North Mill Bridge
North Mill Bridge
For some time we have been concerned by the state of the road surface over North Mill Bridge. Potholes are almost ever-present. Within weeks of being filled in they open up again. The surface at the southern end now looks like a patchwork quilt!
We have communicated with WSCC Highways on a number of occasions. They have talked about the difficulties of organizing a major repair (disruption to traffic, cost, and other road projects demanding attention). However, on 30 June 2021 we met WSCC (Councilor Kate O’Kelly and a Highways representative) along with a resident from the former mill (now a house).
We pointed out that the vibration caused by vehicles hitting potholes results in the building shaking. The bridge, which is a listed monument, is causing damage to the house, a listed building. We understand that a council is obliged to look after listed properties.
Highways agreed that temporary patching, although it helped, was not a long-term solution, and it was proposed that a major (<50 sq metre) area would be resurfaced in this calendar year – hopefully by Autumn. Subsequently, they advised:
“Dodsley Lane from the A272 to Hollist Lane is currently on the potential carriageway resurfacing programme for 2022-23 whilst North Street from Rother College to Dodsley Lane is on the potential reserve list for 2022-23.” Whilst these statements were made in good faith, they should not be treated as firm commitments.
The resident of North Mill House also raised the subject of safety. Vehicles and bikes often take evasive action to avoid potholes, and because the bridge is so narrow they risk collision with other vehicles – or with the parapet wall (as happened recently). And it is almost impossible for pedestrians to exit safely from his drive. He proposed changes that would alleviate these problems to some extent. WSCC were not unsympathetic, and Kate O’Kelly suggested he present his proposal as a community-based initiative. We offered to support him in communicating with other members of the community.
12 July 2021
Community First Responders
Since the ambulance station was removed from Midhurst we have been concerned about emergency response times. Although SECAMB have said they will have a response vehicle at the Fire Station in New Road when possible, this doesn't seem to happen with any great frequency. We believe that Midhurst residents are at risk.
In September 2019 we put forward the idea of a Midhurst First Responder Group, inviting volunteers on Facebook and in the Midhurst & Petworth Observer. Eight people contacted us, expressing interest. We established a dialogue with SECAMB who in December advertised for volunteers in several parts of West Sussex - including Midhurst and Petworth. Details here
The closing date was 12 January 2020. We know that there were six applicants from the Midhurst area but we are unaware of the progress of interviews and training since Covid-19 interfered.
However, Oliver Wheeler took the matter into his own hands. We quote:
"Midhurst MEDS (Medical Emergency District Support) is a not for profit, Community Interest Company who’s members Respond to 999 medical emergencies as Community First responders (CFRs) on behalf of the NHS SECAmb Trust in the Midhurst area. We also assist, manage and recruit new NHS Community First Responders, provide Free CPR and BLS training , maintain PAD sites and serve the local community with improved response times to emergencies and better overall patient experiences.
"Since launching on 12th May 2021, MEDS has attended 74 emergency 999 calls and been first on scene 68 of those times. We have assessed and treated patients in their own homes, work places and in public outside spaces and we have also been called to support Sussex Police at two safeguarding incidents involving children."
"CFRs are volunteer members of their community who are trained to respond to emergency calls in conjunction with SECAMB. As they respond in the local areas where they live and work they are able to attend the scene of an emergency within a few minutes, and often before the emergency service arrives. They are able to offer life-saving first aid further increasing the patient’s chances of survival. SECAmb currently has more than 400 CFRs spread across Kent, Surrey and Sussex and north east Hampshire. Our CFRs attend roughly 20,000 emergency calls per year of which more than 10,000 were categorised as life-threatening (including more than 1,000 of which are cardiac/respiratory arrest calls)."
Midhurst has been without an ambulance station since 2016.
On 6 March 2019 we sent this email to SECAMB and proceeded to follow it up over the next few weeks with SECAMB and WSCC. We were told that an informal agreement had been reached between the ambulance people and the fire station people for a vehicle to be based at the Fire Station in New Road, Midhurst. WSCC, however, had insisted that a formal agreement be prepared - but this seems to have been given low priority.
On 5 April 2019 we sent this message to the lawyers representing SECAMB:
"I represent The Midhurst Society. We are concerned that lives are being put at risk in the absence of an agreement between SECAMB and the Fire Station in New Road, Midhurst.
"I have been told by WSCC that you have the agreement for final approval and signature. We have been without an ambulance base in Midhurst since the old ambulance station was sold in 2016. I would be grateful if, on behalf of all the people in Midhurst, you could expedite this matter at your early convenience.".
