Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Adapting to the weather conditions

Just as the weather was becoming slightly drier, the forecast predicted snow. It gave us a few days to prepare, ensuring a good stock of salt and that the gritters were ready.

For the last couple of years in cold weather, we have been supplying large hippo bags of salt to villages and communities in order that volunteers can spread salt in areas where needed. This is very popular and works well and is very much our policy of working with communities, helping them to help themselves.

This has been taken one step further in West Dean, East Dean and Singleton. SEWCREST is a group of volunteers working together in the Lavant Valley who received funding from our Big Society Member’s Fund towards the cost of a grit spreader. It means volunteers are able to swing into action and clear side roads, which helps residents to get to school and work safely and enables them to reach the more vulnerable members of the community.

With Emergency Plans in place, the County Council’s Call Centre opened at 7am rather than 8am on Friday, to ensure we could respond quickly and efficiently to queries.

Many enquiries are about school closures. The decision whether a school closes or not is for the Headteacher to take, in consultation with the Chairman of Governors. The County Council lists all school closures on our website, and feedback shows the earlier we can post the news, the better for residents.

Gritters have been out keeping the main roads open, but we still urge drivers to be aware of icy road conditions and the need to keep speeds down. Also, make sure you leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front.

We have a small but effective Emergency Management Team, who have certainly had a lot to deal with in the last 12 months. Yet once again they were busy co-ordinating everyone to manage snowy conditions this time. Over the next few weeks they will be monitoring the weather conditions and planning for whatever it may throw at us.

My preference is for dry days - but somehow I think that does not count!

As ever, my thanks to everybody involved in dealing with the adverse weather conditions.

Click here for the latest news on severe weather conditions.

Best wishes,
Louise

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Good news for the start of the new year

In the first full week back after Christmas, I’m delighted that the County Council was able to mark the start of 2013 with the announcement of our £8.25 million investment into flood-related schemes.

As I have written in previous blogs, last year’s extreme wet conditions represented a big challenge for the County Council and caused misery to householders and all affected.

The question that has been put to me at various meetings and when talking to people is what if this is not a one off, but a new weather pattern. How prepared is the County Council for that scenario? What are we doing to sort out those trouble spots?

Water will find the weakest point where it will surge out, and there have been many examples of that across the county during heavy rainfall. So there is an indisputable and urgent case to invest in drainage schemes, repair the roads, and provide community funding in answer to the comments made and in response to the recent flooding. That is why we were able to allocate money from reserves in order to pay for this additional and essential work.

As the County Council does not have enough ‘in-house capacity’ to draw up such schemes we will have to scale up quickly. This announcement is also very good news for business, as all contracts will have to be let to outside specialists, so the economy will also benefit from our £8.25 million investment.

However, we need to work closely with our partners to achieve the works needed, and we do ask everyone who has responsibility for ditches to ensure that they are clear.

But the most important thing is we crack on as soon as we can.

To find out more, click here.

Best wishes,
Louise

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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A very wet end to the year

The last few days before Christmas saw the rain come back with a vengeance, with fields covered in water, and drains and ditches full.

For residents who had been flooded in June, and some just moving back into their homes after six months disruption, this was a very distressing and anxious time for all affected.

Some roads were so flooded they had to be closed, causing delays for those travelling.

Throughout Christmas and New Year I received regular updates which have kept me informed and details of flood alerts whether red or amber.

Communications are so important in such circumstances, and here is where our website can be so useful with advice and information, as is the local radio stations who also provide bulletins. We will always be reliant on them to regularly distribute updates - so a big thank you to them. To see the latest on any severe weather warnings or flooding issues, click here. You can also follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with the latest news.

Our Emergency Management Team were in full action over the Christmas period with daily meetings, monitoring and assessing the situation, and doing their best to manage things as the rain continued to fall. Highways were busy distributing sandbags, organising pumping in areas where needed and knocking on residents doors to alert them to rising floodwater, and the Fire and Rescue Service was manned and available for call out, including putting out flood barriers where needed. We will have the usual review meeting between services to find out what went well and not so well, to learn for the future.
However, as a County Council we need to get on with drainage works, get the ditch register complete and look at how the prolonged rainfall has impacted on the roads and what we need to do, which is why I will be holding a meeting shortly to see we get on with it.

The heavy rain has also led to an increase in the number and size of potholes being reported to the County Council. Our contractor, Balfour Beatty, has been busy assessing and fixing potholes throughout the holiday period, and that work will continue.

It’s easy to report a pothole to the County Council, just visit the Love West Sussex website. You can report potholes and other issues there and also upload a photo of the issue to the live map. Click here to find out more.

May 2013 be peaceful and drier for us all.

Best wishes,
Louise

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