Sunday, August 10, 2008

And while I was near Midhurst...

In the context of Potholes, it had been said to me that Midhurst didn't have many of them - Col 'Tex' Pemberton the Highways Cabinet member until recently is from up the road in Haslemere - and I can say that the roads did seem quite a bit smother than they are around here. Not just the main roads, like the A272 or A286, but the little country lanes in between (we got a bit lost and then decided to look for the Three Moles in Selham).

Also, at West Dean we saw several police officers. Some were dedicated to helping direct traffic on and off the site, despite there being marshals who were doing the same thing. Yes, it was a busy place, but at least half a dozen coppers? I know that crime in Sussex went down recently, but I didn't think that the boys in blue had nothing better to do.

And while railing at the West Sussex establishment as we drove around the area, I realised that we were moving into the area that is known as the 'West Weald' and which was going to be in the South Downs National Park before WSCC and Chichester District started to complain at the loss of power that it would represent (they don't really want the National Park at all). It's beautiful around there in the Wealden heathland, and the Black Down dominates the area.

Why would 'conservatives' oppose a National Park, which is aimed at 'conserving' the character of an area? Well, they want to have control of planning and a NP Authority would usurp that. You see, while they would be happy to agree with conserving things from some developments, there are some very influential parties in that part of West Sussex who take an entirely different view when it means that money can be made. It is these who would lose out if a National Park restricts development, even if it is supposed to be keeping the countryside beautiful. The same people who ensure that their local roads are well kept and that the local police are there in force for rural shows even if they are missing in urban areas don't want their little paradise spoilt by not being able to control it as much as they can

Festival Week

In the past few days I've been to two different festivals, each dedicated to a single comestible.

On Wednesday I went up to Earls Court to the Great British Beer Festival, where real ale nuts from across the country gather to down halves of warm brown beer and stroke their beards. I did try to grow a beard myself, but it was still at the scraggy stage and started to go ginger, so the next day it was gone.

Still, I do love real ale, and for the past few years I've met up with old friends from university there for a catch-up and some serious drinking. The best beer I tried there was a local one - Hepworth's Prospect, an organic beer with a taste like smoke (but in a good way).

We didn't stick to British Ale, though, because we often like to end up at the 'Rest of the World' bar (or 'forrun muck' as it is sometimes known) for some Belgian beers, Czech Pilsners, German Weissbier and some American brews.

American? Yes, the Americans can definitely brew decent beer. Anything from Anchor is great (and I went around the brewery last year to see how they made it and to spend as much time as possible 'checking' the quality). One sceptic among us last year, who had unfortunately only experienced the mass-produced dross lagers that the US is known for was totally changed around by a bottle of Brooklyn Lager

Anyway, it was a great night and a shame that I had to go to work the next day.

Today, I went to the Chilli Festival at West Dean, which is a place that deals in horticulture and other traditional arts, and is set in the middle of the South Downs on the road between Midhurst and Chichester.

There was chilli infused everything - chutnies inspired by Asia, sauces from the Caribbean, smoked chilli, pickled chilli, chilli in chocolate, chilli in beer (oh, and there was plenty of beer at this festival too), chilli on sausages...

I found a really potent chipotle sauce (chipotle is smoked chilli) and some cheese with chill in it, which will both go down rather well. And a couple of plants, a nice ornamental one and one of a grade 8 'Super Chilli' variety. Oh, and the beer stall had a bottle of Hepworth's Prospect, which rounded off the week very well.


Monday, August 04, 2008

It's not just roads that don't get repaired

It's paths too.

It came out today that West Sussex County Council has over £19M worth of outstanding repairs to make on pathways across the county.

Every part of the county is suffering from this, but Crawley has been left with the worst of the backlog - well over a quarter of the work (by monetary value) - £5.6M.

I suppose that rural areas have fewer paths by the side of the roads, but I'm sure that Horsham can't be too far off having the same amount as Crawley, given that the district includes the town itself as well as some large villages. Mid Sussex has a few towns (East Grinstead, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill) and must also have a similar number of paths. Surely between the two districts there would be as much, if not work to do on paths. And yet the backlog for both combined comes to about £4.2M, still a fair amount less than Crawley.

When I was a councillor, I was always getting complaints about poor footpaths and roads. And whenever I passed them on to the County Council I would get the same reply, pretty much - that there was a programme of repairs and upgrades, but that particular road/path was not going to be dealt with soon.

Things have changed since then - WSCC has lost £6M on Fastway, has cut it's Highways budget and has grown a sizeable long term debt. Under such circumstances it's easy to see why they have got so far behind. What isn't so easy to see is why Crawley appears to have borne the brunt of postponed work.

Hat tip to the Crawley Observer