Following the hugely successful public meeting at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church at the end of November 2012, the committee of the new St James’s Street Local Action Team (LAT) have not been letting the grass grow under their feet.
New and improved lighting was top of the group’s shopping list. As a direct result of lobbying by community activist and interim chair of the LAT, Chris Cooke, the council have installed five new lamp columns in St James’s Street, eight new wall mounted lanterns and have changed the bulbs of 13 existing columns.
Seven new column lights have been installed in St James’s Avenue, while in Dorset Gardens all the lanterns on existing columns are being changed to a white light source. In Devonshire Place one additional column has been added and all of the other four lanterns are being changed to a white light source.
Inspector Gareth Davies from Sussex Police said:
“I am really pleased that improvements are being made in the St James’s Street area. My team, and many others, have been working hard in the area and as the local police we take the community’s feedback on how safe they feel seriously. I am anxious to continue the work we have been doing with partners and the new community groups to continue to improve this and to develop communication with all member of the local community who live and work in the area.
“The change in the street lighting in the area is a great start to this and credit goes to the new LAT group in driving this forward and getting results. I am hopeful this will assist and enhance any CCTV images obtained.
“Myself and my neighbourhood team look forward to working with the new community group and with partners, to make sure the area is safe and vibrant for people to enjoy.”
Local hotelier, Nick Head, said:
“Police are beeing very cooperative dealing with residents’ concerns and have increased their numbers and visibility on the streets especially between 9pm and 3am on Friday and Saturday nights since the public meeting in November.”
Chris Cook, interim Chair of the LAT until their first AGM, said:
“It is amazing how these little bits of community intervention can make such a difference to peoples perception of safety.”
Queen’s Park Councillor, Geoffrey Bowden and Simon Kirby, MP for Kemptown & Peacehaven, have been helping move the debate about pedestrian priority and ‘shared space’ in the area forward. At present six-hundred buses a day use St James’s Street and many residents and business owners want that number reduced to improve the local environment for residents and visitors which they claim will ultimately boost the local economy.
Behind the scenes there has been a row involving ward councillor Stephanie Powell, who has been complaining there are not enough women on the new St James Street LAT. On Facebook she said the activities of the new LAT were political, saying it was “Labour against the Greens”, and “the Gay men’s mafia of St James’s Street were out to get their local Green councillors”.
Complaint has been made about the councillor’s comments which some consider homophobic in nature to the Standards Board.
One third of the new LAT working group is female and 2 of the five members of the management committee are also women.
The message that came from people loud and clear at the public meeting in November was that residents did not want politicians to sit on the LAT committee as it created a conflict of interest. One resident present at the meeting described the atmosphere created by their presence as ‘toxic’.
Rather, it has been decided, politicians should be called to account by the LAT at regular public meetings to answer residents’ concerns and report to them what they have been doing to improve the safety of area.
The next public meeting of the new LAT is on Wednesday, March 13 at the Dorset Garden Methodist Church, at 6.30pm.
Everyone is welcome to attend.