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Ambulance services invests in new fleet

New ambulance

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is introducing 101 new ambulances to its fleet over the next 12 months.

The Mercedes ambulances are replacing the trust’s oldest vehicles.

John Griffiths, head of fleet and logistics, said: "When we looked into the running costs of our fleet, we established that it was costing approximately an extra eight pence per mile for every year of a vehicle's life.

"I’m looking forward to taking receipt of each and every new vehicle and I know that this investment will be very much welcomed by our staff."

Cycle protest must be 'legal and safe'

Cyclists taking part in an event in Birmingham
A similar event in Birmingham was targeted with nails

Campaigners opposed to a major new cycling event in West Sussex have been told any protest must be "legal and safe".

Mass walking protests are planned along the route of Velo South, which is due to take place on Sunday with 15,000 cyclists taking part.

People living in the area have dubbed the route around Pulborough, Billingshurst and Chichester "the Lycra loop" and say it'll trap 140,000 households for nine hours.

Sussex Police have now issued a warning to residents saying they "won't tolerate anything that endangers others".

A similar event in Birmingham last year was targeted with nails and metal objects.

Event organisers say the ride will raise substantial amounts for charity and boost health, tourism and the local economy.

Reward offered in hit and run investigation

CCTV image of scooter
Sussex Police

A £500 reward is being offered by police investigating after a child was hit by a stolen moped in Brighton.

Nine-year-old Logan Dore was knocked off his scooter in Whitehawk Road at about 12:15 BST on Sunday.

The rider and passenger sped off, leaving him with serious head injuries.

Sussex Police are now offering the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Council gets meeting with minister over academies

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

West Sussex County Council has been invited to speak to the schools minister about the lack of powers available to local authorities to intervene when academies run into trouble.

Council leader Louise Goldsmith and Richard Burrett, cabinet member for education and skills, wrote to secretary of state Damian Hinds after strike action was threatened at Thomas Bennett Community College, in Crawley.

Earlier this year, 12 teachers and several support staff at the school resigned after The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) announced a "restructure" which would cut almost £1m from the budget.

With concerned parents demanding action, Mr Burrett said at the time that he was "quite weary" of people asking the council to step in, when it had no power to do so.

Updating members of the children and young people's services select committee, on Wednesday, Mr Burrett said: "What we have had is an email back from the Department for Education to say that Lord Agnew, the schools minister, is very interested to see our letter and the issues raised and would like to invite us to go and meet him to talk about it in more detail."

School's lighting plan put on hold

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

An application to install lighting columns in a school car park has been deferred, with one councillor calling them "hideous".

The Glebe Primary, in Southwick, had already installed three 5m columns around the boundary of the car park, without planning permission.

Now the school wants to replace them with three 4m-high columns and one 1m-high bollard, with five more bollards along the Church Lane side of its access road.

At a meeting of West Sussex County Council's planning committee on 11 September members were told the application had attracted 11 letters of objection, with concerns including light pollution and the "overbearing" look of the columns.

In addition, the county's tree officer was worried the columns already installed had damaged nearby trees and their roots.

One resident, from Oldfield Crescent, which backs on to the car park, said: "It is not a sports pitch or playground. It is just a small car park. The use of columns is overkill."

How do we increase prosecutions of people that offer free rent for sex?

Wera Hobhouse
Wera Hobhouse has called for a clampdown on sex-for-rent adverts and asked about the lack of successful prosecutions

An MP has called for a clampdown on sex-for-rent adverts and asked about the lack of successful prosecutions in the Commons during women and equalities questions.

A recent YouGov poll has revealed 250,000 women in Britain have been offered free or reduced rent in exchange for sexual favours in the past five years.

In response to the questions from Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse, Equalities Minister Edward Argar said the practice was despicable and preyed on vulnerable people.

He said his department had been working to ensure the availability of the offence to prosecute this behaviour.

See BBC South East Today's investigation into this issue here.

Norwegian Air to axe Singapore-London flights

Norwegian Air
Getty Images

Norwegian Air is cutting its service between London and Singapore.

Flights will end in January, just a year after the low-cost long-haul service between Changi Airport and London Gatwick was launched.

