Friday, 28 July 2017

Working together

For me one of the very best things about being a Councillor is working with communities.

Over the years I have witnessed many examples of where communities have come together and have made a real difference.

Many years ago in my division the community came together to save the local Post Office. Churches, local politicians of different persuasions, the MP and the wider community, worked together. All united that every stone should be turned to save Parklands Post Office. 

The community was told they could use the main Post Office in the centre of Chichester but this was just too far for many. A good call as it turned out, as we know, a few years later this Post Office was closed. So after a determined battle the local Post Office was saved, it continues and is much used by everyone  today.

There are countless examples where community-led action has solved local problems. What I have seen in these examples has cemented my belief that in working together sharing experiences and skills, communities can and do make a difference.

Last year we saw a different side to community action. The proposed Chichester A27 improvements have elicited strong feelings all round. When things do not start on the right foot they continue to present problems – and so it was. A consultation withdrawn, schemes removed certainly raised concern and lack of transparency caused more worries– as did the options when finally presented.
Earlier this year we were told the money for a Chichester improvement was off the table for any scheme. That, of course, caused a great deal of worry – but the community came together and the BuildaBetterA27 Community Schemes got underway.

After all the rancour it was good that everyone got in the room – started working together on the art of the possible and good progress has been made. Looking at how people have engaged I really think such working should be part of any highways consultation!!

With two community workshops and one business workshop done both groups came together on the 24th July, at that time we had confirmation from Highways England on potential money on the table – but with a limited time span – until September.

While absorbing this news – the group were given one man’s personal revision of improvements to the A27. To say it caused a stir would be an understatement – and once again the community felt done unto so more comments and more concerns – it was a lost opportunity for the community to further explore.

The short timeline is simply not enough time for the community to find the right solution and I will certainly be making that case to Highways England. Gillian Keegan our new MP has also said she would help and as you can imagine I liaising with her.

There is no easy solution to the A27 but I have faith from the work we have done that we can find a way forward which will be right for this magnificent city and area. But more importantly for those who live in and around the Chichester area.

We will all have to live with the A27 – but surely that cannot be at any cost? Residents have a right to voice their concerns and I think they should have the chance for their ideas to be heard and developed to build a  better A27  for those who live in and around the area.

This is all of our city, let us build our own legacy.

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