Stand up Comedians and Arun District Council’s Mrs Brown’s Boys.

The Pier Road Diaries have been trawling through some of Arun District Council’s Credit Card purchases, which includes this gem, purchased on the 8th March 2009 courtesy of the local tax payer-

Arun District Council public spendingTotal cost £9.24.

Acquired during the twilight years of Arun District Council’s Chief Executive’s Ian Sumnall whose tenure was certainly nothing to laugh about.

Mr Sumnal arrived at Arun District Council circa the 1970s where he remained there until reaching retirement in 2011 and has the dubious honor of leaving Arun exactly as it was when he first arrived in 1970.

I wonder if Mr Sumnall qualifies for some sort of Heritage Preservation award?

Salary for Mr Summall Chief Executive Arun District Council – £115,000 per year.

Off now enjoying retirement with a final salary pension.

Certainly there’s no need for history lessons for the local school children. In Arun,  we’re still living in a replica of 1970s Britain complete with overhead telephone lines, electric cables, grass car parks and no complicated bus timetables, as there’s only two services a day.

The only real progress the area has seen has been for the Council to declare some years ago that Littlehampton’s motto was to be ‘Progress’ – and erect a small sign to this effect on Littlehampton’s seafront.

No wonder comedy writer and actor Ronnie Barker choose Littlehampton to holiday in. The area is alive with material for stand up comedians.

On a more serious note, the fact that Arun now requires so much regeneration speaks volumes about what didn’t go on here for the past 30 years or so where a self-serving council of mad swivel eyed loons have ensured that underground telephone lines and electric cables are still a forthcoming election promise.

Forget potholes, finished roads would be a novelty.

Personally, I’d have booted Mr Sumnall and his coherts out circa 1980s with the introduction of the package holiday and the electronic calculator.

It was at this time when faced with substantial falling visitor numbers that Arun should have realized that the traditional visitor that Arun had so heavily relied upon, were no longer going to visit in sufficient numbers to sustain our candy-floss economy.

Any responsible, forwarding thinking council would at this point have realised that the days of hanging out a plastic Mr Whippy Cone between the months of April and September wasn’t enough to compete with the cheaper and much more enjoyable alternative of a an all-in package holiday in the Costa Del Sol.

Visitor numbers fell in their thousands.

But Arun District Council failed to do anything at this time to attract alternative visitors to our beautiful area.

It was an opportunity missed and one that had lead to fatal consequences for Arun keeping up with other neighbouring tourist destinations.

It’s a competitive market and while other Local Authorities were busy working on plans to attract all-year-round outdoorsy types, Arun was doing all it could to deter them.

No council resources were spared as Arun erected as many “NO” signs as it possibly could pandering to the ‘swivel eyed loons with their over-developed sense of entitlement who continually objected to opening up the area to outdoor activities.

I kid you not, when I say that the mere sight of teenagers flying a kite on the seafront public greensward is enough to send some of Arun’s elderly retired affluent residents into a frenzy of letter writing in the local papers.

When Arun announced it’s intention to allow cycling on Littlehampton’s seafront promenade it drew record numbers of letters of complaint from local residents. One correspondent warning that Littehampton’s Seafront Promenade would become awash with ‘cycling tourists’…

Perish the thought. Middle aged affluent cyclists spending their money in our B&Bs, campsites and restaurants.

Consequently, draconian bye-laws that would make even Robert Mugabe envious were dreamed up by unimaginative Councillors and enforced by seasonally appointed Sea front police officers who set about the task of ensuing any healthy aspirations were quickly and painfully stamped out.

Arun’s message was clear.

No Cycling – No Rollerblading – No Kiteboarding – No Windsurfing – No dingy Sailing – No Walking on the sand dunes – No, No, No.

Then Mr Sumnall retired.

A new Chief Executive has been appointed – Nigel Lynn.

I’ve met Nigel and have been impressed by his visions for a brighter more outdoor orientated Arun District. He’s also a man clearly uncomfortable with the notion that a CEO’s job is  for life and he’s here to do a job, as opposed to his predecessor who simply grew old behind a desk.

In my view, he’s just what Arun needs.

Cycling is now allowed on Littlehampton’s Seafront promenade, Bognor Regis and there are some very exciting plans being muted about for the Littlehampton’s West Bank  area.

But then along came the thorny  problem of  The Windmill Cinema.

Nigel Lynn, Arun’s Chief Executive stands accused by many residents and councillors (those of the mad swivel eyed loon variety) that Mr Lynn, together with Councillor Dendle and the CEO of Inspire Leisure under the directions of Arun’s Council Leader, Mrs Brown – conspired to ensure that the decision to close the Windmill’s cinema went through without any of that tiresome public consultation that the Public Sector detests so much.

Just as I was hopeful that we’d got rid of the stand up comedian, it now looks like we’ve got our very own version of Mrs Brown’s boys.

 

Leisure Strategy Meeting Arun District Council.

Now that the irritating business of the local elections are over, Arun District Council’s ruling Tory Party can get on with deciding the future of Littlehampton’s swimming pool and Windmill Theatre.

The previous meeting was dramatically postponed only hours before it was due to start when Arun District Council’s Chief Executive Nigel Lynn, announcing that a substance, which may have contained asbestos had been discovered while work was being undertaken in the council’s chambers.

Many locally, suspected the council were using the asbestos gag as a way of postponing what are some very difficult decisions, until once the local County Council elections had taken place.

The local view being that Arun District Council wouldn’t want to make unpopular decisions that may loose them votes. In any event, Asbestos wasn’t found, which hardly came as a surprise as by Law Arun District Council were obliged some years ago to undertake an Asbestos Survey of their building. One could safely assume that this survey would have been thorough and that if any hint of Asbestos was present, it would have been discovered back then.

