IT IS good to know that Louise Goldsmith and West Sussex County Council are taking a positive and proactive approach towards investment, in order to ensure that they get better value for taxpayers’ money.
We all want them to target investment in the right places, and to ensure that West Sussex continues to build a strong and vibrant economy, and to provide the best quality services for West Sussex’s residents. (Louise Goldsmith, ‘Major Implications for housing plans’, 15 October 2015, p. 43).
It is also important however, for WSCC to consider carefully the relationships between its three priorities; start of life, the economy, and later life.
While a healthy economy will clearly be essential for the county’s future, WSCC also needs to ensure that it will be an environmentally-sustainable economy, for unborn or very young children, and many elderly people, are inherently more sensitive to air pollutants.
This will mean that is not sufficient for the council simply to ensure that ‘there are good roads to travel on’, as councillor Goldsmith argues, but that WSCC must also insist that those roads must be well-situated, and well-designed in order to ensure and encourage environmentally-sustainable travel. If West Sussex will indeed have to accommodate the extra 57,000 homes that will be built across the county by 2029, then those roads could well have to take account of more than 100,000 new cars, let alone the additional haulage traffic generated by the growing economy.
WSCC’s road programme will, therefore, have to encourage sustainable traffic, not just more diesel vehicles, be they cars or lorries.
The extra 57,000 houses, which the county will have to absorb by 2029, may be well essential for political and social purposes, but recent developments in Chichester have also revealed a major disconnect between Chichester District Council’s local plan, which has now been approved, and the lack of infrastructure planning by WSCC, which will be necessary to support those new houses. In order to be environmentally-sustainable, WSCC – and indeed Chichester District Council – will need to pay close attention to the location of its new businesses, the houses where their employees will live, and to the design of the roads which link them.
To encourage environmental sustainability, this should mean more public transport over long-distances, more roads which are suitable for cyclists, and more shops and small employers located within walking distance of those new housing developments.