PATCHAM COUNCILLORS CONCERN AT CONDITION OF SPORTS FIELDS FOLLOWING TRAVELLER SITE DEVELOPMENT

New Horsdean traveller site

New Horsdean traveller site

Vale Avenue Green

Vale Avenue Green


With the imminent opening of the Horsdean traveller site and the spending of £2.4m to create the perfect environment, Patcham Ward Councillors are very concerned at the condition of the sports field and the adjoining green space at Horsdean Recreation Ground.

To facilitate the construction of the traveller site, wide, deep excavations were dug to lay drains and water supplies through Horsdean Recreation Ground and the neighbouring green space in Vale Avenue in which trees had been planted. It was promised to residents and the local councillors that the reinstatement work would take a month to complete after which “nobody would know the work had ever happened”.

Seven months later, the restoration of the sports field and adjoining green space are still unfinished and Councillors have now been told that there is no money left in the project budget to reinstate the damaged areas to the high quality provided on the traveller site and that it will be a year or more before the disturbed areas will recover.

Cllr Lee Wares said “after months of discussions, debates and procrastination, we now know that there is no money left in the project to properly deal with the areas. It was promised that reinstatement would be such that everything would be left as it was found. This is no longer the case and it will be a further year or more before the areas even begin to return to the condition in which they were before”.

Cllr Wares added “we are told that reseeding the sports field is the best solution and that turf wouldn’t work, this is despite the traveller site having lush lawns laid ready for immediate use. We are told that pink large aggregate used for sub bases on roads is suitable for the dug up paths, in comparison with the properly laid out tarmac paths that have been laid across the traveller site”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said “it beggar’s belief that millions of pounds have been spent with no provision for proper reinstatement in the areas outside the travellers site. The new traveller site is perfect, manicured and groomed ready for occupation. As against this, Horsdean Recreation Ground is used by thousands of residents and hundreds of children and adults playing sports and has effectively been turned into waste land. It has taken years of hard work by Cityparks and volunteers to create safe and suitable playing fields at Horsdean Recreation Ground but we are now back to square one”.

Cllr Carol Theobald commented “it’s a real kick in the teeth for the residents who not only paid for the development through their taxes but invested their goodwill in accommodating the works for the benefit of the development. This is not the result that they or we expected. I hope that this situation will be reconsidered and what local residents were promised will be delivered”.

Conservatives gain Council support for Armed Forces “Count Them In” campaign

Cllr. Ann Norman

Cllr. Ann Norman

Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council have managed to obtain cross-party support for the Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland Count Them In campaign. The campaign calls for additional questions to be included in the next Census in 2021 which will capture much needed data on the Armed Forces Community – particularly Reservists and Veterans – who are otherwise largely hidden from official statistics.

This information will help local authorities, charities and statutory bodies to more accurately identify areas where service life presents a disadvantage, which will in turn enable the Government, councils and the NHS to better allocate resources and deliver on their Armed Forces Covenant commitments.

Conservative Group Lead on Armed Forces Issues and member of the Brighton & Hove Civil Military Partnership Board, Cllr. Ann Norman, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve managed to get cross party agreement to support this campaign. I brought it forward, having been approached by the Royal British Legion, because I agree with their assessment that there is a glaring gap in knowledge about this often hidden community and the problems they face. It is really not right that we have more information about Jedi Knight followers in the UK than we do about the Armed Forces Community. The more councils that sign up to support this campaign the more likelihood we have of succeeding in getting these vitally important questions onto the 2021 Census return.”

Conservatives respond to Labour’s Library Scaremongering

Conservative Group Leader, Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald, has responded to an attack from Council Leader, Warren Morgan on his blog, about the Group’s handling of Labour’s proposed closure of Hove Library.

Cllr. Theobald said: “Resorting to threats and personal insults is frankly not the conduct you would expect from the Leader of an important City Council, and it damages Brighton & Hove’s reputation with the outside world. I’m afraid that these are the tactics of a desperate man who has completely failed to make his case for selling the Carnegie building and building an extension on the gardens surrounding Hove Museum. Indeed, with just days to go before the decision is to be made, we have yet to see the final report.

