The future of the old brickworks in Midhurst

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TALKS are being set up to look at designing a master plan for future development of the old brickworks and West Sussex County Council’s highways depot in Midhurst.

County councillor for Midhurst, Gordon McAra said the town council was hoping to take the lead in getting the Cowdray Estate and the county council together to come up with a ‘bigger picture’ giving the best commercial value on the last big development site in the town.

“With the knowledge of the South Downs National Park Authority we want to sit down and come up with a master plan,” he said.

“The two sites could be combined to provide more housing, recreational use and an expanded recycling depot.”

The county council wants to sell the highways depot, used for the storage of salt, to raise part of the funds needed for a ‘super hub depot’ the focal point of a restructure of the highways service.

The proposals designed to transform the way the service operates, have been labelled ‘radical and far-reaching’ by the county council.

The super hub, said a report to the Environmental and Community Services Select Committee due to be held yesterday (January 14): “will be the single biggest change in our transformational plan, but will allow us to realise huge benefits to staff, contractors, sub-contractors, other service areas and partners and, ultimately, our customers.”

Although the location of the depot has not been revealed, it is set to be ‘at a location with convenient main road access links to all parts of the county’.

As the council is intending for highway workers to be based in the areas in which they work, the super hub would be for office-based staff and storage of materials.

It is hoped to agree joint winter operations with Hampshire County Council.

A ‘significant’ reduction in current staff budgets’ is also set to take place in the highways department.

The county council has revealed a £1.3m cut to its highways staff budget for the 2015/16 financial year.

In 2013 additional temporary funding was made available to help address a ‘backlog of customer enquiries’ built up during the harsh winter of 2012/13.

This has meant enquiry volumes are back to normal and next year’s budget will not include £814,000 for the temporary staff. The council also opened a customer services hub at Bognor Regis in October.

Officers said as well as axing the temporary posts they had to offset the cost of the new facility. They were “designing a staff structure that will allow us to function within these constraints.”