Liberal Democrat Councillor John Ungar has succeeded in forcing the Conservative administration who run East Sussex County Council to webcast scrutiny meetings. Cllr Ungar explains “As Liberal Democrat councillors we believe that we are accountable to the public. Scrutiny meetings are an opportunity to review council policy and services. This is a cross-party opportunity to take an in-depth look at areas of concern raised either by councillors or by members of the public if issues are clearly wide-spread across the county. They can act as a positive opportunity to improve our services as well as to challenge where appropriate and to hold the Cabinet decision makers to account.”
Cllr David Tutt, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, adds: “We were astonished when we first proposed this last year that the Conservative turned it down. We live in a democracy and we should all be accountable to our residents for the decisions we take on their behalf. It is sad that the Conservatives have been forced into this climb down by Covid where the many virtual meetings that have been held have made it impossible for them to refuse this very reasonable request which is in the interest of good governance”.
Conservative councillors unanimously rejected Cllr Sarah Osborne’s proposal to adopt a default 20 mph speed limit in residential areas with appropriate exceptions with claims that, although they supported 20 mph zones in principle, this proposal would infringe civil liberties.
Cllr Sarah Osborne says: “I find the attitude of the Conservatives, both locally and nationally, incredible. The Conservative government recently signed the Stockholm Declaration with 130 other nations, agreeing on a default 20 mph limit wherever cyclists and pedestrians mix with motor vehicles. Yet when we suggest implementing this locally in East Sussex, where we have one of the highest killed and seriously injured statistics in the country, the best the Conservative councillors can do is to accuse us of petty politics and reject the proposal outright.
"In addition, they are also missing an opportunity to invest to save. According to the charity 20s Plenty, by implementing 20 mph on most 30 mph roads in East Sussex for a one-off cost of £2.2 million we would save 149 casualties and £10.1 million in each year. Why would we not want to do this?”.
Cllr Kathryn Field adds: “The Conservatives say that accidents are down to driver behaviour despite the fact that we know our roads are unsafe and that they could be improved very simply and cost effectively with the introduction of a 20 mph limit as the norm.
"The Conservative Lead Member talks about changing driver behaviour but so far, has come up with no concrete suggestions about how to do this. Adopting a default 20 mph speed limit would do exactly that by building habits that would reform and change driver behaviour, just as we now accept that it is dangerous to drink and drive or to not wear a seatbelt.
"It’s time the Conservatives faced up to their responsibilities.”
*Speed limit poster by Evelyn of Ringmer. See https://twitter.com/20Ringmer/status/1420002725534830609
The guiding principle of liberal democracy is that everybody should be as free as possible to do what they want, providing that their freedom does not impinge on other people's.
It has been obvious throughout this pandemic that other people's freedom to avoid the virus - to live and to stay healthy - depends on us.
The lifting of lockdown restrictions today means that we all have to take our responsibilities very seriously. It is not only about freedom but also about our obligations to others.
We are now much more free to go about our lives than we have been for some time, but we must all be aware that our actions may have notable effects on other people. Even young healthy people are still dying, or are at risk of a horrible, debilitating and long lasting illness.
Wearing a mask and observing distancing are minor prices to pay for other people's freedom, so please don't be like the prime minister, please exercise your freedoms responsibly.
Lewes Liberal Democrats
Conservative MP Maria Caulfield has repeatedly failed to answer questions about the planning blight at Talland Parade Seaford which has now been in place ever since the Conservative administration approved the planning application in January 2012.
Councillor Carolyn Lambert explains: “Maria Caulfield and Cllr Sam Adeniji continue to claim that Lewes District Council could take action to remove the planning blight by forcing the developer to complete the project.
"However, they repeatedly fail to specify exactly what action they believe the Council could take. Nor can they give any examples of councils elsewhere with similar problems who have successfully solved them.
"If Maria Caulfield and Cllr Adeniji have relevant information, then they should pass this on to the District Council. Otherwise, they should stop misleading residents. In addition, Maria Caulfield needs to lobby her government for an answer to the letter sent by the District Council to the Secretary of State asking for enhanced powers.
"Given the proposed planning reforms, this situation can only get worse with more examples of planning blight appearing as developers rush to take advantage of the Tory licence to build and projects are left half-built”.
