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District Dispatch - 11 April 2023

I hope that you had a lovely Easter and managed to take part in one of the many activities that were taking place across the district.

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If you haven't already, it's worth visiting 'The Magic of Middle-earth' exhibition at our Novium Museum, which is now on until 24 September. The exhibition is dedicated to the incredible fantasy worlds brought to life by J.R.R Tolkien and the generations of creators his writing has influenced.

I want to make you aware that there will be a national test of the UK's new Emergency Alerts system on Sunday 23 April at 3pm. The new system allows the government and emergency services to send urgent messages warning the public of life-threatening situations like flooding or wildfires.

Phone users will have to acknowledge the alert before they can use other features on their devices. A message will appear on the home screens of people's devices during the test, with vibration and a loud warning sound that will ring for about 10 seconds, even if the phone is set  to silent. The system is being modelled on similar schemes used in the US, Canada, Japan and The Netherlands. Emergency alerts work on all 4G and 5G phone networks and will not include older "non-smart" phones.

Messages will only ever come from the government or emergency services and will initially focus on the most serious weather-related events, with the ability to get a message to 90% of mobile users within the relevant area. The messages will include details of the area impacted and instructions about how to respond. They will only be sent where there is an immediate risk to life and many people may not receive an alert for months or years. You can see how the alert will work by watching this video from the Cabinet Office (opens new window).

Work is continuing to help Midhurst recover following the major hotel fire at The Angel Inn and neighbouring buildings. We are part of a multi-agency recovery group, including West Sussex County Council, West Sussex Fire and Rescue, Midhurst Town Council and the South Downs National Park Authority. We are all committed to doing everything we can to reopen the road to vehicles as soon as possible and support those businesses affected by the incident.

We have been working closely with local businesses through a recovery group, which involves weekly meetings, updates, and plans on how funding should be spent to support the town in its recovery. As I mentioned last week, we have set aside £300,000 to help the town get back on its feet and encourage residents and visitors to support local businesses in Midhurst. A member of our Economic Development team has also been seconded to support businesses in the town for the next two months. We are also offering free parking in our Midhurst car parks until the end of 16 April 2023 - so please do visit and show the town your support.

If you are a Midhurst resident or business, you may wish to come along to our drop-in information session tomorrow (Wednesday 12 April) to meet staff from our Supporting You, Economic Development and Social Prescribing teams, along with representatives from West Sussex County Council Highways and the South Downs National Park Authority. The session will take place between 2pm and 4pm at the South Downs National Park Authority offices, North Street, Midhurst, GU29 9DH. If you came along to the first of these information events last week, I hope you found this useful.

We are issuing regular updates on the response, so please visit our latest news webpage or visit our social media pages for the very latest update. All of the agencies involved are committed to doing everything they can to help Midhurst to recover from this dreadful incident. The agencies would like to thank residents and businesses for their feedback, which I want to assure you is discussed at a multi-agency group every week to be considered and responded to. The partners will continue to keep both residents and businesses closely updated on the situation.

Best wishes

Diane Shepherd

Chief Executive, Chichester District Council

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