Ref: Response by East Grinstead Labour Party to the Town Council’s final version of the Neighbourhood Plan.
WE appreciate that considerable efforts have been made to accommodate the wide variety of comments from East Grinstead residents and businesses alike including the Labour Party.
We recognise however that the Town Council has been constrained by the inability of the District Council to conclude a District Plan which is again heavily influenced by the government’s lack of political backbone to make any decision on the future of Gatwick airport.
The development of Gatwick airport will mean much more housing in the area which will impact on both the district and town plans.
However we are still disappointed that affordable housing which includes both for purchase and social rent including single bedroom accommodation is not sufficiently encouraged. Young families need somewhere to live and most housing is way above their means.
There is little to support local jobs and there is a danger that East Grinstead will become a dormitory town for people working in Crawley, Croydon and London.
We are pleased that our suggestion to include electronic signposting to car parks is supported but are again disappointed that nothing is mentioned about future transport policy.
Whilst we appreciate the Town Council does not have that responsibility they could have an aspiration to pedestrianise the High Street and campaign to that end, to improve public transport, cycle ways and pedestrian routes.
Shopping and sightseeing in the narrow part of the High Street are a nightmare with traffic literally brushing past your elbow, and noise and fumes polluting the atmosphere. f
Further eastwards, car parking obscures the historic buildings undermining the tourist and shopping potential of our historic town.
Overall the plan is lacking in vision and seems to be saying play safe, and expresses a general do nothing attitude that lets down the residents of East Grinstead. We could do better.
Brian Sturtevant, Chairman, East Grinstead Labour Party.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their concerns and kind words for the staff at Chequer Mead and the cast and team involved in the pantomime, after yesterday’s tragic fire at the Wallis Centre.
Thankfully no one was hurt, and our evacuation of the centre was purely a precautionary measure on the advice of the fire service.
I would like to thank and praise my staff and volunteers at Chequer Mead for the way they handled the situation. Whilst we practice evacuation procedures on a regular basis, it’s a different story putting it in to practice in real life situations.
I would also like to thank the chaperones, the team and the members of The Roche Dance School who were all so quick to react, cooperative, and impeccably behaved throughout.
Thanks also to the cast and team of the panto, who were ready to perform, but had their preparations interrupted. They too were professional and cooperative throughout.
Final thanks to the emergency services who were so professional and meticulous in their handling of the situation.
Having been involved in a scary and potentially dangerous situation it angers and saddens me to see so many people impinge on social media, finger pointing and starting scurrilous rumours about who or what started the fire.
As someone who had to report break-ins and vandalism at the centre on a regular basis, the possibilities of the cause are endless.
It’s the fire department’s investigation team that will decide what happened, and they have been working through the night to establish what happened. So until that information is made public let’s be thankful there was no loss of life and stop airing ill informed views, that do no favours to anyone
Ref: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Chequer Mead
THE main question I have to answer is how can someone like me – who was so closely involved with the Company of Friends – give an unbiased opinion of this year’s pantomime Snow White – put on by a commercial company That’s Entertainment?
Hopefully, having lived in East Grinstead for all my life, people will know that I only say what I see, for better or worse.
When going to a Christmas show, especially as this will be only the first or second visit to a theatre for a lot of the children, I would hope it to be visually inspiring, laugh-out-loud funny and musically entertaining, with the younger audience members jumping up and down, giggling at the stupidness, in awe of the magical splendour and free to scream out loud until hoarse.
This show simply did not offer anything like that apart from the entrance of a plastic spider which, at last, got the children animated.
There was no slapstick, no pyrotechnics, no scene-changes to captivate the imagination – to the degree that twice in the show the children had to try to understand that the dwarves were deep in the forest whilst they were standing directly in front of a set depicting the inside of their house.
Totally confusing to everyone watching.
Costume changes were minimal and with only four cast members for 90% of the show, the stage appeared bare for a lot of the time.
The choice of humour and the material used has to be very carefully considered in any pantomime and the reputation gained throughout the previous years was that the show was open to all the family. However this pantomime slipped into the depths. I did not want to know anything about Muddles’ anatomy and what he would like to do with it!!
The song choices seemed to have no connection to the storyline and the poor dancing girls from the local Roshe school, only appeared twice in the first act and spent most of their time doing very basic work – not exactly inspiring to perform or watch.
And what of the dwarves? Children coming on stage with enormous false heads on their shoulders, performing to pre-recorded taped voices. Basically come on, and when it was your turn, wave your arms about.