He is now trying to frighten residents by threatening to close up to 12 branch libraries across the city. Let me make it abundantly clear to Cllr. Morgan – the Conservative Group will not allow this to happen.

Indeed, his argument is coming crumbling down around him. At the very same meeting as the Hove Library issue is due to be debated, we are being asked to endorse a report that shows that the Council underspent its Budget by £4.8 million last year, despite dire warnings from Cllr. Morgan that the Council was on the verge of going bankrupt and faced a deficit of well over £8 million.

This surplus of £4.8 million would be enough to keep the Carnegie Building open for another 30 years!

And we must ask ourselves why Cllr. Morgan has chosen this moment to reveal that he has been having talks with a cinema chain about selling them the Carnegie Building? Especially when he knows full well that officers have advised that this building is entirely unsuitable for a cinema.

I have always had a completely open mind on this issue. My only criteria was that the residents of Hove should not receive a diminished library service as a result of any changes. If Cllr. Morgan had come to me in the first instance when the plans were still on the drawing board – rather than being presented as a fait accompli – we could have thrashed out a scheme that we could all have supported.

We have always been willing to support genuine innovation and radical thinking in order to provide Council services that deliver the best outcome for the residents of this city. We will not however be blackmailed into supporting something that has clearly not been thought through properly – particularly when it means selling off an iconic building that the residents of Hove love and are genuinely proud of.”

Let’s showcase the city on Patcham’s Gateway Roundabout

Patcham Ward Councillors are delighted to learn that Highways England is open to ideas for the future look of the Patcham A23 roundabout.

In response to an initial letter from the Ward Councillors, Highways England have responded to the Council saying that they want to start discussions about the future of the roundabout which was cleared of vegetation in February for safety reasons.

Cllr Lee Wares said “An opportunity exists for the ugliest roundabout in Sussex to be transformed into something more stunning or iconic that reflects the nature of our great City and we are urging the Labour Administration to grasp it with both hands. Of course there will be constraints and regulations to abide by but why not, for example, hold a competition for the children of our City to produce ideas to express what they think Brighton and Hove means to them?”

Cllr Wares added “So much emphasis is placed on public art and displays in the City and making our seafront attractive and quite rightly so but, let’s begin the experience here in Patcham”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said “Hundreds of thousands of people pass this roundabout and I would hope that Highways England would agree to sponsors for the site to help fund something exciting and imaginative. We should not let this opportunity pass us by and end up with a wasteland covered in weeds or a few shrubs”.

Cllr Carol Theobald commented “I’m pleased that Highways England has recognised the importance of this site and are open to discussions. However, it’s not before time – we contacted them about two months ago try and get something done and have had to chase it up on several further occasions.”

Conservatives Retain Strong Council Leadership Team

Geoffrey

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald (Patcham Ward) has been re-elected unopposed for a sixth year as Conservative Group Leader for the forthcoming municipal year at the Group’s AGM this week.

Existing Group Deputy Leaders Dee Simson (Woodingdean Ward) and Andrew Wealls (Central Hove Ward) were also re-elected unopposed, Andrew for a second year and Dee for a fourth year in a row.

Andrew has been the Group’s Finance Spokesman for the last year and Dee is the Group’s long-standing Community and Voluntary Sector lead and is highly respected in the sector.

Andrew

The Conservative Group is the Official Opposition on Brighton & Hove City Council, holding 20 out of the 54 seats. Cllr. Theobald became Group Leader following the local elections in May 2011.

Cllr. Theobald said: “I am delighted that my colleagues have given me the honour of leading the Conservative Group for another year and I would like to thank them for their support. I have a united team behind me, including two excellent deputies, and our new intake of councillors is already making a big impression.”

Cllr. Wealls said: “I would like to thank my colleagues for their support. We have had a great deal of success this last year with the Labour Administration now following our lead in starting the process of reform and modernisation of many of the Council’s services.”

Dee

Cllr. Simson added: “It is great to be given another vote of confidence by my Group colleagues and I am looking forward to the year ahead. With all the changes coming in across the Council we shall certainly be aiming to keep the minority Labour Administration on its toes.”

