Call for West Sussex to use money from vacant property to repair ‘crater-ridden’ local roads

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West Sussex County Council are facing calls to make use of almost two million square metres of vacant council land and property to fund improvements to road maintenance across the county.

With council budgets increasingly stretched, funding for highways has often played second fiddle to meeting cost pressures in other statutory services, such as Adult Social Care. As a result, the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey, published earlier this month, has identified that the backlog cost of fixing roads in England and Wales has now risen to a record £16.3bn, up £2.3bn in just the last year.

Despite the bleak national picture, campaigners in West Sussex now believe that they have found a way to help the county council address the backlog locally, drawing upon data published by the council under the Local Government Transparency Code.

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According to the latest version of the Vacant Building List, published in February on the council's website, the county council currently has 1,950,434 square metres of vacant property spread across the county and adjacent areas. This includes empty commercial property, housing and land identified as suitable for development. Campaigners claim that bringing the property into-use or using the proceeds of its sale to invest in other sources of revenue could be used to help fund the extra road repairs the county needs.

Residents are complaining of 'crater-ridden' roads in West Sussex.Residents are complaining of 'crater-ridden' roads in West Sussex.
Residents are complaining of 'crater-ridden' roads in West Sussex.

With office rents in Crawley costing an average of £20 per square metre, the 44,000 square metres in Crawley alone could have delivered almost a million pounds worth of extra revenue to the county council last year.

Making the case for the proposal, Peter Lamb, the Labour candidate for Crawley, said: "People in Crawley have had enough of crater-ridden roads. West Sussex County Council takes 78% of our council tax and the town honestly struggles to see what they get for their money.

"Over the last 14 years, councils have faced unprecedented cuts in their funding from Government, but during my time as Leader of Crawley Borough Council we always prioritised using our assets creatively to generate the revenue we needed to maintain high quality services.

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"In contrast, the county council appears to have made service cuts and council tax hikes the preferred option. I call upon the Conservative leadership of West Sussex County Council to do the right thing: get the council's wasted assets working for local taxpayers and get our roads fixed."