I could continue with the lack of etiquette regarding the entrances and exits that should occur in a pantomime, the concern that a 57-year-old is trying to woo a teenage girl by flapping his tongue near her face, the difficulty that some had with the songs and so much more – but feel that I have said enough.
The one very positive side was the lighting and the technical crew.
I just want to express my deep disappointment with this year’s Christmas lights that have been installed up the top half of London Road. From the day they were installed 50% of them never worked and now, of the only set that do work, half have gone out probably due to the fact they are on night and day.
I appreciate that the lights are in a transition period and the new LED lights look good but the effort in this part of town is very poor.
I understand that the Christmas lights are outsourced to an independent company. If this is correct and the company are being paid to provide the lights surely they have a duty to maintain the lights let alone make sure they work in the first place.
My daughter is three years old and this is the first Christmas where she fully understands what is happening. I was really looking forward to taking her up the town this year to show her the lights which my parents used to when I was a child, this was one of my highlights of Christmas and at present I feel there is no point due to the state that they are in at the moment.
I would be very interested to know if anything is happening with the lights to rectify the poor installation.
Ref: Following our report that East Grinstead MP Sir Nicholas Soames intends to support the PM’s call for the bombing of ISIS, reader David Newey has shared the letter he has sent to Sir Nicholas asking him to think again.
DEAR Nicholas Soames,
I am writing to ask you to vote against military action in Syria. The reasons are very clear and logical, and dare I say it, contain a modicum of Realpolitik.
1. We can’t afford it as a country. Dropping bombs on ineffectual
targets, innocent civilians and rubble is like setting fire to piles of
pound notes. It is simply a poor investment of money.
2. There are sufficient assets from other countries bombing Syria.
Deploying UK forces is not required given the existing number of
US/French and Russian assets in the area, and the target list is either
well-established or exhausted.
3. Mission objectives. If we are following a policy of containment of
ISIS, then surely loitering drones are more effective than high
profile, high value, high risk bombing missions with very little
4. Economics. As we found out with the PIRA, it would be cheaper to
bribe some of those terrorists for human intelligence using the money we
would expend on a single sortie than cause collateral damage and
thereby increase recruitment globally.
5. Bombing does not beat boots on the ground. Frankly if the
US/Russia/NATO were to deploy en masse troops on the ground, it would
be considerably more effective than suppression (see point 3).
6. Bombing does not defeat an idea, and it is the ideological battle
that must be won. This takes time and education. Bombing just adds to
the counter narrative.
7. Syrians lives matter just as much as Parisian lives. If you project
the upset we felt about Paris onto Syrians then you can understand
8. 70,000 Syrians. Even if such a number does exist, it is not
sufficient to take and hold ground against a motivated enemy. Perhaps
if all the single, military age males that have left the country in
droves had gone back to fight for their country, I would be somewhat
Whilst I accept something must be done, a knee jerk reaction is simply
not it. Putin’s approach of targeting the financing of these terrorists
is clearly the approach and whilst we cosy up to Saudi Arabia and
Turkey whilst turning a blind eye to their behaviour we will turn this
into a hundred year war.
Bombing Syrian is akin to shelling poppy fields – you may destroy the crop but will scatter the seeds far on the wind.
TRAFFIC enforcement? How many cars can you see in the photos on this page parked illegally?
If you want to fix the traffic problem also sort out the lights timings in the town center – the tailbacks are always across the mini roundabout and locks that whole end of town to traffic going in all directions.
Not enough time is allowed for in any direction at peak times for car traffic, including in King Street and Queens Road. It’s a passive aggressive attempt to discourage cars from the town centre.
Fix the lights timings and link them to the crossings timings so they don’t clash and enforce the parking abuse throughout the town centre.
Without hold-ups in town it will Make East Grinstead a nicer place to be.
MP Nicholas Soames’ support of yet another rush to war once again shows the shambles and dreadful human misery caused by the bombing campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were quickly brushed aside.
Those WWII bombing campaigns over Germany did not shorten the war nor solve anything and caused more resilience in the German defenders and population but those lessons have long been forgotten.
RANT and Rave offers readers the chance to offer praise where it is due, or let off steam about an issue which is bothering them. In this “rant” Dave Flynn addresses the issue of out-of-control dogs on the Worth Way.
“To the dog walker on the Worth Way yesterday morning whose dog ran under my feet and tripped me up.
I did not stop to listen to your apology for fear of losing my temper.
