A petition containing hundreds of signatures calling for compensation for local businesses and the local community for the months of delay caused by the closure of the level crossing in Plumpton has been taken all the way to Steve Knight, Area Director at Network Rail's offices in London.
Sarah was joined by local Plumpton residents and Baroness Jenny Randerson, who speaks on transport issues in the House of Lords.
Plumpton's District Councillor Sarah Osborne, who, alongside other local residents launched the petition, said: "Our message is very clear. Both the local community and local businesses have been badly affected by this and Network Rail must do more than just say the right words - they must back this up with some action". And the government must provide political leadership on this issue".
In a letter to the Sussex Express published today (18th March 2016), Norman Baker, former Lib Dem MP for Lewes, has rebutted the attacks made on him by the Conservative MP for the area and has called for action to improve the local rail service.
"Dear Sussex Express
My attention has been drawn to some gratuitously insulting comments Maria Caulfield made about me in your paper regarding rail travel.
She refers in particular to the campaign to reopen the Lewes-Uckfield railway line. This is something I pursued for many years, often in the teeth of opposition from her Conservative colleagues. Had the Tories been more supportive, the line would by now have been reopened.
I would also point out that the only reason that this matter is currently being re-examined at all is because I persuaded Danny Alexander, then the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to include £100,000 for a further study in the 2014 Autumn Statement.
More generally, I note with dismay, not least as a commuter, that since the General Election, the rail service from Lewes to London has gone to pot, and punctuality has fallen through the floor. Now plans are progressing seemingly without high level opposition to all but close the ticket offices in Lewes and Polegate, something I firmly stopped while a rail minister. I suppose Southern now think they can get away with it.
I also note the fiasco at Plumpton which led to the village being cut off for months. Just before the election I was very close to reaching an amicable arrangement with Network Rail through my contacts there that would have avoided any closure. I passed the ball to Maria in front of the goal but it seems she couldn't get it in the back of the net.
I have retired from front-line politics and do not wish to re-engage but I am not going to stand by and have my record trashed in this inaccurate and gratuitous way. I would advise Maria that people in greenhouses should not throw stones and rather than throwing insults at me, she would be better turning her attention to the fast-deteriorating train service that local people are having to endure and that she seems powerless to do anything about.
“The Tory Council can’t be allowed to axe our community school”, says Shirley Sains, Lib Dem candidate in the Castle by-election for Lewes Town Council.
“I’m really concerned by news that East Sussex County Council plan to close Pells School in August 2017. I and many others are outraged by this and I will fight to try and make sure this much needed school stays open. My three children went to Pells School and having lived in Lewes as a Landport resident for 49 years I know how much people on Landport value this school.”
Lewes Liberal Democrats have accused their Brighton-based MP, Maria Caulfield, of cynical hypocrisy over her refusal to sign up to a parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) about protecting our Post Offices.
Local Lib Dems have been backing the campaign to protect Lewes’ Post Office on their website at www.leweslibdems.org.uk and on doorsteps. Campaigners have been pressing the Conservative MP to sign the EDM which urges the relevant government minister to intervene to protect jobs and services where post offices are threatened across the country.
On her website the Conservative MP states that she does not “as a rule sign EDMs”. However, since November she has, in fact, signed six EDMs on topics including St Patrick’s Day and Guantanamo Bay.
“It is shocking hypocrisy to claim to your constituents that you don’t sign up to EDMs, and then sign up to six of them!” says Shirley Sains, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the forthcoming Town Council by-election in Lewes.
A former chairman of the Sussex Police Authority has been selected by the Lib Dems to contest this year’s Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner elections.
James Walsh, who lives in Rustington, is the leader of the Lib Dem group at West Sussex County Council, has twice been mayor of Littlehampton, and was chairman of Arun District Council in 2003-04.
He was a member of the former Sussex Police Authority from 1989 to 2005, serving as its vice-chairman from 1993-95, and chairman from 2005-2007.
Dr Walsh said: “I am delighted to have been chosen for this important election. Sussex needs to put community policing at the heart of the policing plan for the county.
“The public want visible policing and fast response when appropriate. They want more successful prosecution of serious crime, including domestic violence, sexual grooming, and public disorder including drunkenness.
“Like them, I am dismayed that the current commissioner sees fit to cut 500 police officers in Sussex, and to stop recruiting PCSO’s altogether.
“Crime needs to be actively prevented, detected and prosecuted, and you can’t do that with so many fewer officers.
Dr Walsh worked for 40 years as a GP, until retiring two years ago.
Lewes Lib Dems have picked Shirley Sains as their candidate to fight the Lewes Castle by-election.
The by-election is happening because a Green Party town councillor resigned. Polling day will be on Thursday, 31st March.
