LETTER: Frustrated by treatment

As a councillor for over 10 years, I have tried to instill confidence in the people of Newhaven who (like me) are frustrated at the way that the town appears to have been downtrodden and ‘dumped on’ by the County Council for so many years.

We were transformed (and not in a good way) by the implementation of the ring road and single-carriageway swing-bridge in the 1970’s, which isolated the town centre and helped lead to its demise. In the early years of the new millennium, we were consulted upon the siting of a huge incinerator to deal with the mountains of rubbish from around the County. Over 16,000 people said no, but we got it anyway. It has been followed by a plethora of ‘recycling’ businesses that have been attracted by the unwelcome reputation for rubbish and waste that Newhaven has attained.

The Government has told Councils across the country they have to build homes and rightly so. those councils have looked at the land availability in their areas and Lewes District Council have reasoned that Newhaven can supply the largest number of the houses needed.

Our beach has been closed by the owners of the port and indeed, the port itself has struggled to compete against the likes of its near-neighbour, Shoreham.

The ferry thankfully continues, but sails into a port with its welcome to visitors is a mountain of scrap metal and derelict buildings that steadfastly harp back to their prosperous and proud past.

Now in 2017, we have been told we are lucky to have a wonderful opportunity to regenerate and grow, having been granted the status of an Enterprise Zone.

However, we have also got one of the worst air quality figures in the country and suffer from huge traffic delays which snarl up our roads at all times of the day. Who would invest in such a town?It is now September and the impact of the Enterprise Zone has seen our Crown Post Office facing almost certain closure, the town centre still empty of shops, despite LDC having spent large sums of money on buying back leases. LDC continuing to charge for its car parks, whilst cars illegally park on pavements in the high street, to avoid them. Parker Pen has been demolished by its owner/developer and along the similarly owned nearby land to the east, they lie undeveloped, abandoned and subject to illegal dumping and decimation of the environment and its protected species. The County’s flagship Port Access Road and the millions of pounds it has squirreled away for its development remains unfinished.Another site on the north west of the town has recently seen activity, with fencing erected and vegetation cleared, in what appears to be an apparent resurrection of past planning permissions. Concerns have been raised here too, about damage to rare habitats, flora and fauna.What is the County Council putting forward to regenerate Newhaven now? A tarmac plant north of the bridge and a concrete and aggregate facility on the east quay. The tarmac plant will bring another two openings of our bridge per week, 14,500 HGV movements onto our roads per year, a noisy 24/7 business adjacent to an area of outstanding natural beauty, nearby homes and one of best loved tourist attractions at Paradise Park. The concrete and aggregate facility, will bring thousands more HGVs, more noise and result in the loss of our only remaining sandy beach (at low tide) and further damage to protected species and rare coastal habitat. Why Newhaven for a tarmac plant you may ask? Well, apparently it’s ideally situated in the heart of the County, to serve the company given their contract to repair the roads. The company itself wants to see the facility expand to supply West Sussex, Surrey and beyond and sees the 15 permanent jobs it will bring as a bonus for our local jobs market. The applications for both the Tarmac and Concrete Plants will be decided upon by the County Council in the coming weeks, as they fall under Waste and Minerals and as such (like the Incinerator) will be a County decision. Not subject to a process presided over by local people, but in the main, by Councillors living outside the area. At Newhaven Town Council we have set out our objections in detail to the proposals and only hope that LDC supports those protestations. The final decision is out of our hands, and I along with my Town Council colleagues and the long-suffering residents of Newhaven, can only hope that our wishes are listened to, the future health of our residents and children matter to the County Council.

It’s time that those with the power to change the fortunes of the town, do so and stop blindly doing all they can to exacerbate the issues it faces.

Our MP has released to the press her welcomed objection to the Tarmac Plant, I for one would like to see all our elected bodies working together to see change in Newhaven. Change that would benefit the District and county as a whole and in particular those towns surrounding our own. Let the county start, by throwing out these applications.

Steve Saunders

Town and District Councillor for Newhaven Valley Ward