My Week 30/08/2017

After a glorious bank holiday weekend at the Arundel Festival, which seemed more popular than ever this year, I am focusing on constituency issues.

As ever, planning is high on the agenda.  We have problems across my con-stituency where towns and villages such as Arundel, Amberley, Barnham and Walberton are facing unwanted speculative developments.

I managed to win planning changes at the end of last year which are helping to some extent, but where councils don’t have a plan or an adequate land supply - as in Arun, for instance - villages remain vulnerable.

I have been intervening where I can and have asked for a number of proposed developments which run counter to neighbourhood plans to be ‘called in’.

Parliament will be returning from its summer recess next week.  The rail service will be high on my agenda, not least because of the planned strikes this Friday and on Monday.  It’s significant that these are linked to similar industrial action by RMT on Northern Rail and Merseyrail in the continuing dispute on the role of conductors.

So this isn’t just Southern.  The union’s action is completely unjustifiable.  There’s no real safety issue about driver only operated trains, and anyway the overwhelming majority of Southern’s trains where there was a conductor opening the doors still have a second, safety trained member of staff on board.

At least the guards’ ability to disrupt the service, which they deployed to such effect last year, has now been reduced.   Southern plan to run all services on the Arun Valley line from Southampton/Portsmouth and Bognor to Victoria and London Bridge.

I will be attending a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Southern next Wednesday, and we will be hearing from Nick Brown, Chief Operating Officer of GTR, and John Halsall, Route Managing Director South East at Network Rail.

I will be asking Southern why Hassocks station’s ticket office is still so sham-bolic.  But it isn't all bad news - I was pleased that services to Amberley in the proposed new timetable will be restored after local commuters raised their concerns, which I was happy to help put to Southern.

The following Friday I will be holding constituency surgeries, visiting Thake-ham School and meeting Cowfold Parish Council to discuss the problem of traffic and air quality through the village.

On Saturday I will be attending the Goodwood Revival.  How lucky we are to have these marvellous events in West Sussex.

Alexander BlackRail, Planning