Our campaign featured on the front page of the Midhurst & Petworth Observer on 11 April 2019 and was acknowledged by Midhurst Town Council.
On 20 June 2019 we were advised that the lease had been completed.
In October 2019 a space for an ambulance was painted in the car park at the Fire Station.
In January 2020, under the Freedom of Information Act, we requested details of ambulance response times. SECAMB's response can be read here
The SDNPA published a consultation document on Affordable Housing, open between September and November 2019.
Our response, dated 14 October 2019, was generally favourable - although we did have one slightly controversial suggestion! See attachment
On 21 October SDNPA thanked us for our comments and said they would give consideration to our suggestion regarding vacant properties.
In March 2020 SDNPA issued a Draft Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document
On 28 March we commented as follows:
We have considered your draft document and generally welcome the proposed procedures and support and look forward to its adoption and implementation.
However, whilst we support your proposal, in our response, of 14 October 2019 to your initial consultation we did suggest that you might go further. There are a number of vacant properties in the Park (including Midhurst) – some of which have been unoccupied for a number of years. There might be very good reasons why this is so, but we feel that the property owners should be given an incentive to return them to active use. As set out in our earlier response a Community Land Trust might, under certain circumstances, be given the right to buy such a property.
Please keep us informed of progress.
A series of planning applications have been submitted, all of which appear to have been rejected by SDNPA because they failed to provide for some community benefit. In August 2021 the property was re-marketed at a price of £2 million as "of interest to hoteliers, commercial and community users, as well as residential home owners (subject to planning permission)".
Richard Cobden was born at this location, and returned in later life to convert the rural farm dwelling into what is now known as Dunford House, where he lived for many years. He was one of the great social reformers of the 19th century, and Dunford House, which still contains many of his possessions, would make an ideal museum/community hub. He is buried in the churchyard at West Lavington and commemorated by an obelisk nearby bearing the words:
GOODWILL AMONG NATIONS
Some 60 years ago, the Cobden family donated the estate to the YMCA, to honour and preserve the name and work of Richard Cobden, but when the YMCA had no further use for it they decided to sell it to the highest bidder. Richard Cobden's descendants, now scattered all over the world, together with the people of Heyshott and surrounding area, argued that the YMCA is morally obliged to return the estate to them.
The YMCA ignored this plea and accepted a commercial offer. The Cobden family appealed to the Charities Commission, and we supported this stance. A copy of the email we sent to the Charities Commission on 3 August 2019 can be read here
The buyer submitted numerous planning applications, all of which appear to have been unsuccessful. It is not clear whether the August 2021 offer for sale is for the benefit of the YMCA or the commercial buyer.
For further information, see the Cobden Foundation website
Soft Sand Quarrying
We have campaigned from the beginning to have soft sand quarrying excluded from the SDNP. It was disheartening, therefore, to read that the Government Inspector had insisted that six sites within the National Park be re-examined with a view to having them inserted into the Local Plan. We drafted our response and submitted it to SDNPA on 2nd March 2019, with copies to MTC and various other interested parties. The Midhurst & Petworth Observer quoted from our submission on 7th March.
Our response can be seen here view PDF
Whilst this originated as a 'campaign' it quickly became a complex planning issue and more information can be found on the 'Planning' section of this web site.
Stedham Primary School
Following a successful campaign by the school, villagers and supporters, Stedham Primary School was granted a reprieve. The threat of closure was lifted in February 2020. Stedham Primary School is to be federated; with Harting Cof E School.
WSCC opened a consultation on the future of certain rural or village schools, including Stedham Primary School.
Our full response on 15 October 2019 can be read here
Easebourne Park Pathways
Easebourne Parish Council raised funds in 2018 and turned an empty field into a community 'destination' with children's playground, picnic area and pathways. In 2019 they want to raise more funds to make the pathways suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. We have supported the campaign on Facebook but we are not active in the fund-raising.
We have been active on several fronts in the last few months. We are liaising with various parties on the future of a number of sites that have strategic importance for Midhurst and surrounding villages, in particular:
- the empty site behind the hoardings at The Grange Centre; this site has been earmarked for a residential nursing home. The developers have yet to lodge a planning application, so we will wait until the appropriate time to consider our comments.
