Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Bosham's new sea wall - a great example of what can be achieved by working together

Bosham is a very pretty harbourside village with a long and interesting history where many people visit regularly and enjoy exploring the area and walking along the trippet and sea wall.
A few years ago the sea wall was becoming very tired and the design meant that seaweed gathered round the gabions making it difficult to clear - and sometimes quite smelly .
It was a few dedicated residents, with the support of the Bosham Association, who looked at the issue and designed a possible solution. They worked with the County Council, Environment Agency, The Bosham Association and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy to develop and cost a plan to rebuild the wall making it an attractive feature for the community at large.
There were a few challenges along the way, firstly finding the funding for the scheme. West Sussex County Council was able to help with funding from the Kickstart programme, the Environment Agency also helped out  as well as donations from various sources, all of which took time.
To rebuild the wall was time critical due to the tides, but this summer there was slot available and construction got underway and it was interesting to see the construction through its various phases.
Last week I joined the residents to celebrate the completion of the wall – but I think it was really a celebration of community spirit in the broadest sense - the commitment of residents who know how to solve a local problem then work together with other bodies and agencies to deliver a successful outcome for so many to appreciate and enjoy.  
The wall is an attractive feature and I think the commitment from everyone including the construction company that built the wall shines through.
So another example of what can be achieved by working with the community and helping the residents to help themselves.
Louise Goldsmith.
Leader West Sussex County Council
Chichester West Division.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Reducing our carbon footprint

A few years ago the County Council, like many others, signed up to reducing its carbon emissions by 50%  by 2050  -  quite a long time off but I am pleased to say we are on track to deliver this target.

In making that commitment we became eligible for Carbon Reduction Commitment Payments.

So what have we been doing?

We started looking at our properties, what was formally known as the Corporate Estate.

By monitoring our gas and electricity and improving our buildings we have managed to reduce our consumption by 15% for electricity and 20% for gas. In doing so we have saved £521,675 in energy costs and £32,569 in Carbon Reduction Commitment payments – sums certainly not to be sniffed at and we have also saved 2,714 tonnes of carbon.

We all know that savings can be made in shopping around for gas and electricity suppliers and that is what we as a County Council do all the time but we have gone one step further as we belong to a collective purchasing consortium called Laser.  It means that, through this consortium, we can certainly get the very best price and last year our energy costs were £630,000 less than if we had bought it independently at the national average price.

As for water consumption, well, we do need to be careful with our water usage and as we are on water meters every drop counts. Working with Aquafund helped us manage our water usage. To date we have reduced consumption by 25% and made saving of £284, 309 which was shared with Aquafund. So we have saved water and money!

As this is a sunny county it makes sense to invest in solar energy which is why we have installed solar PV panels across suitable offices, fires stations and libraries. Last year the electricity from 28 installations was almost enough to power all our fire stations.

So it really does pay to put your house or corporate estate in order by carefully monitoring the use of gas, electricity and water, as it saves money and when we are looking at finding a further £124 million in savings every little helps as they say.

However, we won’t stop and will continue to look at ways of making more savings and driving out costs.   

These savings may help towards investing in our front line services, but we have also reduced our carbon emissions which helps our planet.

Ten years ago we started a Car Share Scheme. 3,730 workers in West Sussex have opted to join the scheme to cut their travelling costs and reduce the carbon footprint.

School Travel Planning has been happening in West Sussex for 13 years now and we have delivered 180 School Safety Zones and have delivered many Safe Routes to School improvements.

Last year 8,660 pupils received Bikeability training to level 2. More than 60 people received level 3 or specific adult training.

Levels of ‘recorded cycling’ in Chichester have increased by nearly 7% since 2008.

And the Environment and Climate Change Board (ECCB) has been developing a West Sussex Food Plan. This, along with the partnership work that is involved has resulted in West Sussex being invited to be a member of the Sustainable Food Cities Network.

The Sustainable Food Cities Network is an alliance of public, private and third sector organisations that are committed to promoting sustainable food for the benefit of people and the planet. The Network aims to help people and places to share challenges, explore practical solutions and develop best practice in all aspects of sustainable food.

West Sussex is only the 2nd county to be included in the network.

So, we’re certainly trying to do our bit to help.


Louise Goldsmith.

Leader West Sussex County Council
Chichester West Division

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Why our position at WSCC has to remain neutral over fracking

Last Friday at Full County Council we had a debate because 3,594 petitioners had signed a petition calling on WSCC to declare the county a Frack Free zone.

This is not the first time that such a request has been made and it is understandable for those who hold very strong concerns about fracking and who are deeply worried about it and the impact on the beautiful West Sussex countryside.

Just to reassure readers, there is currently no fracking in West Sussex, but we are the minerals planning authority so we have received applications to explore for shale gas which we must determine.

It was a good debate, however the position that WSCC has taken remains neutral - which I know will be a disappointment to the petitioners.

It would be very unwise to declare West Sussex a Frack Free zone.

The reason for this is that, as the Planning Authority we determine applications for mineral extraction sites. We want to be able to take those decisions fairly on their merits.

The neutrality of our position is absolutely crucial in determining any application at a local level. Some may say we are ducking the issue but I would say no – and the reason is simple. If we made a statement and adopted a blanket position that we did not support any fracking in West Sussex, and applications were refused, there could be a challenge on the grounds of pre-determination (that means having a fixed position before you need to take the decision).

It would mean that our decisions could and probably would be judicially reviewed, or overturned by a planning inspectorate. Worst case scenario would be that the Government could actually take over any applications and determine them itself – with little or no local accountability. I think that would be really unfortunate and the worst case scenario for the county.

Each member of Planning Committee has a duty to consider plans as per the national guidelines. There are strict guidelines around planning and people should take comfort that we take these guidelines really seriously. Every application is assessed on its own merits -  that explains why we approved the Balcombe application for exploration but refused the Wisborough Green/Kirdford one.

Both of these decisions are being challenged but this surely shows the integrity of the committee. It is also an example of the democratic process in action and local accountability. If all of that is hampered by us adopting a  pre-determined policy statement everything is put into jeopardy which is why we should not adopt a stance one way or the other.

In the meantime we will continue with the roadshows that we have been running to help give our residents as much information as possible about the processes involved in oil and gas exploration and extraction.

We don’t do these roadshows alone, and we are grateful to our partners who help make them happen and attend, including The Environment Agency, DECC, the Health and Safety Executive and local action groups, so we can ensure information is available to ensure our residents can make a balanced and rational argument.

The next event is on November 8 at the Assembly Rooms in Chichester and all are welcome.


Louise Goldsmith.

Leader West Sussex County Council
Chichester West Division

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