Norwegian Air has yet to issue an official statement but it is understood that a new service to Rio de Janeiro will take Singapore's place, according to Australia's Business Traveller.

Fire service quits joint control room it shares with neighbour

Ben Weisz

Political reporter, BBC Sussex

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are quitting their joint control room which they share with their colleagues in East Sussex.

The two Sussex fire services moved into their joint premises in Haywards Heath in 2014, with help from a £3.6m Government grant to encourage joint working.

In March, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service finally moved onto a new control system, with West Sussex due to follow suit later this year.

But they experienced teething problems – and the Fire Brigades Union served a notice warning of a risk to safety.

Those problems are being dealt with, and with the situation improving, the FBU has withdrawn its safety notice.

But in August, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service triggered an 18 month notice period to pull out of the partnership.

It’s not yet clear what they’ll do instead – but since they own the building in Haywards Heath, East Sussex fire service will also need to find new premises by 2021.

Both fire services stress that the public should not notice any difference in the service when making 999 calls.

Norwegian Air to axe Singapore-London flights

Singapore's Changi airport
Getty Images

Norwegian Air is cutting its service between London and Singapore.

Flights will end in January, just a year after the low-cost long-haul service between Changi Airport and London Gatwick was launched.

Norwegian Air has yet to issue an official statement but it is understood that a new service to Rio de Janeiro will take Singapore's place, according to Australia's Business Traveller.

Wastewater pipe plans give go-ahead

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

West Sussex County Council's headquarters in Chichester

Plans to install a 9.92km underground wastewater pipe in West Sussex have been approved by the county council.

Applications for the pipeline, along with pumping stations at Tangmere, Westhampnett and west of Chichester, were given the go-ahead at a planning committee meeting.

While such pipelines fall under permitted development rights - a national grant allowing certain building work to be carried out without the need for planning permission - its potential impact on the West Sussex environment meant it had to be considered by the committee.

The pipeline will run from Clay Lane, west of Chichester, to the Tangmere wastewater treatment works, in East Hampnett Lane.

It will pass under rural and built-up areas, including the Chichester and Graylingwell Conservation Areas, the A286 and A27, Graylingwell Registered Park & Garden, the River Lavant, and the Chichester Dyke Scheduled Monument.

The committee received objections from Fishbourne Parish Council and Westhampnett Parish Council.

Building work is expected to take two years. All four applications were approved.

Attacks on the elderly rise

The number of people over the age of 65 being attacked across the South East has risen dramatically, according to new figures obtained by BBC South East Today.

In Kent, the number of reported assaults on old age pensioners has more than doubled since 2015, and in Sussex the number of attacks has increased by more than 40%

Council approves demolition and new homes

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Permission has been given for old horticultural buildings in West Sussex to be demolished to make way for nine new homes.

Members of Arun District Council's development control committee approved the application for The Laurels on Dappers Lane in Angmering.

The development will be made up of two two-bedroom, three three-bedroom and four four-bedroom homes.

Conservative councillor Philippa Bower described it as "a good scheme with plenty of car parking".

However, due to the extremely hot weather in July and August, a reptile survey of the site had not been completed.

As a result, a condition was placed on the application stating that, before work started, the survey would have to take place and the results submitted for approval.

The meeting also saw members give permission for three other new homes - two in Westergate and one in Ferring.

A West Sussex firm leads the way in tackling 'fake' orphanages
Tourists paying to volunteer at many orphanages abroad are being duped, say experts.

Police appeal over motorway collision

Crash on M23

The driver of a car which is believed to have been involved in a collision on the M23 is being sought by police.

It happened near junction 9 just after 14:45 BST yesterday.

Officers say four vehicles were involved - a red HGV, a white HGV, a white van and an unknown black car.

Three drivers were taken to East Surrey hospital in Redhill to be treated for minor injuries.

Sussex Police say the fourth vehicle left the scene before they arrived and they're urging anyone with information to get in touch.

Crawley: Controlled explosion on 'suspicious item'

Kathryn Langley

BBC Live reporter

This is the moment a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspicious package found in Crawley town centre.

View more on twitter

Sussex Police were called to Memorial Gardens at about 18:20 BST yesterday after the item was discovered in a bin.

The town centre was evacuated and bomb disposal experts were sent to the scene.

