LETTER: Council raising anxiety levels

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According to Experion, Elmbridge, Surrey was the best place to live in England in 2012 using 48 indicators. Horsham was fifth though two years ago it was second.

Now we learn of a government study (Office for National Statistics - ONS) which places Horsham as ‘…the most anxious place in UK’.

Horsham’s planning department is ranked bottom of all local authority planning departments in the country. Are all these linked?

In your paper ( November 14th 2013), you reported that councillor Sue Rogers (Cabinet Member for Safer and Healthier District) has already undertaken ‘an investigation’ and concluded in a week that the study should be ‘ looked at with a degree of caution’.

ONS reference tables - www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/ -

show the average ratings in Horsham for Life Satisfaction, Worthwhile, Happiness and Anxiety.

In relation to anxiety, Horsham had an average anxiety score of 4.11 out of 10 in 2012/13. This was the highest average score for anxiety among the local authority districts for which the data has been published.

A week may be sufficient time to examine in depth why Horsham records the highest average score but to understand the causes must surely need longer?

Councillor Rogers blames the ‘lack of follow-up questions’ but perhaps that wasn’t in the ONS design and after all it was the same for all local authorities and yet we have the highest anxiety score.

Councillor Rogers said ‘people experience anxiety as part of their normal life’ and then goes on to say that we feel anxious when we are ‘worried, stressed, under pressure and when they are in a low mood’.

This conclusion isn’t exactly a Eureka moment.

I then read Dr Dean’s piece ‘New report could shed light on the district’s worrying anxiety status’ suggesting that ‘high levels of alchohol consumption could be a factor’. I wasn’t sure whether this was interpreted as ‘cause’ or ‘effect’. Do people drink to excess because they are anxious? Or does binge drinking cause anxiety?

But then I read Robert Worley’s excellent letter ‘Relentless change produces anxiety’ and maybe councillor Rogers should extend her rather flimsy ‘investigation’ and look at the council’s role in creating endless change particularly in the last two or three years.

Horsham was a market town with clear geographical delineations now being fractured by extensive building developments rather than imaginative infilling of vacant spaces.

If councillors Dawe and Vickers have their way the strategic gap or ‘green belt’ to the north will be ruptured and the gap between Horsham and Crawley narrowed.

We are set to become the London Borough of Crawsham. The traffic at peak times is already clogged and the housing developments along the A24 and A264 it will increase journey times and stress levels.

If these developments go ahead, the centre of the town will be like the middle of a doughnut – its energy and vibrancy ruined.

Eating places, banks and estate agents now predominate. There is a shortage of starter homes for young people in the town (not on its edges) so their frustration at finding accommodation intensifies.

The planning department cannot respond quickly enough to planning applications because its staffing has been devastated and it isn’t fit for purpose. So are these all linked and increasing anxiety levels?

Councillor Rogers fails to mention any of these.

So perhaps councillor Rogers feeling secure in her southern ward protected from the threat of change facing so many of us, should take a more in-depth look at the council’s role in raising anxiety levels amongst residents.

W.P. CHAPMAN

Kestrel Close, Horsham