The past week has brought bad news in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. The ‘R’ rate, which indicates the number of people each individual who has the virus will pass it onto has risen above 1, for the first time in months. This means that the number of people infected is once again starting to grow rather than reduce. The Government have also admitted that following much publicity to encourage everyone to get tested, there has not been sufficient capacity in the system to cope with this and as a result many people have been issued with testing appointments at the other end of the country from where they live. The new message is only to seek a test if you are showing symptoms of CV19. In addition, in an attempt to reduce the rate of infection the Government have said, that gatherings either indoors or outside should not exceed 6 people and those who fail to comply with this restriction, risk being fined.
With so much of the news concentrating on Covid-19 it is easy to miss other things which are happening. One of which is a Government White Paper, which seeks to change Planning Law. Whilst I consider the current planning laws to be far from perfect, some of the proposed changes cause me real concern. For example, currently large developments have to make a contribution to provide local infrastructure such as schools, roads and street lighting, but in future this will be replaced with a levy payable to the national exchequer. On initial reading it also looks as if local decision making will be further eroded. I believe that it is important that planning decisions are taken by local people and not directed from Whitehall. The paper is currently out for consultation and if you are interested in planning you might want to read it.
A question that I have been asked several times is “what is happening to the Bandstand?” I am pleased to say that this forms part of the Council’s Capital programme. Work will take place over the winter months with a planned reopening next April with a full programme of entertainment.
More than 6 months after the country went into lockdown, the threat of the Coronavirus is still very much with us. The number of infections is once again rising steadily and local lockdowns have been introduced in many parts of the UK and now affect more than 10 million people. Here in the South East, although we remain below the national average, we are not immune. Last week the risk rating moved from Green to Yellow which, the Government Escalation framework tells us, means that we need to have a ‘raised level of alertness’ to the risks.
Several people have commented to me that they don’t understand what all of the fuss is about and that they do not know of anyone who has caught CV-19. They are therefore very lucky. It is probably due to the protective measures that have been taken that this is the case. Let us make no mistake, this virus is a killer and it would be foolish to ignore the risks. It remains very important that we all continue to abide by the social distancing rules, as this appears to be the only way to manage the spread of CV-19 until a reliable vaccine is found.
Government changes to the maximum number of people congregating has had an impact on our local walking festival. It is still taking place, but instead of the walks having a leader, these will now be self-led. You can find details of a wide range of walks varying from ‘easy’ to ‘intense’ on the Visit Eastbourne website. I am sure that it will still be a fantastic event. It was good to be able to welcome Sir Tim Smit and David Harland (Founder and Chief Executive of the Eden Project) to Eastbourne at the start of the festival and to hear their enthusiasm for the opportunities we have to enhance Eastbourne Park. We are very fortunate to have their help and advice.
Also in town for the launch of both the Festival and ‘Beat the Street’ was Dr William Bird who founded this exercise game. I met up with him at Langney Primary Academy where staff and pupils are just some of almost 6000 participants for the event. Eastbourne is the only place in the UK where this is currently taking place. It is free to join and runs until the 4 November. Details can be found on the ‘Beat the Street’ website or at a variety of locations, including the Welcome Building at Devonshire Park. Why not join in?
As a result of the Grenfell disaster the government introduced an industry standard cladding and insulation survey the ESW1 certificate. This was meant to be for tower blocks, but the remit has been spread much wider to cover most blocks of flats including many in Sovereign Harbour.
There is a shortage of qualified surveyors able to do the certification and they are unable to get indemnification insurance in case the unthinkable happens and there is another disaster.
Mortgage companies are refusing to grant mortgages or remortgages to properties without an ESW1 certificate.
This has put a massive potential financial burden on flat owners in order to comply (and even then, the certificate is only valid for 3 years), as well as devaluing ALL apartments nationwide, by making them un-mortgageable and largely unsaleable. If we believe the media reports, the implication is that resolution could take up to 10 years.
Dr Kathy Ballard Liberal Democrat County Council Candidate for Sovereign Ward said, “The government MUST urgently intervene in this situation and find a workable resolution to this craziness. Obviously, we all understand and appreciate the need for fire safety and want to support sensible actions, but whoever came up with this debacle, clearly hasn’t thought it through. I have written to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government calling for action to be taken on this matter at once. I understand from social media that many Sovereign residents have written to Caroline Ansell, MP and Sovereign Borough Councillor on this matter, but have so far received no response, let alone any action from her”.
Sovereign ward campaigner Dr. Kathy Ballard has been in talks with ASDA to secure a clear-up of discarded trolleys across the ward.
Kathy Ballard said: “Time and again, residents are telling me at my telephone surgeries that the number of discarded trolleys is increasing week by week. This has to stop.”
After meeting with the management of ASDA in The Crumbles retail park, the supermarket have committed to collecting stray trolleys that are reported to them.
Residents can report trolleys to be clear to Kathy Ballard via her Trolley Reporting Form here: https://bit.ly/33ZRKa8
Kathy has reported dozens of trolleys in the local area already.
Sovereign Ward campaigner Kathy Ballard, has been approached by a resident about setting up a community library. He has 8,000 books to donate to the new library. Kathy says, “We were wondering if there would be any interest in setting up a community library for Sovereign and would appreciate your views. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eastbourne’s businesses and residents are angry that East Sussex County Council chose to impose steep display parking and on-street parking permit increases when the town was emerging from an extended lockdown due to Covid19. At the last County Council meeting the Tory majority dismissed Liberal Democrat pleas that the increases be postponed until the New Year when, hopefully, the Town will have recovered from the effects of Covid19.
