News is breaking all the time, and on this page you will be able to read my latest press releases. Most of these stories have appeared in the local or national media. Being an active Member of Parliament, I am always aware of matters of local importance, and often get involved in controversial events - such as Controlled Parking Zones in Worthing and Shoreham, Rampion Off-Shore Wind Farm and Brighton & Hove Albion Training Ground at Mash Barn.
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Fri 4 Sep 2015
Westminster Hall Debate on the Shoreham Air Show crash
My debate in the Commons on the Shoreham Air Show crash and the Minister's response took place yesterday.
You can watch the full debate by following the link below. The debate starts at 16:00.
Alternatively, you can read the full debate here:
My Column in the Herald - September 3rd 2015
Out of the sadness and personal tragedies of the last couple of weeks also comes a great sense of pride. Pride with the way our emergency services did their difficult job flawlessly and sensitively. And pride with the extraordinary way our local community rallied round and came out in force to show that we all care and want to be there to share the grief of the families who have lost loved ones.
Standing by the Adur Ferry Bridge on Saturday evening helping to manage the largest mass of people I have ever seen in the town coming to light candles, people asked if we were surprised with the incredible turnout. The answer was simply no. At every opportunity people across Adur and beyond have turned up to pay their respects, lay flowers, give money, bake cakes and leave poignant notes. Talking to people waiting patiently for over an hour in the queue which ran the length of Shoreham High Street and back down the other side, many were competing, not complaining, about how long it took them to get through the traffic. The most asked question has been ‘what else can we do to help?’
Many ideas are coming forward for a lasting memorial and not surprisingly something focussed on the Old Toll Bridge, with its spontaneous ‘sea of flowers’ is a frontrunner. When the dust has settled and importantly the families have given their thoughts, work can begin on devising the most appropriate way to remember and tap in to the remarkable outpouring of community togetherness that we have seen. It would be good perhaps to be able to fund some form of bursary to promote budding young sportsmen and women as a constant living tribute as well as a physical monument for example. I am sure the Herald will help to gather the many imaginative ideas that will come forward.
The working group which is putting together a memorial service at Lancing College Chapel had its first meeting this week and there is much work to be done. As soon as we have the consulted the families we can give further details but the aim is to make it open to everyone.
Official Memorial Service Update
On September 2nd I chaired the first meeting of a group set up to organise a fitting memorial event to mark the Shoreham Air Show tragedy. The previous evening I also attended a meeting of the Shoreham Branch of the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) who have organised the Air Show for the last 26 years, to express my sympathies and solidarity at this difficult time for the charity. I am pleased that RAFA were represented at the working group and will play a full part in the memorial, together with the emergency services, local councils, police commissioner and Lord Lieutenant’s office, all of whom were present.
Lancing College have kindly offered to host the event in their Chapel as one of the few venues large enough for what is likely to be very well attended, and is an appropriate place to pay tribute close to the crash scene. The aim of the memorial will be to give an opportunity for the families and friends of the victims who wish to, to come and pay their respects together after the formal funerals have taken place; to allow the many members of the emergency services who have been involved to be part of the tributes paid for the incredibly difficult job they have carried out; and for members of the local community to be part of a formal memorial event.
There is a lot of work to be done but the first priority is to be able to accommodate the wishes and suggestions of the family members first and this is obviously a very difficult time for them. We will therefore not provide any more details until they have been properly consulted including the date though it is intended that this should be in the next few months at an appropriate time. I will update my website accordingly but I am sure everyone will respect the sensitivities of arranging such an important and complex event which is likely to attract national coverage and be patient. Moves are also afoot to discuss what permanent memorials would be appropriate as a lasting tribute and it is likely that Adur Council will take the lead on that.
In the meantime the response of the public continues to be extraordinary. The Sussex Foundation Fund has now exceeded £50,000 and I have agreed to serve on the panel tasked with deciding how grants are to be made. The flowers on the Old Toll Bridge continue to come and the Council have agreed that they will remain there for as long as the public wants with fresh flowers rejuvenating some of the earlier ones which are beginning to look tired.
