Everyday someone says to me that they would like to cycle in Worthing but that they are frightened by the roads and traffic. So, with their and my fears in my mind I attended a jam pack and lively West Sussex County Council CLC meeting for Worthing. CLC is the County Local Committee of our local county councillors. Basically it discusses the issues affecting our town, prioritises them and puts them to the County Council for inclusion in its plans.
The reason why the Heene Community Centre was so packed (well beyond capacity) was that word had got out that there was a proposal that, as part of the town centre re-generation, Montague Street was to be repaved, an admiral proposition in itself. However, the funds to do this were to come from the Section 106 monies that had been put aside for other infrastructure projects, most of which concerned road safety schemes including the consultation for the 20mph speed restriction on local residential roads.
As the debate got under way Cllr Waight reminded the committee of the original proposition and I was surprised that almost all of the Councillors there were in favour of sticking to it as it was passed (unanimously) a couple of years ago by the Borough and County Councillors: 20s Plenty should be put to public consultation. They also agreed by a majority that in order to adhere to the original decision it would be politically inept of them to do so without ensuring that there were sufficient funds to see it through if the public wanted the scheme.
The problem seems to have been that the politicians had decided that the only way to secure the funds for the repaving would be to take from the road safety money, the idea of which came from Cllr Yallop, the leader of the council, in a desperate attempt to get cash out of WSCC. As the debate continued it became apparent that the reason for this approach was that in the past our local County Councillors had failed miserably to get (or even ask for) any funding from the County Council. The millions that we (Worthing) put in through, amongst other things, parking charges have not come back to help the town. Horsham and Chichester have all benefited from and continue to get WSCC backing, Worthing? zilch!
The debate was opened to the public and the first speaker, almost single handily scuppered the Worthing Town Centre initiative plea with a farcical diatribe lampooning the road safety campaigner’s argument (again reinforcing the need need for 20sPlenty). After more reasoned words from, amongst others, Duncan Kay of the 20sPlenty, Chris Spratt, chairman of the Worthing Town Centre Initiative, saved the day for the re-paving scheme by ensuring that it was prioritised by the CLC and all parties seemed to agreed that a vibrant town centre visited by residents living in a safe town would benefit the main shopping area (the heart of the town) and help encourage businesses and people into Worthing.
Bizarrely the proposal that caused all the furore came from the one councillor with primary school aged children. Is it any wonder that schemes like 20sPenty exist when someone with a young family should be so oblivious to the dangers on our roads (Worthing has the worst in the county). It seems that the political manoeuvrings that almost backfired did ensure a debate and clarity of the objectives with both schemes to be supported and the 20sPlenty public consultation assured.
Now the onus is on our local County Councillors to make sure that Worthing gets its fair share of cash from West Sussex County Council. Their predecessor’s track record has not been good. You can help by keeping pressure on them. Here are they are:
I was impressed by the Councillors, the debate and the meeting was excellently chaired by Cllr Paul High. The venue was horrendous!
The dream of a safe town for Worthing residents to live in remains. And, in the not too distant future, we can imagine that a good day out could be to cycle to an appealing, pleasant, vibrant and busy town centre instead of battling through the A27 traffic by car to escape Worthing and spend our money and time in Chichester, Horsham or Brighton. After last night’s rhetoric, we await the action with anticipation.