Officers sealed off the area including Queen’s Way, College Road and Southgate Avenue.

Bomb disposal officers in Crawley
Bomb disposal officers in Crawley

The force later said the item turned out not to be harmful.

Superintendent James Collis said: "Thank you to everyone affected this evening for their patience while we investigated and made sure the area was safe."

Bomb disposal officers in Crawley

'Buy a coffee when you can'

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

Community first responder Carol Lewis found two notes pinned to the windscreen of her ambulance after responding to an emergency in Faversham...and was surprised by both.

Note left on ambulance in Faversham, with £10 note
Carol Lewis

Fines for school absences increase in Sussex

There has been a large increase in the number of fines given to parents for allowing their children to skip school across Sussex.

In West Sussex nearly 4,000 fines were issued in the last academic year, up a thousand on 2016.

In East Sussex, the number of fines issued increased by a third, despite the controversial "Get a Grip" campaign run by the county council to encourage school attendance.

School pen and paper

Plans to approve Sussex schools come under the microscope

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

West Sussex County Council is ready to approve its strategy for the organisation and improvement of the county's schools.

The School Effectiveness Strategy 2018-2022 lays out how the council will work with school leaders, colleges, governors and academy sponsors to raise standards and develop sustainability.

It will be discussed at a meeting of the Children and Young People's Services Select Committee, at County Hall, Chichester, on 12 September.

It was put out to public consultation between May and June and attracted just 413 responses to an online survey, plus 50 letters/emails of representation.

The council has set itself a number of goals, including raising standards for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, building the long-term financial sustainability of schools in the light of increasing pupil numbers and financial problems, and improving the progress and attainment of primary school children.

West Sussex has long been one of the lowest funded authorities in the country, leading to the launch of the Worth Less? campaign, which has seen headteachers, parents and students converge on Downing Street, march through London and Worthing, and make appearances on television and radio in the fight for more money.

Meanwhile, the county's primary schools have been rated among the lowest performing in the south east.

The county said its aspiration was for West Sussex to rise to the top quarter nationally when it came to the quality and provision of education across all age groups.

Runway closes for 'safety inspection'

The runway at Gatwick Airport was closed for 30 minutes this morning after a plane landed with a technical issue, the airport has said.

A Gatwick spokesman said the closure happened between 06:29 BST and 06:59 BST for a safety inspection to take place.

All flights have now resumed.

Ambulance response times on the rise


People dialling 999 are waiting longer for an ambulance than five years ago, a BBC investigation has found.

Secamb, the trust that serves the South East, received more than 800,000 emergency calls last year.

That's 200,000 more than in 2013.

A Freedom of Information request found the average response times are around one minute 15 seconds longer for the most critical cases, and just under four minutes longer for less serious calls.

Secamb admits there is room for improvement.

Workers and wheelie bins - how might Brexit affect local councils?

Ben Weisz

Political reporter, BBC Sussex

Deal or no deal - how could Brexit affect our local councils?

Some have had a stab at answering that question.

Fewer migrants might lead to a shortage of care workers in East Sussex – the county council says 11% of its carers come from the EU.

Meanwhile, West Sussex's officers worry what might happen to the local economy, particularly around Gatwick Airport.

In Kent, the county council says new border controls could lead to a trebling in referrals to Trading Standards, while disrupted supply chains could cause a shortage of wheelie bins in Maidstone – whose council buys its bins from Europe.

It’s not all doom and gloom - some authorities hope that leaving the EU might unlock extra money, or cut red tape to make it easier for them to sign contracts and pay for services.

But the truth is, most of our councils have very little idea how Brexit might affect them.

The vast majority have barely begun to tackle the issue - in large part because they don’t feel Government has given them enough information about what scenarios they might be facing.

Tomorrow, they’ll get a bit more detail.

The Government will publish its backup plans in case the UK leaves the EU suddenly, without a deal.

It’s this prospect that scares people the most.

Already, some fear that sudden extra customs checks for lorries at the port of Newhaven would cause tailbacks and bring the town to a standstill. Others call that scaremongering.

But with just 219 sleeps til Brexit Day - councils will be fastening their seatbelts.

They know there could be major change to prepare for - and an ever smaller amount of time in which to prepare for it.