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July 2012.

Newhaven Town Councillor Steve Saunders writes:

As everyone knows, I was outraged to hear of the proposed sale of the Lewes Road Recreation Ground and adjoining amenity land by the District Council. It was particularly frustrating in the manner in which I, my fellow Councillors on Town and District, together with the public at large were told of the plans.

The whole process has called into question the processes in place to inform the public and the ability for both elected Councillors and residents to be properly consulted over major decisions, as well as the whole idea of the 'Strong Leader' role. The Scrutiny Panel I called for, exonerated the processes that were followed, but recognised that lessons should be learned from the way it was handled.

Whilst I welcome the news that through conditions of the sale introduced by the Council's Legal Department, the recreation ground and play area will remain open for residents' use for the next 4 years, the fate of the well-used amenity land is less secure. The long-term provision of such land for the residents of the Valley area is now in doubt and the Council must ensure that suitable alternative land is found and that they engage with the developer at an early stage, to provide the necessary funds from planning gain direct to the local community, in order to mitigate this potential loss.

Newhaven has all too often lost out in developments, forced upon us and consequently have little trust in those making decisions in the face of opposition from those residents most affected by these schemes. Newhaven is fed up with empty promises and being fobbed off by developers and Councillors.

Cllr. Page has assured us that full consultation with the people will be undertaken. I am encouraged by this and trust that he will include those elected members on both Newhaven Town Council, as well as the District Councillors, that were kept in the dark during the negotiations with the developer prior to the announcement on 6th June.

Newhaven Town Council have been approached over the idea of helping with the public consultation, in a similar way to the recent 'Big Planning Event' for the Eastside Planning Applications. I urge residents to engage fully in the consultation process to ensure that the developers and Council alike, are fully aware of the depth of feeling in the Town over not only this issue, but the history of recent decisions belligerently taken here by Tory-led councils. Trust will be earned by what happens from here on in. Let's hope that Newhaven is set for a brighter future. Time will tell and Newhaven residents will ultimately pass judgement.

Cllr. Steve Saunders
Town & District Councillor
Newhaven Valley