Thank you to everyone who has written to me recently to raise a whole range of issues. Some of the points are the responsibility of Chichester City Council or Chichester District Counci and as a Councillor on both these authorities I will do what I can. Sometimes problems are outside my remit but I am still pleased to hear and will do what I can by engaging with the County Council or other authorities.
First of all, a massive thank you to all the volunteers who went to enormous trouble to set up a Car Free Day in Chichester. We were devastated when the Car Free Day was revoked with only days to go. I am afraid liaison broke down over issues of marshals and diversions and the concerns of a few shopkeepers were not resolved. It seemed to me that the vast majority of shops were in favour and realised just how beneficial car free days can be for everyone, including businesses. We will have to work harder to engage with the different layers of council and find a way forward. A second dawn almost came about and for a moment we might have got the go ahead but in the end I am afraid it did not work out. At the earliest moment we need to review the process, agree strategy across all the partners well in advance and get even more support. Once a Car Free Day does happen, I am sure that even the sceptics will see what a boon for Chichester such a day can be.
The mix of residents’ worries I deal with are considerable. Of course green issues are my heart and soul, but that does not mean other concerns are not important to me. I took a “ward walk” with two officers from the district council and questions about factory smell, parking for care workers, trees, weeds, play areas, our parks’ vision and much more came up.
As I walk the city I see a loss of trees and wildlife habitat. Trees and bushes are so important in an urban area to cleanse air pollution. There have been cases of wildlife crime recently and of developers cutting down trees incorrectly. Residents raised such an issue with me and we did what we could. I notice that a few trees were saved due to nesting birds but it was very much a rear guard action. I am pushing for a tree planting strategy and have asked in the City Council if we can fund the audit that the Tree Wardens feel is fundamental before we proceed.
I am involved in several committees (Planning, Overview & Scrutiny, Environment Panel, Grants & Concessions, Boundaries, Markets and Events) which is very time consuming but I do all I can because in each area I feel I can make a difference. It feels like a juggernaut with many wheels hurtling in the wrong direction and each decision is a wheel that has to be stopped, turned in a new direction and set off on a sustainable path. In this regard I was delighted to be asked to represent Chichester District Council on the Arundel by-pass consultation. I am realistic about my chance of getting the plans reconsidered or revised but I will do my best to raise the concerns of many residents about air pollution and the need to protect our countryside. We cannot keep on destroying habitat, increasing traffic and creating yet more air and noise pollution. To try and sort the problem of congestion by building new roads is like treating obesity issues by buying larger-sized trousers.
There was a cyclist injury on a local road which a resident wrote and told me about. Please do ensure that you do report any cycle injury to the police. Getting better cycling infrastructure is a constant battle and I passed on lots of contact details with details of who to contact to help push this issue. Getting quality infrastructure is not going to be solved just by writing me an email – I would encourage people to get involved with the Cycle Forum – we met on Monday last week and the group needs to recruit more volunteers to comment on planning applications to make sure cycle infrastructure is not missed out. The third Cycling summit in the County has been planned for November – I helped organise the first back in 2016. By bringing planners and highways together in one room we can aim for some joined up thinking and a bit of vision.
Support has come from an interesting source recently, a charity called Client Earth. They are a legal lobby charity who are urging local authorities across the country to rethink their strategy in light of the climate emergency. We might imagine this is just about forest fires far from home but in fact all that we do daily has to be reviewed and adapted. Our local plan is setting the direction we can travel in for many years, so it is essential we get in as many key policies to reflect the climate emergency as possible. I have spoken at length with Client Earth and it has helped me consider a wider set of tasks to tackle.
Listening to residents’ concerns about pollution, self-build, weeds, difficulties with DWP or candle smells is a large part of the work of a Councillor. I don’t have a magic wand but I do often use residents’ emails or concerns (anonymously of course) in meetings or conversations with other Councillors. The aim of this is to give your concerns a wider voice to bring about positive change for the common good.