A few weeks ago, I mentioned that there is a website supported by the Council called eatlocal.info/Eastbourne, which provides the delivery of food from local businesses. I was browsing through this again the other day and could not help but notice how the number of suppliers has grown. In addition to all kinds of hot meals, you can purchase a wide variety of other food including: bread; eggs; meat; fruit and vegetables; fish; jam; milk and alcohol. If you haven’t looked at it yet, please do and support our local businesses who are doing their best to keep us fed during these difficult times.
During the lockdown the Government made grants available to many businesses to help them financially. These grants excluded many small businesses who do not make direct business rate payments. More recently they have made just over £1m available to Eastbourne to make discretionary awards available to these organisations and details of how to apply for this money can be found on the Council website.
A group who should be congratulated are the Hospitality Association. They have used their purchasing power to establish a local PPE hub. This can supply non-NHS grade personal protective equipment to local businesses. Using local suppliers, this gives the additional benefits of lower cost and rapid delivery.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, sadly most of the events that normally take place in Eastbourne during the summer have had to be cancelled. If, however the rate of transmission continues to decline I hope that the Walking Festival will still take place. This is scheduled for the 18th to 27th September when organised walks will take place across the town. These walks, which will explore the coast and surrounding countryside, will also provide an opportunity to learn more about nature and our heritage. After a long period of lockdown, this event should be a good opportunity to improve mental health as well as providing physical exercise, so why not put the dates in your diary?
As the Government relaxes the rules around lockdown, it is understandable that many of us, who have been cooped up at home since March, are keen to enjoy our newly found freedom and get out to enjoy the sunny weather. The danger is that people will believe that the risk of catching the Coronavirus is now over, or at least very much reduced. The truth however, is that the risk is still very much with us. Whilst we are fortunate in East Sussex, in being a part of the country with a low rate of infections, the good weather will bring visitors from neighbouring areas with far greater levels. Nationally, there are still around 2000 new cases and hundreds of deaths recorded daily. To beat this deadly virus, it is vitally important that we all observe the social distancing rules, or risk a second wave of cases which could be worse than we have already experienced.
A few people have mentioned to me their disappointment that the libraries are closed and that they cannot borrow books. Whilst I understand the frustration during a period when people might have more time available to them to read, I understand the need for them to be closed at present. If, however you have the ability to read books on-line you can still borrow e-books from the East Sussex Libraries website. They have a good range of books available and as with the physical books, you can borrow them free of charge.
One of the facilities which has reopened is the Household Waste site in St Philips Avenue. The County Council are to be applauded for the security measures that they have put in place in order to observe the social distancing rules, but residents living near the site tell me of the long queues and reckless acts of some drivers, who not wanting to visit the site attempt to overtake the queue on the wrong side of the road. I would ask everyone to be aware of these issues and for the time being, only to visit if it is essential and to drive carefully to avoid potential accidents.
As another month of 2020 slips past, the usual array of events which we normally enjoy, and mark where we are in the year, have all been cancelled. Had it not been for the Coronavirus, this Saturday would have been the Carnival, but along with everything else this is unable to go ahead due to social distancing. Stephen Lloyd, who organises this uplifting event has however announced that this has only been postponed and set a provisional date of 13th September for it to take place. Let’s hope that this can happen, as the Carnival is not only a lot of fun but also raises a lot of money for charity.
The news last week of the collapse of Shearings, dealt a blow not only to our local tourist industry, but to nearly every resort in the UK, as the company ran hotels in nearly every major location. In Eastbourne they operated both the Burlington and the Majestic Hotels, providing seafront accommodation for tourists and employment for a large number of local people. Currently, with hotels and restaurants closed due to the lockdown, the tourist industry that underpins our local economy is finding the going tough. The future may however be brighter, as when these establishments are allowed to reopen and people are once again allowed to holiday, I believe that British residents will choose to take those holidays here in the UK and where better than Eastbourne to do so. By that time, I hope that purchasers will have been found for these hotels and the jobs that they provide saved.
