SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Local business doing good

A27 Working Group meeting at Ricardo
A27 Working Group meeting at Ricardo

We can all be grateful to members of the A27 Working Group (A27WG). Tim Loughton MP and I asked Major Tom Wye and Andrew Swayne to be co-chairs.

Andrew has kindly hosted meetings at Ricardo, the innovation and technology business at Shoreham Airport. The founder Sir Harry Ricardo was responsible for the high speed diesel engine and for the successful development of aero engines.

I have visited on a number of occasions, including seeing McLaren engines being assembled by technicians trained at Northbrook College, now an important part of Brighton MET.

At the meetings, we gathered with member of other parties, with representatives of the Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, with traffic experts, with council leaders, with people representing local residents’ groups, especially those along the A27 and with others. The voices of businesses include commercial, professional services and our great educational colleges. The chamber itself has had two major meetings on the A27 issues. It is important to bring together all the interests.

Our submission to Highways England will be basically supported by most. At Thursday’s meeting, one resident said that there was objection to grade separation because of the traffic difficulty during construction.

A good person in a different political party asked whether it was right to refer to the hope of some that the A27 could be diverted offline into the downs.

That was balanced by a constituent who feared there was no reference to the wish of some to develop a road in the National Park.

With the helpful comments of all at the meetings, my expectation is that nearly everyone will be pretty happy with nearly all of the analysis, together with common recognition that the very limited time savings do not justify the ‘do very little’ option.

The Transport Department must ask Highways England to work on options that do more to serve the interests of local people and of our businesses, while making sure that through traffic does not disturb local residents at the present levels.

We thank Tom Wye for his commitment and joint leadership during the past two years. It is now time to find a successor to co-chair with Andrew Swayne. More has been achieved than many guessed would be possible.

On Friday, West Sussex MPs joined leaders of West Sussex County Council at County Hall. Together we considered the progress on movement towards fairer funding for our schools. We agreed there is a need to continue arguing effectively for greater weight on basic needs, with appropriate recognition of high needs.

The problems we have faced for years come from the extreme emphasis several times over on poverty and the need for the English language to be familiar to all.

My experience, from the years when I served as a governor of a large girls’ comprehensive school in south London, is that parents and students want to have and to reach high expectations.

Virginia’s godmother, the legendary Anna Hedley, was head teacher at the Worthing High School for Girls (WHS). The school motto, Semper Ad Excellentiam (Always Pursue Excellency), applied in her years and should apply now in schools, colleges and in business too.

Two years ago, the WHS newsletter included memories from those there between 1957 and 1964. Paula Nicholson, née Grant, remembered being inspired to embrace every opportunity on offer in work and play.

I expect our school graduates to contribute in every field, including business – and to solve the A27 issues too.


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