouring Councils that we are expected to take needs to be thoroughly scrutinised. The rapidly emerging issues raised by Natural England about water neutrality in West Sussex also need much greater clarity and resolution.

“Mid Sussex is a great place to live and we must keep it that way by balancing the need for new homes for local people needing to get on the housing ladder with protections for our environment and the critical improvements to our infrastructure that must always come alongside new development”.

Our MP, Mims Davies, is working closely with neighbouring colleagues to make the case to government and we await a response from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Local Government Boundary Commission Electoral Review of MSDC

Last January I wrote about the proposed Local Government Boundary Commission for England Review of Mid Sussex District Council ward boundaries.

The final report from the LGBCE is expected shortly and the May 2023 local elections will take place under these new ward boundaries and with a reduced number of councillors. MSDC suggested a reduction from 54 to 48 councillors and this was accepted in an interim report from the Commission.

As a result of the above changes, along with specific requests from several parish councils and with significant home building in some areas of Mid Sussex, we anticipate some Community Governance Reviews having to be undertaken by MSDC over the coming 12 months. The LGBCE Final Recommendations will be agreed by Parliament in the Spring.

Boundary Commission Review of Parliamentary Constituencies

The consultation results to the initial proposals are expected to be published in early spring. There will follow a six-week “secondary consultation”, which will include a number of public hearings in each region.

It is anticipated that the next General Election will be conducted under the new constituency boundaries.

MSDC’s Legal Team

The legal team continues to provide ongoing review of legislative changes as a result of Covid and provides advice to all departments of the Council. In recent months there have been particularly high demands on Environment Services and Licensing, as businesses change operations to address Covid challenges.

I am pleased that we have been able to recruit a paralegal from the University of Surrey LLB Law Course for a 12-month period. We have also been able to successfully recruit new property and contracts solicitors, but we continue to utilise the services of a locum planning solicitor. The recruitment market remains highly competitive across all sectors of employment.

Environmental Health and Building Control Teams

As mentioned above, this area of work remains very busy but is beginning to exhibit a slowdown to more normal levels.

This work includes the provision of Disabled Facilities Grants, which are validated by West Sussex County Council Occupational Therapists, before being passed to MSDC for delivery by appointed contractors.

Mims Davies MP is assisting me in lobbying government for an additional £100 000 to add to our significant budget of approximately £1,4 million. Since I have had responsibility for this area of work, the budget has increased from c£350 000 which is reflective of: our aging population, more people surviving previously life limiting conditions, or injury coupled with ever rising construction costs.

I am pleased to say that of the 1 448 food premises in Mid Sussex, 1 199 are either 4 or 5 star hygiene rated.

Building Control volumes have reduced to more manageable levels as smaller building schemes are coming forward.

Community Services, Policy and Performance

I am particularly committed to the Health and Wellbeing Service which has grown year on year since inception 10 years ago, apart from a small blip due to Covid. The Team continue to offer the following programs:

  • Healthy Weight Management Programs
  • Alcohol Management
  • Stop Smoking
  • Workplace Health
  • Back to Exercise
  • Well Balanced Falls Prevention

The Team also facilitate the Health Partnership, which is a subgroup of the Mid Sussex Partnership Board, of which I am a member.

MSDC recently completed Community and Voluntary Partnership Agreements in two lots. One is for activities for older people awarded to Age UK West Sussex, Brighton and Hove in partnership with Age UK East Grinstead. The other is for Voluntary Infrastructure Support in Mid Sussex, which was awarded to Mid Sussex Voluntary Action in partnership with Action in Rural Sussex.

Officers are currently engaged in work with West Sussex County Council to issue a tender for Community Advice Services.

Finally, work is progressing to deliver a number of community buildings across the district and deliver on park and open space improvements, the latter within Cllr John Belsey’s portfolio.

Sussex Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel

The Panel is scheduled to meet on Friday 28 January to consider, amongst other items, a report from the Budget and Precept Working Group, of which I am a member. This is a cross party group and is chaired by an independent member of the Panel.

The report summarises the issues considered by the Group and sets out its recommendations as follows:

  1. That the Panel considers Sussex Police’s strategy towards recruitment and retention, and the Commissioner’s role in developing this, at a future formal meeting
  2. That changes in the nature of crimes (and the associated changes in the demands on policing) are communicated to Sussex’s residents
  3. That the Panel writes to the Chairmen of Sussex’s Community Safety Partnerships, highlighting the relevant precept consultation finding and recommending they seek to enhance their local visibility.
  4. While recognising the significant inflationary pressures on household budgets forecast to arise in 2022/23 (which will impact Sussex’s poorest the hardest), the Group supported the £10 per annum increase, noting that, for 75% of residents, this would equate to an additional 83p a month or less.

The full papers for this meeting can be found at:

http://www2.westsussex.gov.uk/ds/cttee/pcp/pcp280122age.pdf

You can view meeting held at East Sussex County Council in Lewes here:

https://eastsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

 

Author: Lisa Thompson
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