Patcham & Hollingbury Councillors Welcome Rubbish News

Cityclean have advised that Highways England have agreed to them having night time lane closures on the A23 and A27 to pick up all the rubbish on the verges. This will happen on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th April. Litter picking will take place on the A23 between Patcham roundabout and the pillars and on the A27 between Falmer and Southwick tunnel. It will also include all the slip roads.

Cllr Lee Wares said “this is very welcome news and has been needed for a long time. As a lot of the major roads pass through Patcham Ward, you can imagine the volume of complaints and enquiries we receive. Not only is rubbish extremely unsightly, it can be a significant risk to motorists with debris and rubbish capable of blowing around in the wind. One shudders at the thought of a piece of plastic wrapping across somebody’s windscreen at 70mph”.

Cllr Carol Theobald added “we have raised this many times in the past and I’ll be delighted once it has all been cleaned up. The litter is not a good advert for the City and whereas we would like this done more frequently, a big clear up before the summer season is excellent. Hopefully Patcham roundabout will be included”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald commented “I commend Cityclean and Highways England for working together on this and arranging the work. Lane closures on major roads are not easy to organise but very necessary to keep our workforce and roads users safe. We know there is a degree of inconvenience to motorists, but at night it should be minimal and I think we would all accept it will be a small price to pay to get the gateway roads to our City litter free”.

Conservatives Criticise Labour Motion on Retail Sector

The Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council has criticised a Motion to be proposed by the Labour Group at this week’s Council meeting as ridiculous and cynical.

Conservative Finance Spokesperson, Councillor Andrew Wealls said “It is ludicrous that Labour has called on the Government to better support the retail sector when small businesses themselves have welcomed the tax reforms and raised threshold for business rate relief announced in the Budget.

“Not only that but the government’s commitment to raise the National Living wage and basic rate Income Tax threshold represents a pay rise of over a thousand pounds per year for full time minimum wage earners in the retail sector. Additionally the government is investing another £25m in recruiting young people into apprenticeships and is committed to delivering three million apprentices by 2020.”

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, Leader of the Conservative Group commented “Four years ago Labour Councillor Gill Mitchell produced a report on how the council could better support the retail sector. They have done nothing since then. We suggest the Labour administration works hard and utilises the Council’s own localism powers to better support the local retail sector, instead of pointing the finger at central government and cynically asking them to do things they have already done.”

He added “If Labour is serious about helping to increase trade and opportunity for our city’s shops then why did they oppose our Motion to offer free parking before Christmas which would have undoubtedly encouraged more people to venture into the city and spend in our local shops? This on top of making it more difficult for people to park with the hugely flawed pay-by-phone system and increasing parking charges suggests quite the opposite that Labour does not care about our local retail sector at all.”

ENDS

Notes
Councillor Theobald’s comments refer to the findings of the 2012 ‘Support of the Retail Sector’ Report of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel, chaired by Councillor Mitchell which are yet to be implemented. Recommendations included, among others “increasing the flexibility of [the Council’s] approach to parking, utilising special offers and targeted support through parking regulations to promote specific retail areas”; “developing and implementing a Citywide Retail Strategy”; and “exploiting new ‘localism’ powers to support retailers through increased flexibility and responsiveness.”

The Labour and Cooperative Group Notice of Motion on the Retail Sector seeks agreement to “request the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills urging the Government to give us every assistance in supporting the retail sector in Brighton and Hove, including having a strategic approach nationally to improving wages and terms and conditions in the retail sector, encouraging career progression in retail and ensuring the creation of high quality apprenticeships within retail.”

Patcham Councillors Reverse Hollingbury Library Proposals

As part of the library service redesign proposal, Hollingbury Library was due to be closed with the children’s collection going to Hollingbury Children’s Centre and everybody else needing to go to Patcham library. It was proposed that some senior and less mobile residents might receive a home delivery service.

During the consultation process, Patcham Councillors Lee Wares and Geoffrey and Carol Theobald suggested that as well as the plan for the Children’s Centre, the library service should consider using The Old Boat Corner Community Centre just down from the existing library.