Due to the overwhelming number of offers of help from the local community it has been decided that a central point should be set up that contains the details of all events being arranged to raise funds following the tragic accident on Saturday. People offering themselves, local shops or businesses can be added and the link will be live from today (Thursday 27th) at: http://shorehamcondolence.org/community-events/
An official website has been set up to receive donations: http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/sussexgiving/shorehamairfund
Funds donated to this page will be administered by Sussex Community Foundation.
Please note that there will be no management fee charged, as the Councils have arranged to ensure all money raised is put to best use. Please only use and share this official site so that funds are centralised.
The Councils have promised to update residents on the total amount collected. The intended use of these funds will be decided with close consultation with the relatives and friends of those affected at a later date.
If you wish to start a collection tin or bucket, perhaps in your place of work or business, you can bring any proceeds to Adur and Worthing Councils, Portland House, 44 Richmond Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 1HS where it will be paid into this fund.
Cheques can be made payable to: ‘Sussex Community Foundation’, please write SHOREHAM on the reverse. Cheques can also be sent to the Portland House address, as above.
We have also set up a special phone line - 01903 221432 - where you can arrange for one of our contractors to officially collect your tins when they're full, if this is easier for you.
The generosity is immense, thank you for the incredible donations made so far.
Anyone who wishes to help with any of the events can then make contact via the link with event organiser to offer their help. I am sincerely proud of how our local community has pulled together during this difficult period.
Adur District and Worthing Borough Councils have also established an online book of condolence which can be viewed here: http://shorehamcondolence.org/
Physical books of condoldence are located at the Adur Civic Centre and Worthing Town Hall, as well as in County Hall. Opening hours can be found here: www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/news/pr15-116.html.
COMMEMORATIVE BRIDGE OF LIGHT -
Saturday 29th August from 8pm
There will be a Bridge of Light across the Adur Ferry Footbridge on Saturday 29th August from 8pm to commemorate the victims of the Shoreham Air Show tragedy.
Everyone in our community is invited to gather together and light a candle in remembrance for those tragically killed. It will also be a chance to show our solidarity with the families of those who died and those who were injured.
There will also be a minute's silence on Coronation Green and Beach Green at 1.30pm on Saturday 29th, as well as a minute's silence will also be held prior to the dragon boat race at Adur Outdoor Activity Centre.
Our local NHS services in Sussex and Brighton & Hove have joined together to offer support to those affected psychologically or emotionally by the tragic events at the Shoreham Airshow.
The three helpline numbers that have been set up are:
• If you live in West Sussex please ring: 01903 703548
• If you live in Brighton & Hove please ring: 0300 00 20 060
• If you live in East Sussex please ring: 0300 00 30 130
The helplines will be open from Monday to Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
If you follow the link below you can find out more.
23rd August ...
The horrific events at Shoreham Air Show yesterday are tragic on so many levels. As I write it looks as though the death toll will be in double figures. So far seven people are known to have lost their lives and it is feared that the figure will rise as police carry out the grim job of sifting through the wreckage on the crash site.
First and foremost our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who have lost their lives and indeed to those who are unaccounted for. I cannot imagine their agony. It should have been an enjoyable day out for the 20,000 plus spectators and families who came to watch the thrilling exploits of highly skilled pilots in planes old and new. As more details emerge of those who were caught up in this tragic accident I am sure we will be moved by the personal tragedies of the individuals involved. Already we know that two local young footballers from Worthing United FC are amongst the casualties as well as a young personal trainer from Littlehaptom.
This morning I joined many local people who crammed into St Mary de Haura Church in Shoreham and other local churches to pay their respects, seek solace and try to make some sense out of such a senseless loss of promising young lives. Walking around our town last night and again this morning the atmosphere was very subdued. Clearly people are still trying to come to terms with the shock that our community has been the scene of such a terrible disaster, the worst at an air show since the Farnborough tragedy in 1952.