Shirley (pictured with District and Town Councillor Mike Chartier and Town Councillor John Lamb) has lived in Landport for over 40 years, and she wants to stand up for her community.
After months of campaigning by local residents and Liberal Democrat Councillors, the Conservative-run District Council voted today to drop the '49 sites' proposals, which had more recently been re-branded and spun as the 'New Homes Plan.’
Leader of the Lib Dem group Councillor Sarah Osborne is calling for the principal architect of this project, Cllr Rob Blackman, to resign, saying:
"Cllr Rob Blackman's arrogant refusal to listen to either the concerns of the Lib Dems or to vast numbers of residents in Lewes District has ended up costing the tax payer nearly £600,000. We consistently called for an open and transparent process and when it became clear the Tories wouldn't listen, we challenged for the Leadership twice, failing only because the Independent Councillor Ruth O'Keefe abstained. Consequently this sorry saga has led to years of uncertainty for many residents and a great deal of expense for us all".
Cllr Steve Saunders, a Lib Dem Cllr in Newhaven added: "Today's decision to drop the strategy is a real win for local people and it is essential that some of the sites are now re-considered. We desperately need more affordable housing but this should only be built after proper consultation with local residents. To close this sorry chapter once and for all, disgraced Council Leader Rob Blackman must now resign."
The decision of the Conservative East Sussex County Council to grant a 999 year lease on the St Anne’s school site in Lewes to the Subud organisation has been strongly criticised by Liberal Democrat councillors.
Councillor Carolyn Lambert, who questioned the decision at the County Council meeting on 9 February in support of Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre who has been working with local residents on their concerns says:
“I fail to understand why we are still apparently waiting for an organisation to complete a transaction two and a half years after their tender for the site was accepted by the County Council. This was a controversial decision at the time and is more so now, given the pressure on local authority budgets and the need for affordable housing in Lewes.
"The decision to award a 999 year lease is an extraordinary one which is not in accordance with the County Council’s policy of awarding leases of a maximum period of 99 years and prevents the County Council carrying out its responsibility to achieve best value for the site, particularly in this time of austerity when a combination of Conservative, UKIP and Independent councillors has just voted through a highly damaging budget which will mean the withdrawal of frontline services for the most vulnerable members of our community."
"It is extremely disappointing that the ward councillor, Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe, is not supporting us in our calls for reviewing this deeply unsatisfactory contract and supporting her residents in their need to address housing issues in the town.”
Local Liberal Democrats are so concerned about the County Council's decision that they have also reported the matter to the District Auditor for independent investigation.
Lib Dems fight threat to close Lewes Post Office
The Post Office in Lewes is now being put forward for private franchise and if no franchisee is found to take it on, there is a danger it could close.
Local Lib Dems have asked for an urgent meeting with the Post Office to discuss the plans. Liberal Democrats are very keen to ensure that Lewes does not lose its post office and that there is no loss of services.
Local Campaigner James Maccleary said:
“The Lib Dems are concerned about the Post Office plans for Lewes. I have asked the Post Office for an urgent meeting to discuss their proposals. I will make it clear to them that we must keep the local post office open. I also expect them to provide the same services as now, with the same or better opening hours.
Lewes Bridge County Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre added: “The Liberal Democrats are calling on the post office to ensure we do not lose the post office in Lewes, which provides very important services to local people.”
Local Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to save the post office, which can be found at www.leweslibdems.org.uk/post_office
Lib Dems slam Tory fracking plans as "attack on democracy"
Following the leaking of government plans to take decisions over fracking sites away from the hands of local councils, Sarah Osborne, Leader of the Lewes District Council Lib Dem Group said:
"Just six weeks after Lewes Tory MP Maria Caulfield voted to allow fracking in National Parks, we now know that the Conservative government doesn't want local people to have a say at all. Their plans to remove the decision from local councils is nothing short of an attack on democracy".
"Fracking poses environmental risks to groundwater quality, waste and air emissions, and health and biodiversity and to the geological integrity of the areas involved. These are risks likely to be exacerbated by the Conservative government’s cost-cutting and deregulatory approach to compliance with environmental standards." said Cllr Vic Ient, a keen environmentalist.
"Why are the Tories so keen to allow fracking and mess up our planet but at the same time close down the Lib Dem initiatives on Renewable Energy just when we were turning the corner on replacing polluting CO2 fuels with green energy sources?" Cllr Ient asked.
"Local Lib Dems are also alarmed by the Tory government’s premature withdrawal of support for the renewable industries that is now undermining the UK’s climate change commitments which we signed up to in December 2015." Cllr Osborne added.
Notes to editors: A document leaked at the weekend has confirmed Ministers plan to take decisions over fracking sites away from the hands of local councils - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/12130801/Ministers-plot-to-foil-anti-frackers.html