We are 50 this year!

The Littlehampton Society was formed 50 years ago this year, as The Littlehampton Civic Society. To recognise this anniversary and to thank present members for their valued support we organised an afternoon tea with guest speaker for Friday 15th of July.

Some 30 members were able to accept our invitation and were treated to a sit down teatime buffet ably catered by Kayla’s Kitchen in Clifton Road, with cup cakes supplied by Creative Heart.

Nick Gibb, our long standing MP, came to talk to us, or rather as it turned out talk with us as he wanted to know our thoughts. After an outline of his work as both MP and Minister and an appreciation of the work of our Society it was straight into questions, prepared and spontaneous, and did we cover some ground!

On a written question from Sue Penn about the under resourced state of the NHS, his opinion was that what was needed was cross party agreement and work on the problems, some of which was down to administration, a personal instance: turning up for an appointment that had been cancelled without informing the patient. Nick assured us that the government would never privatise our NHS.

Clive Fennel’s written question concerned housing and farmland which drew Nick to say that population is always increasing, more housing is needed but that it should be built in the right places; he favours Council housing over Housing Associations and would like a new one built for every one that is sold; he questioned the “duty to cooperate” with adjacent authorities who had no space left to meet their government target quota of new builds.

On a written question from Doris Richards about the shortage of public transport, Nick’s view was that bus companies need more subsidies to be able to run more services

Danny Surridge wrote asking for Nick’s views on the future of towns like ours and Nick said that Littlehampton needed to be more of an “experience” than a shopping destination to be able to compete with on line and “bypass” shops. The town must find ways to adapt to the conditions, however its natural assets left it well placed to do so.

Carlo Marogna’s written question was concerning the effects of constructing Rampion 2 and the long term effects on our communities; Nick felt that whilst wind farms may be necessary they would be so much more efficient set out in the Dogger Bank and was worried about the effect it might have on local tourist business.

Questioned on sewage discharges he said much more work should be done to obviate the problem. He then revealed he had just been asked by Southern Water for his comments on a proposal to take the purified waste water and run it into the Arun or to send it to the drinking water purification works, which would help with water shortages; we convinced him that the latter would be best.

Asked by Janet Crosley if there should be another public consultation on the Sea Front and Town Plans, Nick said we should write to him if we were dissatisfied with the quality of any consultations and he would take our case up. Janet also asked if he supported Proportional Representation, which he did not on the grounds that it would lead to lots of ineffective coalitions and we learned that Nick was in favour of Boris going and also of our leaving the EU.

On a final question about anti social behaviour, he wants more discussions with MPs, Councils and local groups, with the police becoming more involved and he wonders whether schools are being unduly tolerant of bad behaviour. A thought on Levelling Up: all schools should be good quality schools.

Nick had given us well over an hour of his time (before going on to another engagement) and had given us both his support and many things to think about. The general feeling in the room was of an interesting and enjoyable level headed meeting.

A special vote of thanks to those members who remained behind to help us with the clearing up , washing up and tidying up after the meet.

We have learned from this event that there are many, and varied, concerns over the future, and the direction of travel, of our communities on the Sussex coast, so if you feel you would like to help us try to influence local policies on developments and amenities, even in some small way, then please do get in touch.