If you want to walk your dog along the Worth Way which is busy with cyclists runners, joggers, families out walking and other dog walkers, and which is only the width of a wide pavement, don’t you think talking to your friend and with dogs taking up 9 /10ths of this width is rather inconsiderate?
And don’t you think it would be safer for your lap dogs and other users to keep them on a lead on this bridle path?
P. S. At first I was concerned that I might have injured your dog but not now – the blame lies with you.
IS Dave right? Should dogs be kept on a leash, or – despite the variety of people using it – is the Worth Way a relatively safe place to let them run free?
Above: a little chihuahua which was killed on the roads last month
Ref: two recent incident in which dogs were killed on town roads.
I’VE had a traumatic experience driving by Felbridge this week. I hit a dog.
Luckily he is absolutely fine, he’s at home, and luckily I was going 20 or even less miles an hour, but I am writing to remind people about the importance of sticking to the limit in this area.
I read about a lady a couple of weeks back who had lost her dog by someone running them over, and the person didn’t stop. Hitting a dog is heart-breaking, for the driver and family, and that dog could have been a child.
The dog impacted my car when I had stopped so there was no harm done, and I had assistance in taking the dog to the vet straight away to have it checked over. I didn’t leave until I knew he was okay and owners had been contacted.
But it could have been so much worse if I had been speeding, as people tend to do around here.
I’m traumatised by it all, and would hate for it to happen again and for it to be a worse outcome.
Deer can also be a problem at this time of year when the evenings are dark early.
DAVID Starkey was in crackling form as he took an engrossed full house at Chequer Mead last night through the true story of the Magna Carta.
The first Magna Carta was signed 800 years ago in June 1215 by King John in Runneymead, Berkshire where a reluctant King John was forced to cede some of his absolute power by his Barons.
It lasted a few months until it was annulled by Pope Innocent III which voided it for England’s totally Catholic population. King John died the following year.
But the seed of freedom from the absolute power of the monarchy had been sown and the Barons backed by the clergy battled with John’s successors until in 2025 the final version was signed. It gave freedoms to a limited number of “distinguished persons” and the clergy which grew into modern day democracy for all.
Mr Starkey is a fabulous presenter and his compelling voice and constantly moving hands kept his audience enthralled.
He managed to lighten the gloomy tale of medieval suffering by striking modern day parallels for some of the Magna Carta characters with today’s politicians.
The Milliband brothers would have fitted in well with the period when princes often murdered their brothers to reduce competition for the crown. Jeremy Corbyn was compared to amiable monarchs of that time who usually ended up being murdered by crueller contenders for power.
Ref: The identity of the 1964 East Grinstead Carnival Queen
The Carnival Queen of 1964 was Linda Taylor of School Lane, Ashurstwood and married to be Mrs Linda Smith of Forest Row, where she still lives.
I have fond memories of these carnivals as my father used to help putting them together as he was the Service Manager for Caffyns in East Grinstead.
Joe Dakin used to loan us one of the Louis G Fords lorries to go round and collect carnival paraphernalia from the old sweet factory which is now Homebase and the Hollies in Colemans Hatch, where they had a large store in the stables.
We also used to get tables and chairs from Hobbs Barracks when it was still a barracks.
In this film it shows a castle float with a Caffyns sign on the side which my father was driving and I as a young teenage was riding “shotgun” . I could continue with my memories of many a carnival in East Grinstead but there is just not enough space here!
Below: archive film footage of the 1964 Carnival. We’ve identified the Carnival Queen, but who were her attendants?
Above: Theroux’s crew filming Scientology filming Theroux filming them on his phone
Ref: Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie which had its debut at the BFI Festival this week
THIS new BBC documentary by Louis Theroux had its premiere during the London Film Festival, and is both entertaining and well worth seeing, particularly given the local prominence of the sect – or religion – depending on one’s point of view.
Louis Theroux adopts an original approach, effectively making a documentary about the difficulties of making a documentary about Scientology.
And this is the puzzle – if the organisation has nothing to hide, why does its every action appear to indicate the opposite?
Scientology refused to co-operate with the makers of the film, denied the team entry to the razor-wired headquarters, and sent out their own camera to “make a documentary about Louis Theroux”.
This results in a bizarre scene where the crew is shooting the Scientology team filming Louis Theroux recording them on his mobile. A white SUV appears to tail the unit, and letters from libel lawyers flowed regularly.
Given the past record of the film maker, it would have seemed more sensible to have helped rather than hindered, and taken the opportunity to put forward the organisation’s own point of view.
Because Louis Theroux was unable to get any co-operation from Scientology, he used actors to recreate some of the techniques they employ, based on input from three or four senior defectors from the organisation.