The other tragedy is the effect on the Shoreham Air Show itself. This is not just some one-off amateur event. Over the last 26 years it has been one of the leading fundraisers for the RAF Association charity contributing over £2m for their good works. A considerable team of dedicated professionals and volunteers work year round to produce this spectacular event. I know that the safety of the participants, spectators and local residents is paramount when planning this huge undertaking. It is a highly organised and professional event. Everything will have been done to have kept everyone safe. Alas in this case an as yet unexplained accident took place and people on the A27 queuing for the Air Show or travelling by have lost their lives.
Many people have understandably been asking questions about whether we should we taking the risk of running events like this. Is Shoreham the best place? There was of course a previous fatality at the show in 2007 when another experienced Hawker pilot Brian Brown crashed into the Downs after an unplanned roll. No one on the ground had been injured at this or any other air show since 1952. After the 2007 accident a number of changes were made to the way the Shoreham Show was run including moving it into August during the school holidays when nearby Lancing College was not occupied by students. Lessons were certainly learned and crucially put I to effect then.
Whilst most of the aerobatics take place over the open fields of the ‘land raise’ site to the west of the airport, down the Adur Valley or out to sea, this accident took place over the busy A27 and just by the busy junction serving as the main entrance into the airport. Coincidentally I had driven east past the site literally just a minute before the event and saw a couple of hundred yards of stationery traffic waiting to access the Airport and some 60 plus spectators sitting on the northern side of the A27 just below the Sussex Pad.
Given the size of the fireball caused by a full tank of fuel as the Hawker Hunter had just begun its display after lunch, it is perhaps a miracle that more people were not killed. A few yards further either way or in a different direction the results could have been even worse. It appears that the damage was mercifully localised in quite a small area and the traffic lights were on green meaning that most through traffic had just moved off westwards.
But there are many questions to be asked. The vintage ex RAF plane involved was from the 1950’s. I am sure they are well maintained and the pilots know what they are doing but should these acrobatics be quite so daring for such elderly aircraft? Should they be performing loop-the-loop manoeuvres above a busy main road let alone with spectators, parked cars and houses not far away if they fall off course for some reason?
I am certainly not qualified to answer these questions. These are the sort of issues that the crash investigators will be tasked with addressing as they start their work. But we need to have the answers as to exactly what happened before rushing to judgement and condemning all air shows outright. When we have the answers then we can make a value judgement about what further safety improvements need to be made or if the risks now outweigh the benefits.
It is worth remembering that this is a hugely popular charity event. It is one of the highlights in the calendar for many local people and enthusiasts from far around. It has won awards for being the ‘Best Family Event in Sussex’ and one of the ‘Best Air Shows in the UK.’ We should also remember that it takes place at a working airport. Shoreham is not only the oldest commercial airport in the country and has been going since 1911 but last year was the 11th busiest too. It has an impeccable safety track record and is much treasured by local people. Remember the furore over the change of ownership a few years back and worries whether it would go out of business and be developed?
I would like to pay tribute to the emergency services whose professionalism was never in doubt as usual. As the full story unravels I have no doubt we will hear of the bravery of those early on the scene including the volunteers and marshals stewarding the entrance to the air show. We are grateful to colleagues from Hampshire, Surrey and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Services who were quickly there to assist our own local firefighters too. I know that the County Council have been providing skilled social workers to support the families of those affected and the police have deployed a number of family liaison officers. Emergency response staff from Adur Council quickly made available Lancing Leisure Centre and were speedily on hand to respond to a major incident.
Faced with the mammoth task of evacuating hundreds of vehicles from the Airport site without free access to the A27 the police have also reported on the patience and understanding of the many spectators stranded and the priority in which they were able to facilitate people leaving.
So everyone did their job but a tragic accident happened that was not meant to happen. As further details become clear we must steel ourselves for more heart-breaking news but I am confident that our town and our community will rally round and give support to those that need it. That is what we do and we do it well.
Tomorrow I will be visiting the site with the Chief Constable and Police Commissioner and will update this blog accordingly.
Tim Loughton MP - August 23rd 2015