ESCC increased on-street parking permits and display parking charges throughout Eastbourne at the beginning of July - display parking charges have risen between 20p and £1.90. An Eastbourne resident who was paying £25 for an annual On-Street Parking Permit for the first car at the residence will have to pay as much as £95.
Kathy Ballard says “It is incomprehensible that East Sussex County Council should increase the charges at this time. The increases are wrapped up as helping the Environment when they are in fact lucrative income generation measures for East Sussex County Council”.
Popular former MP, Stephen Lloyd, is backing Kathy Ballard to win Sovereign Ward in the upcoming county elections. He says: “I am delighted to be supporting Kathy for next May. She’s already working hard across the Ward. From the Admirals Estate to the Harbour, local residents are recognising that she’ll always put them first ahead of party politics. It’s time for a positive change in Sovereign Ward, and I believe Kathy is the right person to deliver that change.”
In what has been the strangest of years, things are changing again. Children have returned to school; more businesses have reopened and a number of restaurants are continuing to offer discounts in order to entice us back to eating out. All of these things suggest that life is returning to the way it was pre-lockdown. Whilst this might all feel good, we need to remember that the threat of Covid-19 has not gone away. We have been fortunate that locally the rate of infection has remained below the national average, but there is still no room for complacency. In common with many other countries, the number of infections in the UK has once again been increasing. In order to address this, several areas of the north of England have seen local lockdowns imposed. Such action can have a major impact upon a local economy seeking to recover from months of inactivity. So, for both the sake of our health and the Eastbourne economy, let’s ensure that we observe the CV19 guidelines and avoid the need for another lockdown here.
Last Saturday I was delighted to visit Embrace, which has just reopened. This local charity does so much to support children with special needs and their families. They have ambitious plans for expansion of their services over the next five years and I wish them every success.
One of the consequences of Brexit is that any EU national living in the UK has to apply for ‘Settled Status’ no matter how many years they have lived here. The only exception to this is if you have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ but even with this it is worth applying for ‘settled status’ as this will give you additional rights. If you need to apply and have yet to register, but are uncertain of how to go about it, there is help available. You can call the Council’s Customer First number 01323 410000, they will take your details and get someone to ring you back and arrange an appointment for a one to one meeting at one of the EU Settled Status support sessions.
In a year when virtually every local event has been cancelled, it is good to know that there is one which is still going to go ahead. This is the walking festival, which will take place between 18th to 27th September. There are a vast range of walks to choose from - ranging from long walks over the downs, to take in the magnificent views, to a more sedate walk around Helen Gardens. This year’s event promises to be the best ever and takes in ‘Car Free Day’ on the 22nd September, a good reason for leaving the car at home and taking a walk. Full details of the festival can be found on the Visit Eastbourne website at: www.visiteastbourne.com/walking-festival/walks/walk-calendar Booking is required as numbers are strictly limited in order to observe the Covid-19 guidelines. For many, after months of staying indoors, this provides a great opportunity to get out in the fresh air, take some exercise and learn more about our local environment.
More good news for those who have been bitten by the walking bug is that ‘Beat the Street’ is back. This popular physical activity game gets underway on the 16th September. Running for seven weeks, participants are issued with fobs which they scan under ‘beat boxes’ which are attached to lampposts. There are 72 ‘beat boxes’ spaced half a mile apart. The greater distance you travel, the more points you can earn for your school or community team. This fun way to exercise might give you a chance to visit parts of the town you have not seen before. If you are interested in taking part you can find more information at www.beatthestreet.me/eastbourne/
This is the time of year that the Council conducts the annual electoral registration canvass. If you have not already been contacted, you should be in the near future. The propose of this canvass is to ensure that you are on the electoral roll and entitled to vote in elections. Please help by filling this in with details of all of the adults in your household and return it to the Council – Thank you.
The short break that I have just enjoyed helped to remind me of just how close we are to so much beautiful countryside. In what could have been a rehearsal for the walking festival in September, I have walked over several areas of this, the eastern end of the South Downs. So much open space, fantastic views and totally uncrowded.
Whilst I was on leave, I knew that I would be returning to tackle some very serious matters, not least of which the ongoing challenges of CV19. The break gave me time to consider the even greater issues facing our future. Issues such as sustainability.
Eastbourne Borough Council has already set the objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and are working alongside environmental groups in order to achieve this target, but sustainability, which is so important for future generations, is much more than that. Sustainability means finding ways to meet our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. So, whatever we take from the earth’s resources must be capable of being replaced and whatever we create, we need to be able to dispose of without polluting the planet.
To achieve this will require major changes in the ways that we live, many of which we might find uncomfortable. For example, we urgently need to tackle our use of plastic. On several occasions I have joined with others to clean our beaches and seen the volume of plastic washed up on our shores. Since the 1950s more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste have been produced, making plastic one of the largest synthetic materials on the planet. if there is to be a future for our children and grandchildren, this simply cannot continue.
The Covid pandemic has been tragic and brought grief to many, but it has also led to certain lifestyle changes which can contribute towards sustainability. Less commuting, more home working and video conferencing. Staycation holidays and less foreign travel are not really painful changes for most of us, but if continued will help to protect the future.