Review of the Year

This seems a good moment to reflect on some of the issues which will face us locally in the new year ahead.

Of course the economic situation will dominate, but on the positive side, the County Council's £50 million 'kick start' package will be a welcome boost to the local economy.

This included over £6 million of funding to match the Government's allocation to enable high speed broadband across the County by 2015.

I want to ensure that, following the Broadband Summit which I held with the Council in May, West Sussex councils and local communities work together to realise this ambition which is so important for the rural economy.

Another key infrastructure issue is our roads and rail network.  We need to be better organised locally in advancing the case for improvements to the A27 - the so-called 'coastal highway' - which are important for the local economy and to stop 'rat-running' through the Downs.

In the New Year I will be convening the second meeting of my local group which is working on the economic and environmental case for an Arundel bypass.

Housing remains a sensitive issue locally, and I will be watching the new national planning framework and any large-scale development proposals which may affect our Downland villages.  

We do need to ensure affordable homes for young people.  But new housing must be at an appropriate scale, sustainable and built on the basis of local determination.

I suspect high fuel bills will remain a concern.  The price of heating oil rose by nearly 30 per cent over a year between 2010 and 2011.

Surprisingly the Office for Fair Trading found that high off-grid prices were mainly due to the increase in the price of crude oil and a spike of demand in the freezing weather last year, and that "on the whole competition works well".

However they did express concern that some heating oil suppliers may not be treating their customers fairly and they are examining practices further.

Looking on the bright side, there will also be  much to celebrate in 2012, including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, with the Olympic Flame passing through Petworth and Arundel on Monday 16 July.

A Happy New Year to all.

Christopher N Howarth