‘FRUSTRATION’ – that was the word which summed up the year for Littlehampton, according to the town’s mayor.
During the annual town meeting on Thursday (April 24), councillor Joyce Bowyer said her year in office had been overshadowed by a range of controversial struggles faced by the herself, fellow councillors and residents.
Her speech touched on the hurdles the town council had to contend with during the past 12 months, from the frustration of its neighbourhood plan failure and controversial proposals to build new council homes in Wick, to disputes with Arun District Council over the axing of its grant support to the town council.
Addressing townspeople in the Manor House’s New Millennium Chamber, in Church Street, Cllr Bowyer said: “While not quite an ‘annus horribilis’, the last 12 months have been, shall we say, difficult.
“Let’s start with the neighbourhood plan. This was very much a plan put together by the residents and businesses of Littlehampton.
“Huge amounts of work and money were devoted to putting this together in a way that not only reflected the local view, but also met the criteria set by the Government.
“Having been out to final consultation and having secured a positive ‘health check’ for the document, we were all looking forward to a positive inspector’s report and subsequent referendum.
“Ideally, I would now be reporting that, as in Arundel, we now had a neighbourhood plan. Sadly this is not the case. A late submission to the inspector by our friends at Arun District Council appears to have scuppered this.”
Cllr Bowyer also told how Arun had announced plans to cut all of its £147,165 support to the town council by 2016/17.
She said this move could have a ‘major impact’ on local services or the level of council tax paid by residents.
“This is money that the Government has provided for Littlehampton Town Council,” she added. “It is not money for Arun to underpin their budget or spend in any other way than by passing it to the town council. In summary it is Littlehampton’s money.”
The mayor said that the town council would be battling against plans to build council houses on open spaces to the north of Joyce Close and Greenfields.
She also spoke of the future of the town’s cinema, theatre and swimming pool, which she said were still ‘hanging in the balance’.
However, her speech did not focus solely on the negatives. Cllr Bowyer did say there were plenty of positive moments for the year.
One of her particular highlights was the freedom of the town being presented to Royal Marines from the 30 Commando unit, which she described as an ‘unforgettable’ moment.
She added: “Indeed, the sheer number of obstacles put in the town’s way has resulted in one significant benefit. Despite the town growing inexorably, all parts of the community have come together to shout with one voice for our town. Be it the swimming pool, Windmill, neighbourhood plan, or new council housing in Wick, the town has provided a united front. It has made me very proud to be your mayor.”
Cllr Bowyer said she had managed to raise almost £5,000 for her chosen charity, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. This money would help going towards training a dog to become ‘the ears’ of a deaf person.
She wished to thank all those who supported her term in office.