Liberal Democrat councillors in Newhaven have taken a big step forward on one of the key local road safety priorities in a meeting with Highways England.
The junction of the A26 and Avis Road is a well known accident blackspot. The design of the junction has poor sight lines for pulling on to a fast road and has seen a series of accidents in recent months.
At a recent meeting with councillors, Highways England confirmed they are now carrying out a study on potential safety improvements at the junction and their initial assessment has shown that there is justification for an upgrade.
James MacCleary, local Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Newhaven, South Heighton and Bishopstone, says: "This is the sort of progress we need to see on these sorts of dangerous junctions. The problem is not just cars, we also have a lot of HGVs using the road to get to the port and industrial estates on Avis Way. I'm pleased that we are now getting progress on this and that Highways England are engaging so positively. Hopefully we'll have specifics on what measures they think will be most effective in the coming months."
Sean MacLeod, Liberal Democrat District Councillor for South Heighton, says: "We've been plugging away at this for a while now. Not only have Highways England confirmed that they think there's justification for safety improvements, they have also committed to cutting back overgrowth on footpaths there which has been causing accessibility issues for residents. It's great to have some positive news to report on a junction that has generated so many negative headlines."
Julie Carr, Liberal Democrat District Councillor for Newhaven North, adds: "We were also able to confirm with Highways England that they have arranged with the District Council for a litter pick to take place when they close off parts of the road to clear the overgrown foliage later in the year. People sometimes ask what difference Liberal Democrats make and here is an example. While others make empty promises, we actually get things done for our community."
Liberal Democrat councillors in Seaford are dismayed at Churchill Homes proposal for another 35 homes for older people in the town:
Councillor Christine Brett says: “The site that Churchill Homes are proposing to use was not identified in the Seaford Neighbourhood Plan for housing nor was it sent in to Lewes District Council as part of the call for sites to help prepare the next Local Plan. This is an opportunistic and cynical move on the part of a developer.
"Seaford has seen no benefit from the Hortsley or McCarthy Stone developments which have provided nothing towards the infrastructure of the town but on the contrary have put increased pressure on our hard-pressed medical services”.
Cllr Stephen Gauntlett adds: “The town is over-provided for in terms of accommodation for older people with places in the newest Hortsley development remaining unsold. We need affordable accommodation for families and young people who are struggling to find somewhere to rent in the town, let alone somewhere to buy”.
Cllr Carolyn Lambert says: “This is a further example of the way in which Conservative government planning legislation is allowing our towns to be over-run with developments that are not needed, leaving local authorities with no power to demand improvements in the infrastructure. Our schools are full and our medical services, water and sewerage are at capacity. There is plenty of accommodation in Seaford for older people without losing more green space.
"I have already brought a Notice of Motion to the County Council about the congestion on the A259 and the dangerous junctions. This development will only add to the problem”.
East Sussex Lib Dem Councillors have welcomed plans to develop an improved partnership with bus companies.
Councillor Stephen Holt says: “We all want improvements to our bus services and this partnership will be a significant step to making this happen. It will mean improved connections between bus services and will support greener travel.
"However the Government’s ambitious plans need to be backed with proper financial support to make this a reality. We also need to ensure equity across the region to make sure that there is full connectivity across our towns, along the coast and in our rural areas. Creating new greener routes will not only help the travelling public but will also deliver our goal of carbon neutrality.
The proposals also make clear the importance of partnership working and in particular, the work and information provided by the Eastbourne Eco Action Transport Group.”
Cllr Colin Swansborough adds: “My concern is that the walking and cycling strategy has been kicking around for 20 years. What we want is a commitment from the Conservative Lead Member that this is going to happen quickly – so that we can get a functioning bus partnership plan together quickly.”
Local Councillors have welcomed a pledge to tackle road safety - but have warned more needs to be done to tackle a notorious accident hotspot on the Ditchling Road near Plumpton.
This follows a petition collected and handed in by Cllr Rob Banks (Lib Dem District Councillor for Plumpton and East Chiltington) and Cllr Sarah Osborne (Lib Dem County Councillor for Plumpton) after a coach crashed into a field, injuring 12 students from Plumpton College.
While some remedial work was carried out following last year’s crash, Cllrs Banks and Osborne are urging the County Council to do more.
