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KATRINA BEST - LibDem District Council candidate for the Wealden ward of CHIDDINGLY, EAST HOATHLY & WALDRON

Katrina BestKatrina Best moved to Chiddingly with her Canadian-born husband Alan and their two children just over two years ago, and loves being part of this friendly and vibrant community. An author & freelance writer/editor by profession, Katrina is actively involved with the community-owned and run Chiddingly Village Shop & Cafe, both as a volunteer and on the Management Board, as well as with the Chiddingly Arts Festival. She is also standing independently as a candidate for the Chiddingly Parish Council.

The family previously lived in Piltdown, where Katrina was an active member of the Residents' Association and where, in 2016, she and another local resident spearheaded a successful grass roots (cross/non-party) campaign to overturn the then-proposed Wealden District electoral boundary changes (also those for East Sussex County Council) in and around Uckfield. "They had been bizarrely drawn up, for reasons we could only speculate about, by a handful of Tory Executive Councillors behind closed doors, and the vast majority of local residents knew nothing about it," explains Katrina. "The draft boundaries were proposing to combine each of Uckfield's existing urban wards with large chunks of the rural wards that surround the town - zigzagging across the A22 and into the countryside, and thus totally contravening the independent LGCBE's policies which, amongst other key criteria, seek to ensure parish, district and county wards are contiguous wherever possible and that linked communities are not separated."

With Piltdown set to be annexed from the rest of its Parish ward of Fletching; Little Horsted being separated from its linked community of Isfield; and with much of the area falling within the Ashdown Forest AONB zone, this was all very alarming. "With the deadline to submit comments, objections and counter-proposals to the LGBCE just a couple of weeks away, we realised we needed to act - and fast," says Katrina. "Once people understood what was at stake, we were able to quickly galvanize a massive amount of support from locals, including various parish councillors and one of the two District Councillors, who was also a neighbour."

Against the odds, the campaign was mostly successful and the LGBCE adopted 95% of their counter-proposals, overturning the worst of the changes. "Unfortunately, there was one exception -- Little Horsted, because the numbers could not be made to work," says Katrina. "So it is now annexed from its sister village Isfield and instead joined with Uckfield Ridgewood." However, she says that her fellow LibDem candidate James Edwards, who is the WDC candidate in the new ward of Uckfield Ridgewood & Little Horsted, is fully aware of the situation and has a couple of potential solutions for righting this wrong in the future.

It was in great part her involvement with this local campaign - and its success - that motivated Katrina to step up and try to help affect positive change by becoming more actively involved in community matters, including in local politics - she is also on the Wealden LibDems Executive Committee. "I'm passionate about Community and concerned about any and all local issues, including the environment and finding new ways to provide affordable housing for the many people who are being priced out of their own communities." map showing the new Wealden District Council ward of Chiddingly, East Hoathly & Waldron

To this end, she is strongly in favour of development partnerships with local community-owned and led land trusts, such as those that have been recently formed in both Chiddingly and East Hoathly. She is also committed to ensuring that all local planning applications, whether large or small, not only adhere to the rules set out by Wealden and ESCC before being approved, but are given proper oversight and in depth scrutiny to ensure they are truly benefiting the local community as a whole.

If elected, Katrina says she looks forward to working cooperatively with other Councillors from any and all parties (and none). "I am great believer in cross-party cooperation," she says, "and also think it is unhealthy to have so many District Councillors from just one party, as is currently the case in Wealden. Unfortunately, the adverse effects of years of Tory austerity are now being felt by almost everyone, and yet again we see a year-on-year increase in council taxes and a decrease in public services, including the outrageous and wrong-headed new extra charge for brown bin collections."

Above all, she pledges to work hard, attend local meetings and make herself readily available to ensure that everyone in the ward is both listened to and heard. "This is a very beautiful and special part of East Sussex," she says, "with an array of working farms, small businesses and a variety of hamlets, villages and towns, all with their own unique character and concerns. Once people move here they tend to stay, and indeed many locals have been here for several generations. Certainly, all residents deserve to be properly represented by a District Councillor who truly cares about both the area and their individual needs."

Katrina can be contacted at: bestkatrina@gmail.com