As chairman of Save Our Storrington, I have been asked by many residents if I can throw some light on the progress of two major issues – traffic and the proposed Waitrose expansion – affecting our village.
What, for instance, has happened to West Sussex County Council’s traffic survey? We were told the results would be published by the end of March. Then we learned – at the end of April – that the results were flawed so it would have to be redone.
The measuring apparatus was duly reinstated in early May.
But over a month later we are still waiting for the results. Why? Storrington’s traffic problems were debated by West Sussex County Council’s Strategic Environmental Services Select Committee on March 14, at which time councillors were told the survey was already in hand.
This delay is completely unacceptable.
The second mystery, of course, revolves around the progress of Waitrose’s application to expand its current store so drastically. We have written to Waitrose’s managing director asking him to give us some indication of what is going on. Five weeks later, we haven’t had even an acknowledgement of our letter.
The district council is similarly coy on the subject. That is to some extent understandable: confidentiality and discretion have their parts to play in delicate negotiations.
But surely, in the name of transparency and open government, we will be able to read a full account of what has gone on in the lead-up to the application once it has been decided?
No, we won’t. The district council does not have a policy on minute-taking for meetings between its officers (and/or elected members) and outside bodies such as Waitrose and its agents. Freedom of Information requests have therefore elicited very little, other than the fact that a number of meetings have indeed taken place.
This reluctance to minute such meetings seems to go against the Government view as expressed in the Planning Advisory Service’s ‘Pre-application guidance and engagement’ (http://www.pas.gov.uk/pas/core/page.do?pageId=341954).
So my response to worried residents is necessarily disappointing.
When will we receive answers to the questions the whole village is asking?
Chairman, Save Our Storrington, Nightingale Close, Storrington