- the Blue Bell, Cocking; the pub in Cocking has been closed for some time and residential development plans fell through. A community initiative has been established in the village to raise funds with a view to buying the building and re-opening it as a pub, village shop, post office and restaurant/cafe (a community hub). We have supported the campaign on Facebook but we are not actively involved in the fund-raising.
- Dunford House (Richard Cobden's old home); The descendents of Richard Cobden have teemed up with the local community (Heyshott) and are raising funds to make an offer for the site with a view to preserving the house and artefacts for future generations. We have supported the campaign on Facebook but we are not actively involved in the fund-raising.
- the Bailey Unit at the Community Hospital; This unit is part of the hospital and was closed in 2018 because of staffing difficulties. The whole site is now being considered as the health care centre/hub for the North Chichester Area. We maintain a watching brief. The latest update from Dr. Emma Woodcock can be viewed here.
- Rotherfield Mews, adjacent to the Community Hospital. This building has been empty for many years. It could be suitable for use as consulting rooms or staff accommodation as part of the new Hub but we have yet to see plans that take this into account. We have urged the appropriate section of the NHS to find a use for it or make it available for other purposes - e.g. affordable housing through the Midhurst Community Land Trust.
See our News section for more details
We have also submitted to Midhurst Town Council an exciting and innovative proposal for a project to enhance The Stag Garden Roundabout on the northern approach to Midhurst. We received this response from MTC on 19 December 2018:
"It was reported at the Full Council meeting on Monday this week that you had facilitated this proposed project, and the Council were very grateful and very positive about the proposal. At the meeting they formed a Task and Finish Group, made up of 3 Councillors, of whom one is also a Chichester District Councillor. They have the remit to investigate the project further, co-opting other people as needed."
We are bound by secrecy to say no more at this stage, but watch this space!
We have looked at the idea of a swimming pool in Midhurst but that's not at the stage of being considered a campaign!
We will provide more details as these campaigns develop.
In March 2018 we invited our members to let us know what issues they felt we should become involved with. We sent out questionnaires covering various topics. It was a healthy response, and gave us encouragement to continue what we started doing in 2017: widening our field of interest beyond just planning. This is what we said to Members:
The composition of your Committee has changed in recent years, and after this year's AGM we will have a new chairperson. Looking to the future, it would be helpful to know what issues members would like the Committee to support. We would be grateful if you could indicate your preferences on the list below. Please feel free to add other items in the blank spaces or on the reverse.
And this is the result, summarised to show the percentage of those who responded were in favour of our involvement. The fact that some topics did not receive a great deal of support should not be seen in negative terms. Those Members may well have been in favour of action; just not by The Midhurst Society. Click Survey Results here
Of course, we cannot promise to make things happen, but as and when appropriate we can present your concerns to the press, the planners, or other interested parties.
Midhurst’s Memorial Hall gets its place in history
WHEN treasured plaques were removed from the Memorial Hall in Midhurst there were fears the historical significance of the much loved old building would be lost forever.
But now [not sure of this date] thanks to members of the Midhurst Society, its importance has been preserved.
Chairman of the society Sheila Ryan said: “When Capron House and adjoining buildings were acquired by the South Downs Park Authority and were immediately shrouded in builders’ hoarding, there was apprehension in Midhurst, rightly or wrongly, the ‘Memorial Hall’ would lose its historic identity.
“This belief was perhaps exacerbated by the removal from the hall to Midhurst Rother College of the First World War Memorial, together with a memorial to the much respected and long-standing headmaster of the Midhurst Grammar School, NBC Lucas.
“The Midhurst Society, which is always concerned about the preservation of the history of Midhurst’s listed buildings, decided to provide a short record of the history of the Grade II listed Hall and the South Downs National Park Authority welcomed this offer.”
In drawing up the history the society drew on the recollections of its vice-president, Henry Bond, a pupil at the grammar school in the years between the wars, and of Dr Joe Vitagliano, principal of Midhurst Rother College.
And now a framed notice, containing a photograph of the war memorial to grammar school boys killed in the first world war has been handed over to Helene Rossiter, director of corporate services at the SDNPA, and her colleagues by Mrs Ryan who was accompanied by Mr Bond and members of the executive committee of the society.
The notice will hang on the wall formerly occupied by the war memorial as a reminder to everyone of the part played by the hall over its long history since its construction in 1821 as SCHOLA GRAMMATICALIS.
“Importantly,” said Mrs Ryan, “the notice confirms that in its new existence as part of the SDNPA headquarters the ‘Memorial Hall’ will continue to be known as such.”
As it appeared in the Midhurst and Petworth Observer.