Investment of £676m in West Sussex’s infrastructure needed due to ‘unprecedented’ housebuilding

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C140029-2 County Hall phot kate''County Hall.C140029-2

A total of £676m could be invested in West Sussex’s infrastructure over the next five years by the county council.

In order to accommodate the 57,000 homes planned for the county over the next 15 to 20 years a West Sussex County Council report says it ‘cannot await the impact, but must consider the infrastructure for jobs, houses, education and transport to ensure that our county continues to build on its success’.

The capital programme includes £77m towards 300 extra secondary school and 1,500 primary school places, £30m to levering around £70m in Government money from future growth deals, £61m towards maintaining the local highways network, and £10m for securing £200m Government investment for improvements to the A27 at Chichester.

It also allocates £30m for entering into partnerships with care providers on joint ventures to develop and shape the market, which could include extra-care facilities, residential, dementia and end of life care, and £4.5m for a social care academy to train social workers.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “This is an unprecedented level of house building in the county and represents a major challenge. We need to prioritise and plan to ensure there is the infrastructure and school places necessary for these new families, together with a strong economy and good jobs for today’s and future generations.

“In a difficult financial landscape, where money is very scarce, making such a financial commitment is not easy but if we do not invest in our creaking infrastructure now we will not be doing the best by our residents.”

“This is a real opportunity to ensure West Sussex gets the schools, road improvements and infrastructure it needs if it is to remain a vibrant and competitive county,” she explained.

“At the same time it ensures money is set aside to protect elderly or vulnerable residents in our community and improve the quality of services for all. This is a multi-million pound programme which targets funds to areas where it will do the greatest good for current and future generations.

“We have had to make some difficult choices, we cannot fund everything, but we cannot hide from the challenges West Sussex faces. We face an unsustainable future unless we take action now to attract new workers to the county and retain our own talent within West Sussex.

“For West Sussex to continue to be a great place to live and work means attracting high quality jobs, building more affordable homes and providing the best quality services. It is our responsibility to ensure West Sussex businesses have the right infrastructure in place to thrive, families have access to high quality services and the vulnerable have the support they need.”

If approved, the investment means the equivalent of 50 new classes will be created in areas where the numbers of young families are expected to grow significantly, such as Horsham, Burgess Hill and Worthing.

Major road improvements earmarked for investment include £8.6m for the Lyminster Bypass which will cut congestion on the A284, improve access to Bognor Regis and Worthing and provide the extra road capacity to support new homes and up to 700 jobs in the area.

A further £14.9m has been set aside for improvements to the A259 coastal road at East Arun, and £10m has been earmarked to lever in up to £200m worth of Government investment for the A27 at Chichester.

There will also be an additional £1.8m set aside for integrated transport schemes to address local transport issues.

This will bring the total annual budget for new walking and cycling schemes, road safety schemes and public transport infrastructure improvements to £3.7m.

Almost £2.5m will be set aside over the next two years to extend the rollout of superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the county’s homes and businesses.

Investment will continue in cutting edge technology and new fire engines for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

More than £12m will be used to expand the Beechfield Secure Unit in Copthorne near Crawley for vulnerable children in care.

Councillors will be asked to approve the five year programme at a Full Council meeting later this month..

According to a report due to be discussed by WSCC’s Performance and Finance Select Committee next Monday (October 19) of the £676.3m, £404.4m would be supported by grants and a maximum of £174.8m by borrowing. The rest would be raised through capital receipts, revenue and other external contributions.

The report reads: “Developing a programme until 2021 gives the council greater transparency over its future spending plans and enables more effective planning, prioritisation and financial management.”

It continues: “It can be argued that now is the right time to invest, to prepare and protect the council and the county for the future, to offer further support to encourage the economically active, and when the financial conditions for borrowing are favourable with low interest rates.”

The council is also looking at its ‘five bold ideas’, but the implementation of any of these projects would be subject to separate business cases. The total borrowing required to finance these projects, should they go ahead, is £96.6m in addition to the £75m already identified.

These include bringing high-end finance to Chichester, developing a bioengineering centre of excellence in West Sussex, and developing the existing and creating new economic assets in Manor Royal and the wider Crawley area.

Sources of funding for the total capital programme include ringfenced and un-ringfenced Government grants, capital receipts, external contributions, and revenue contributions to capital outlay.

More to follow.

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