One can’t tell whether these are accurate, but some are disturbing, particularly the use of “The Hole”, an alleged HQ punishment block for failing members.
Scientology naturally denies this is true.
The portrayal of David Miscavige, the leader of the sect, is especially worrying.
Members won’t agree, but Louis Theroux gives the impression of trying to be as fair as possible – he doesn’t make much, if anything, of Scientology’s more way-out beliefs, the high cost of their programmes gets only a couple of passing mentions, and he accepts (as he also did in the Q and A after the showing) that some of their counselling techniques may well be of value.
He also incorporates much of their own promotional material. He just appears baffled as to why they can’t be more open about what they do.
Clearly the editing of a film like this can both clarify or distort the truth, so whether this film (which apparently took two years to make) is a reasonable picture of Scientology is impossible for an outsider to say.
But it does raise a number of uncomfortable issues.
EAST Grinstead Society is an excellent organisation in many ways, but it is failing in its duty of care as our town’s official planning watchdog.
While it is true that the Society has only an advisory remit – as does the Town Council on most planning matters – it should speak out loudly and clearly when appalling damage is being inflicted on our townscape.
Unfortunately, the Society seems somewhat elitist and out-of-touch with the wishes of many residents.
Harmful plans are slipping through the net unchallenged (such as adding an extra storey to 151 London Road (see image above) while recommendations have been made for the refusal of plans which, in the opinion of others, would have been good for our town.
Leaving aside our protected High Street, the historic skyline of East Grinstead is being destroyed by planners and developers, while the East Grinstead Society concerns itself with tree-trimming and the appropriateness of street names. The terms “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” and “fiddling while Rome burns” come to mind.
But, even worse, at least one of their policies is positively harmful to our town, and the Society must share (along with the Town Council) some responsibility for the damage that is being done.
Their insistence on development only taking place within our existing built-up area is enabling developers to build higher, instead of allowing natural population growth to take place at carefully chosen locations on the town’s perimeter.
The consequence is a diminished skyline, overstretched infrastructure, increased population density (with associated social problems) and disgruntled residents.
It is time, either for the East Grinstead Society to step down from its privileged position, or at least for it to consult more widely (preferably via social media – the most effective means) on matters that affect us all, rather than presuming it knows best.
Ref: Labour Party’s response to the Neighbourhood Plan
Whilst welcoming at last the long awaited East Grinstead Neighbourhood plan from the Town Council, only four years after the consultation started, the local branch of East Grinstead Labour party believes it is a wasted opportunity.
In its response to the Councils proposals the local branch has expressed disappointment that many of the suggestions made during the earlier consultation by the branch and others have not been taken up.
There is a desperate need for social housing for rent and affordable housing for owner occupiers, including single bedroom properties, so that young people can stay in the area and to offset the consequences of the bedroom tax, yet there is nothing in the plan for these important groups in the community. Instead the plan appears to allow the development of existing urban green infrastructure to the detriment of the community.
The acute traffic problems have not been addressed and there are no plans to pedestrianise the High Street to capitalise on the historic centre of the town and to create a safe, friendly environment for people and trade and to boost tourism. Vague words about improving cycle and pedestrian routes are not matched by concrete proposals or at the least a professional survey . An opportunity to improve public transport to reduce car usage is missed.
We encourage East Grinstead Town Council to think again before they put the plan to referendum.”
Ref:the Draft Neighbourhood Plan (DNP) and Sustainability Appraisal (SA)
I must comment on the untimely and inappropriate way in which the Draft Neighbourhood Plan has been produced.
To present before the public, a two-part document – the DNP/SA – containing 18,000 more words than the Communist Manifesto – is an absurdity.
Leaving aside the grammatical and spelling errors that any half-competent copywriter and proof-reader (not to mention a spellchecker) would have spotted immediately – the Plan is crying out for an executive summary, to enable residents to engage with the content, without having to plough through the unnecessary bureaucratic jargon and rigmarole used by officials and consultants to justify their existence and fees.
The Plan is out-of-date in several respects – not least because of the scrapping of the 7km Ashdown Forest environmental protection zone and its implications for the future funding of SANGs (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces), as well as the very real undermining of the power of councils to require SANG contributions from developers in cases of small developments in the forest area.
The High Court decision, which led to the scrapping of the 7km zone, was available several weeks before the DNP/SA was published, yet no effort seems to have been made to modify the Plan or provide clarification.
Some of the most important policies, put forward for consultation, are also out-of-date.