Speaking to a Transport and Environment meeting of County Councillors, Cllr Banks said: "The B2116/Ditchling Road has a history of accidents, but this particular hotspot has several incidents to its name with a number of vehicles coming off the road over the years.
"For example just a month or so following the coach crash, a recovery vehicle came off the road at the same point. When they hear of another accident, local residents will raise their eyebrows and say 'did it come off at the usual place?'
"Luckily no lives were lost in the coach crash but we need to make sure lives are not put at risk in the future. The measures taken last year to highlight the edge of the road and to address the undulation in the road will help but needs to go much further.
"The road has a steep drop into the field where vehicles routinely come off - so a bank needs building up.
“A speed limit reduction for that stretch of the road could help. And the width of the road at that point is narrow, making it difficult for large vehicles to safely pass each other.
Speaking after the meeting, he added: "It is proof that the infrastructure in our rural area is utterly unsuitable for large scale proposals such as the potential Eton College site - the transport system just wouldn't be able to cope".
Cllr Osborne added: “I welcome the steps taken to ensure better safety at the junction with the A275, and while it is good to see there could be safety improvements along the Ditchling Road as a result of this petition, I look forward to hearing the detail. This must include building up the bank at the spot where so many vehicles have come off ”.
Councillor Sarah Osborne, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Ouse Valley West and Downs welcomes powers to enforce weight limits on HGVs but points out that these are meaningless without the necessary support from CCTV cameras or Enforcement Officers, both of which will cost councils money. Cllr Osborne explains:
“HGVs have been a cause of misery to village residents in Ditchling and elsewhere for many years. The narrow high street is frequently blocked by large unsuitable lorries and pedestrians report many near misses as these vehicles mount the pavements in an effort to navigate the narrow street.
I successfully lobbied the Secretary of State for powers to enforce weight limits on HGVs despite all the Conservative County Councillors voting against this. However, in the four years it has taken the government to act, the problem has got worse.
Passing enforcement powers onto councils will only work if they are given the funding to enable local authorities to use them. For offences to be detected, they would need to be witnessed by a Civil Enforcement Officer or CCTV cameras, both of which would require significant set up costs.”
Councillor Osborne also points out that further powers are needed to stop HGVs accessing unsuitable roads. She explains:
“Lorry satnavs are like normal car satnavs, but they include bridge heights, narrow roads, and roads unsuitable for trucks. In addition, they allow the driver to enter the lorry’s dimensions - height, width, weight and load – so they are only guided along suitable roads. I welcome extra enforcement powers for councils but I am concerned that those alone will not solve the difficulties our residents are facing. The government needs to do more to help.”
We have started a petition on East Sussex County Council's website calling on them to stop using glyphosate.
Sign it here.
The text of the petition is below:
In 2015 the World Health Organisation declared that glyphosate, the world's most commonly used herbicide, was a probable carcinogenic in humans. There is little debate that it is a carcinogenic in animals.
A number of countries around the world have now banned the use of glyphosate and numerous councils throughout the UK have now banned it also, with Lewes DC slowly fading out its use. Bayer has now had to pay out £11 Billion in lawsuits due to the effects glyphosate has had on individuals' health.
Glyphosate is a strong weed killer. You only have to see where it's sprayed to see the effects it is having on our environment. On 07/06/2021 ESCC were witnessed spraying near a wildlife pond. When challenged on social media, ESCC confirmed glyphosate was being used, which is frightening given the effects it has on animals’ health.
We know there are links to cancer from the use of glyphosate. This is disputed but as above it has so far cost Bayer £11Billion. The WHO has said there are probable links and we need to protect our children from its potential effects, so these products should not be used in parks and public spaces including our footpaths.
This petition does not focus yet on our farming industry; we appreciate that there is a lack of alternatives and the farming industry would be affected greatly if they were banned from using it. We would welcome local farmers moving away from glyphosate based weed killers to alternatives but we appreciate the farming industry is currently badly affected by Brexit and covid19. We do believe at some point that there will be a move away but that has to be when the time is right and allows protection for the industry.
We Call on ESCC
- To ban the use of glyphosate across the county and follow other councils in using alternatives.
If not willing to do the above then we ask for the below.
- To ban its use near any water course and parks with immediate effect.
- To phase out the use of glyphosate on pavements and in public areas.
- To make Newhaven the first glyphosate free town and ban its use here with immediate effect and use proven alternatives that are safer.