In any event, Arun District Councillor, Paul Dendle, the councillor in charge of leisure and tourism and whose brief includes the Swimming pool and  leisure facilitates, took to the Littlehampton Gazette, to assure the local population that postponing the said meeting, wasn’t a conspiracy (his words, not mine) and that it was a sensible precaution to save guard all our well beings.

Councillor Dendle subsequently secured the lowest of all the Candidates when he stood for West Sussex County Council in the recent County Elections. Polling only 462 votes and coming behind the Labour Party (512 votes), Liberal Democrats (526 votes), with Ann Margaret of UKIP being elected with 1044 votes.

Tonight’s  meeting,   which is widely expected to be over-subscribed by irate local voters angry at seeing much loved local leisure facilities threatened with either closure or relocation, will be broadcast live by Arun District Council.

Arun District Council must be congratulated for this initiate to broadcast live the Council meetings, and I hope in the future, they may include many more full council meetings.

You can view the proceedings live here.

Littlehampton Sea Defences

After  months of nothing…..

Shortly after my last posting in January, the Environment Agency appears to have woken up from it’s winter slumbers.

First, a telephone call from Peter, the Project Manager to one of Pier Road traders assuring us that the proposed sea defences plans are still most certainly on.

Then, a nice Press Release to the local media outlets announcing the government’s commitment to the building the sea defences. Here’s the Littlehampton Gazette’s report on the story:

“Andrew Gilham, Sussex flood and coastal risk manager at the EA, expected it would take around a year to complete all the defences.

He added the construction work had been planned in conjunction with traders in Pier Road, and wouldn’t have an impact on the busy summer season, which many businesses relied heavily upon.”

Gosh, Andrew, my memories of our initial dealings with the Environment Agency were that your Agency were about to ride rough-shod over the interests of Pier Road Traders last year when you took it upon yourselves to decide to close Pier Road without any consultation with Pier Road Traders. This during our the busiest half-term holiday of the year.

I recall that the Environment Agency only postponed their plans to work in Pier Road as you hadn’t got the necessary legal consents in place from the Highways Agency….I recall the ongoing battles with the Project Team who were initially adamant they were going ahead, despite our objections.

Anyway, back to the present – Shortly after Andrew’s Press Release we all received an email from the Project Team notifying of us of an urgent meeting to attend a Consultation Meeting to view the ‘draft plans’ for what is now proposed in Pier Road.

Owing to the short notice time of only four days, I had to rearrange plans so I could make the meeting, only to receive another email informing us as that so few could attend, the meeting had been postponed to the following week.

Which begs the question does anyone in the Environment Agency have any idea how to schedule a meeting?

Then, even more correspondence followed, when we were all forwarded the draft plans for what is now being proposed.

By my calculation, this will be the eight time I have been invited to review Draft Plans the regeneration of Pier Road.

One thing I was impressed with was that finally we were being given an opportunity to view the plans prior to the Consultation meeting. However, any admiration was sadly short lived as I discovered that the Draft Plans lacked any useful detail in respect of measurements, surface finishing, heights and so on.

So I emailed the project team saying that I was concerned that despite assurances to the contrary, the draft plans include a plan to build out into Pier Road, something which we have been assured wasn’t going to happen.

I asked for the revised measurements of the Pier Road to be provided and got an email reply telling me that they wouldn’t be answering this question until 1st March 2013.

But our Consultation meeting is on Tuesday 26th February?

Seems a bizarre waste of time to invite stakeholders to attend a consultation meeting, when prior to the meeting a question is asked in relation to the measurements, or lack of them, only to be told that they won’t answer this question until the week following the meeting?

I don’t really think the Environment Agency fully understands the concept of meetings, so I’ve invested in the following book, which I’m having sent to the Project Team in an effort to save tax payer’s money.

518LUIKKbML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_

Of concern also is Arun District Council’s Funding Pledge for these Regeneration Plans.

Until now, Arun District Council have been saying they’ve pledged £1m towards the Sea front enhancements:. Here’s a quote from Arun District Council’s own Website:

Councillor Roger Elkins, Deputy Leader of Arun District Council says: “In these difficult times, £1 million is a considerable amount of money to pledge. It shows our commitment to the regeneration of Littehampton and realising the visions set out in our waterfront strategy.”

Yet, In this week’s Littlehampton Gazette, as part of the feature covering the proposed Sea Defences:

“Arun District Council has also given £500,000 to be used for a project to enhance the pedestrian section of Pier Road.”

I’m confused here, as I thought Councillor Elkins Deputy Leader of the District Council said it was £1million.

So what is it?

£1 million or £500,000?

Then the Environment Agency are quoting a different figure altogether, with £1.3 Million. Information published on their website, 14th August 2012 states:

“The project will also regenerate the area around Pier Road and Arun Parade in the town as a result of the additional £1.3 Million being provided by Arun District Council to introduce significant enhancements to the Scheme..”

I’ve asked Project Team to explain why the different figures and have had no reply.

A further concern of mine is just how long these proposed works are likely to take.

On THE 29TH November 2011, Arun District Council published a PR Release regarding the Proposed Sea Defences stating:

“the flood defences work is anticipated to start around Autumn 2012 and will take approximately 12 months to complete.”

However, the Project Manager told me during our last telephone conversation that he sees it being completed within 3 months.

So how long is it going to take?

While I’m not an engineer,  I cannot see how any civil engineering contractor could complete what is being proposed for Pier Road in 3 months, let alone 12 months, bearing in mind that this project began in 2010 and we still haven’t seen a final plan?