Nick Herbert: Even more pressure on West Sussex

Infrastructure is in vogue today, but in West Sussex we’ve been talking about the issue for some time. There’s a strong local feeling that development comes without the infrastructure needed to support it.

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

I managed to secure new Government guidance which requires councils to plan for necessary infrastructure before they agree new housing, which is a step forward.

This isn’t just a local problem. We’ve been too slow to bring forward the infrastructure the country needs to ensure that we remain globally competitive.

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The Prime Minister addressed this issue on Monday in his speech to the Confederation of British Industry, when he previewed a £15 billion roads investment programme which is expected to include improvements to the A27.

Then on Tuesday the Airports Commission published their consultation on plans for a new runway at Gatwick or Heathrow, having already ruled out Stansted or an ‘estuary’ airport.

I believe that London needs a hub airport, which means expansion at Heathrow. I am concerned that a second runway at Gatwick would put even more pressure on housing than West Sussex already faces.

The Commission says there would be 30,000 people affected by noise at Gatwick compared to 10,000 today, with over half a million aircraft a year, more than double the current number. This new Gatwick would be bigger, in terms of passengers, than Heathrow is today.

In the digital age, telecommunications infrastructure is also essential. Last week I met with Action in Rural Sussex and the Rural West Sussex Partnership to discuss digital access in the county, which we urgently need to improve.

Four years ago I convened a summit in West Sussex to see how we could improve broadband, after which the county council developed a plan, with matched Government funding, to ensure that 95 per cent of households will have superfast broadband by 2017.

Fibre is steadily coming to our villages and towns, but the question is how the remaining five per cent - which will mean the rural Downland areas - will have decent digital access.

Fast (4G) mobile broadband could well play an important role in this, but at present it’s hard to get even 3G throughout much of the Downs.

I’ve suggested that we hold a ‘digital access summit’ early next year to discuss how rural West Sussex will become fully connected.

We need to speed up essential new infrastructure and take the decisions necessary for future prosperity.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at [email protected]