30 years ago - Horsham maternity unit closes


From the West Sussex County Times of Friday, March 29, 1985.

Sunday will see the end of an era in Horsham as the town’s maternity unit closes after 40 years of service.

The last baby was born there a week ago. Now the beds are stripped and empty, the equipment packed away. The last of the staff are leaving this weekend.

It is only six weeks since health minister Kenneth Clark announced that he was upholding the decision of Mid Downs Health Authority that the unit should be closed. Reasons given were that births there were declining and that too few of Horsham GPs were able to look after deliveries.

Led by Shirley Baldwin, who formed an action group, people of the district have rallied to support the unit. Over 400 attended a public meeting last summer and not one voice from the floor was raised in support of closure. Campaigners also won the support of Horsham MP, Peter Hordern.

Mrs Baldwin, who has written to the Princess of Wales and Prime Minister about the closure, said: “I couldn’t believe it all happened within six weeks. Obviously they were going for the end of the financial year but I couldn’t believe they could do that to mums with new babies.

“They haven’t just closed down the maternity unit – they have broken up a family because that is what it is like there. The staff have dedicated themselves to it, and for what?

“But we shall not give up. The day will come when Crawley will not be able to cope and eventually we are going to have to have a maternity unit for this district.”

Radical plans for “open all hours” pubs have met with a warm response in Horsham. Drinkers and pub landlords alike would welcome extended drinking hours.

The only real opposition could come from pubs with managers rather than tenants, and from neighbours of more “lively” pubs. Joint proposals for longer hours have been agreed by the National Union of Licensed Victuallers and the Brewers’ Society.

They want pubs to be open up to a maximum of 12 hours between 10am and 12 midnight. Approval for the variations would have to be given by local licensing justices and would take into account social circumstances and activities in the locality.

They hope to get the backing of FLAG – the Flexi-Law Action Group – or a campaign to persuade Parliament to drop the present licensing hours which were introduced during the First World War to stop munitions workers spending too much time in the local.

Brian Edwards, licensee of the St Leonard’s Arms, Horsham, and until recently chairman of the LVA Sussex branch, said of the proposed new hours: “It has got to make sense. We’re living in a changing world.

“The licensee has got to be able to use his discretion because he knows when his customer needs it and when it is profitable for him. We want hours to suit each house. A house 200 yards away from me would not want to open the same hours as me.”

Mr Edwards said some opposition could be expected from the anti-drink lobby and such as the Lord’s Day Observance Society, but even so he expected Parliament to introduce flexible drinking in about three years.

Horsham magistrates played a small part in the longer hours fight last month when they agreed to summer pub hours – allowing pubs to open until 11pm six nights a week from May to October.

The blueprint for the future of Chanctonbury, which sets out growth proposals for the next decade, has remained faithful to the original draft, but with changes for Ashington.

Peter Thair, a planning officer with Horsham District Council, explained that the revised draft of West Chanctonbury local plan deleted two, five acre housing sites at Pulborough and Storrington which were included in the first plan. “The main changes,” he said, “affect Ashington. The original scheme and first draft involved moving the line of the proposed bypass further to the east.

“We then proposed that it was moved further to the east to release more land for development on that side of the village but that met with strong objection.

“What we have come up with now is that we just allocate land for light industrial development in the north west corner of the village and infilling between the bypass and the village.”

This would mean a total of 30 acres would be allocated for housing development with a further 1.9 acres for industry. This represents a reduction of 20 acres from the first draft.

“The bypass will relieve the traffic and environmental problems in the village. We are very anxious to produce a scheme that will be accepted by the village.”