For instance, the plan makes reference to the proposed demolition and development of the St Luke’s site at Stone Quarry, as though this were somehow a future possibility, rather than a policy that is already in force – St Luke’s church having already been demolished.
It is also unhelpful that Mid Sussex District Council has issued the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) consultation to run concurrently with the DNP/SA. How much time does the council think the average person has for reading long-winded official documents? Far too often our councils mistake consultation for action.
Having said that, many of the plan’s aspirational policies no doubt do represent the wishes of the community, and residents should engage with it, even though it may turn out to be little more than a wish-list, most of the power to implement it being in hands of higher bodies.
According to paragraph 1:5 of the SA…
The neighbourhood planning system is an opportunity for local people to create a new type of plan for delivering and regulating development within their area. The aims are to give local communities the power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and to deliver the sustainable development needed to ensure that the right types of development is [Sic] provided in the right locations. It also allows the opportunity to set out specific planning policies to be used in determining planning applications.
It is perhaps revealing (and somewhat confusing) to note that the section defining the aims of the DNP refers to the neighbourhood planning system being an opportunity, rather than the Draft Neighbourhood Plan itself…
Ref: High Street poorly restored after work on water mains
HOW can a utility company be allowed to dig up a beautifully paved area, leave it exposed with little work for weeks, causing an eyesore and disruption, and then not put the paving back as they found it?
The hard-standing in our High Street was beautifully paved, at taxpayers’ expense, with an even surface with no chips to the edges of the slabs.
The recent contractors finished last week and what they have left is an uneven surface, chipped and damaged slabs around the edge of the excavation and some shoddy cement filling the gaps where they just couldn’t be bothered to cut slabs to size.
Who will foot the bill for claims should anyone trip up, and the maintenance to put it right?
The tax payers?
I really can’t believe that the contractors can get away with this.
Ref: The proposal to move East Grinstead police into Chequer Mead
THE proposal to lease the Alfred Wagg Studio at the Chequer Mead Theatre to Sussex Police to be used as a Police Station is the most inappropriate idea I have ever heard and as a regular user and volunteer I object in the strongest possible terms.
I am also a retired Police Officer so I am fully aware of the requirements of a Police Station, and while arrested person are taken to Crawley Custody Suite, suspected criminals will be attending the police station for interviewing and investigation purposes, as will those signing on under bail conditions.
These suspects could have committed any number of crimes including being on the sex offenders register.
If what I have said is not enough to stop this crazy proposal then let me add more.
Police cars coming and going with blue lights and two tone – do I want to attend an art exhibition or a show with all that going on?
The Arts Centre is a place were people should feel safe, a place of reflection, relaxation, a place to enjoy the Arts to forget real life – burglars, the violent, sex offenders – who will be turning up and fancy a coffee while eyeing up your handbag or your child.
No, not for me – or anyone I have mentioned this proposal to.
Incidentally none of us had heard about the proposal until now, bit late for the deadline, but then the Town Council and I assume the management at Chequer Mead tried to get away with the very minimum statutory requirement of notice, hoping no one would bother to object before it happened. Not exactly public consultation.
Oh and let’s not forget the security threat, which at this time anyone with half a brain knows is very high.
Police Stations are targets for attack even without IS terrorists. So what a lovely “soft target” we will be.
Attack a Police Officer or Police Station and let the local children attending and performing in the theatre witness events. Will we have to start checking peoples bags before allowing them into the centre?
Oh, and I suppose you think the Police Officers are going to protect you?
Wel that’s highly unlikely – there are not many, if any, Police officers left in East Grinstead, just the Community Beat Officers who have no powers or protection in a threatening situation.
The station’s ‘front office’ is very likely to be manned by a support staff employee with just the same credentials as those working in the box office.
We are not talking the Community Arts Centre being next door to a Police Station,(bad enough) we are talking having a Police Station IN the Community Arts Centre.
And then there is the issue of WHY the Police want to lease the facility.
It must be cheaper than the lease/rent on a commercial property, although god knows there are enough empty commercial properties they can use in East Grinstead.
And yes, it’s paid for out of Public Funds and these have to be spent wisely.
But why should the fact that Sussex Police have to save money impact so seriously on the Arts?
If Chequer Mead cannot raise enough revenue on the Alfred Wagg Centre this is because it doesn’t work hard enough to do so and therefore the thought of leasing to Sussex Police for 21 years is easy money, but I bet they are not paying a commercial rate.
This is such an inappropriate idea, I despair that it was even proposed.