It has today been published that Hollingbury will now retain a full library service across the Children’s and Community Centres. The proposal also means that computers will be available for the public to use, a full collection of books for all age groups remains in Hollingbury and that a library service will now be increased from 3 days a week to 7 days a week. Library staff will also be available one day a week to support volunteers whereas before, there would be no staff.

Cllr Lee Wares said “This is great news for Hollingbury residents. Not only has a full service been retained but accessibility has been increased by an extra 4 days. Also, by sharing with the Old Boat Corner Community Centre, residents will have access to a café and comfortable space and more pleasant surroundings”. He added “What better way to visit the library especially in the summer, every day of the week; you can choose a book, get a coffee and sit by the park”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald commented “We are delighted that the Council listened to our proposal and thank them. As we have said many times before, reducing costs doesn’t have to mean cutting services. With innovation and collaborative working with the community, not only is it possible to retain a full service but in this case, offer a better and increased one”.

Cllr Carol Theobald said “We very much appreciate the support of the management team at the Old Boat Corner Community Centre who have welcomed our idea from the start with great energy and commitment. It did concern us that our senior and less mobile residents would suffer the most from the original proposal. Now we have a better solution that will in turn provide opportunity for access to more information, better facilities and ability to socialise”.

The Hollingbury Children’s Centre is also to retain the present level of health and care services for families in the area with the added benefit of a library service aimed at children, parents and carers. The new proposal also means that Patcham library will increase its opening times from 3 full days and 2 half days to 7 full days a week.

The proposal goes before Economic and Culture Committee on the 10th March and then to Full Council for Councillors to agree its adoption.

AGREEMENT REACHED ON WITHDEAN PUPPY PARK

It had been decided by the Council to remove the fence in Withdean Park to reduce costs in the long-term. A petition was started that has now achieved over 1,900 signatures campaigning for the Council to consider other initiatives that would allow the fence to stay.

The fence around a section of the park, originally to protect young lilacs from rabbits, has been used for years by owners of dogs, especially those in training. It has also been a place where families with young children and puppies have been able to enjoy a space in safety, knowing that the children and dogs cannot stray too far away.

Patcham Ward Councillors have been working with campaigners and the Council to broker an agreement whereby campaigners can take responsibility for the fence. Campaigners had offered to raise the funds and provide the workforce.

Cllr. Lee Wares said “Agreement has now been reached between the campaigners and the Council for the fence to remain. Campaigners will raise the funds and work on the fence and the Council will provide supervision through the Ranger teams.”

Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald added “This is a good compromise for those that want to use the park with the benefit of the fence and for the Council who can retain a facility that it promotes, whilst not having to direct funds towards its maintenance”.

Cllr. Carol Theobald commented “We are pleased that the Administration kept an open mind to this matter and for Cllr Mitchell in agreeing to support a project where residents can have a greater say and involvement over the park; a principle we have been promoting for a long time”.

Patcham Conservatives seek A23/A27 roundabout reassurance

Patcham Ward Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council have written to Highways England asking what their plans are to improve the look of the large A23/A27 roundabout following recent vegetation clearance work.

The tall and dense vegetation was cleared in order to improve sight lines, and hence road safety, for drivers approaching the roundabout but nothing has been put in its place.

Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald said: “We fully support the efforts of Highways England to improve safety for drivers at this roundabout, which must be just about the busiest in the city. However, we would like to know what their plans are now to make this an attractive gateway to our city rather than the ugly abandoned wasteland that it has become.”

Fellow Ward Councillor, Lee Wares, added: “We are receiving a number of e-mails from local residents about the mess that the roundabout has been left in following the recent vegetation clearance. I think it is incumbent upon Highways England and the Council to work together to address these quite legitimate concerns.”

Cllr. Carol Theobald, who is also President of the Patcham Horticultural Society, added: “This roundabout is in such a prime location there must be local firms queuing up to sponsor it and get it planted up with some attractive new flowers and low-lying shrubs. This roundabout has been neglected for far too long and is well overdue some care and attention.”