At the time of writing this, it remains unclear whether schools will reopen to more pupils as planned on the 1 June. My understanding is that the decision whether to do so or not will rest with the school. For those that do open their doors, class sizes will be limited to 15 pupils, but even with this number I can understand the concerns some teachers have, as enforcing social distancing amongst younger pupils will be almost impossible. Parents will also be deliberating whether or not to send their children back for this final term before the summer holidays. For this term it will not be compulsory to do so and every parent will need to make their own decision based upon how they see the risks.
I have asked recently where you can go if you are in urgent need of a dentist. The answer is that whilst the Government have set up “emergency dental hubs” during the lockdown they have not said where these are, as they do not want people just turning up at them. Their advice is that if you have a dental emergency you should call your own dentist who will make arrangements for you to visit a hub or call NHS911 who will assist. I hope that this is helpful?
Healthwatch East Sussex, have adapted their engagement activities to try and gather a picture from all East Sussex residents/staff/colleagues about their health and wellbeing while under Lockdown and ask if you would complete their survey and share it together with the attached flyer. The survey is running until the 7th June – Real Life under Lockdown 2020
It’s quite relatable to all aspects of our lives – it’s not just health and care services but the impact of the many changes and challenges – work, income, housing etc. on our sense of wellbeing and mental & physical health.
The survey released Friday 1st May has already had more than 800 responses, which is a great initial response. However, Healthwatch want to hear from all parts of the community which includes both the public and of course colleagues and staff of organisations and businesses.
The findings from the survey will be shared publicly. Both NHS and county/district authorities will be able to understand better the impact on Covid-19 on their communities which will help them adapt existing services and plan more effectively for the future.
Sharing your views is easy by completing the survey:
Environmental campaigners are celebrating a victory on the borders of Langney as Wealden Council planning committee turned down a development on the Friday Street Farm.
The campaign to protect the wildlife and plant life around the Pevensey Levels Site of Special Scientific Interest and preserve the green belt was led by Langney Councillor Alan Shuttleworth supported by over 200 emails from residents to planning members.
As Cllr Shuttleworth said, “as well as the strong environmental case the existing problems with flooding and pumping stations were compelling arguments. This is a victory for the environment, and for local democracy."
With summer nearly upon us, the sunshine has already been clearly in evidence in recent weeks, as is becoming of the sunniest place in the UK. This good weather, coupled with the Government announcements, which have started to ease the lockdown, means that we can once again enjoy the wonderful environment in and around Eastbourne. A walk in the park, a stroll over the downs or the chance to enjoy an ice cream along the seafront. We are fortunate in having so much open space to enjoy. As we do so however it is important to remember to maintain social distancing and by doing so help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and save lives.
A number of towns are currently taking the opportunity provided by reduced traffic to experiment with temporary road closures which allow a greater amount of space for pedestrians and cyclists. This makes good sense, as those which work well might be retained, whilst it will be possible to do away with those which cause problems. The chance to do this will not be with us for long and I have asked East Sussex County Council to try this in Eastbourne, I hope that they will respond positively. Alongside the potential benefits for walkers and cyclists, such closure might enable an early opportunity for some restaurants to provide outdoor meals, if this complies with Government rules, during part of the summer and help to kickstart the revival of the hospitality side of our local economy.
Just before writing this column I heard that the Government are planning to open a Covid-19 test centre at College Road car park. I am currently trying to find out more details of how this will operate, whether it will be open to the public and if so, whether you will need to make an appointment or will just be able to turn up. It would obviously make sense to prioritise key workers who currently have to go to Gatwick, so this looks like being good news for Eastbourne in the fight against the virus.
Stay safe – keep well.
Following almost two months of lockdown, the Government are turning their attention to how and when this will be lifted. This is a decision which will require the wisdom of Solomon. Whilst with every day that passes the impact upon the economy, including the chances of some businesses collapsing, leaving many unemployed increases, this needs to be weighed against the loss of life which will result in ending the lockdown too soon. Personally, I favour a cautious approach. The impact of CV-19 has so far been much greater in the UK than many other places. For a country with less than 1% of the global population, we account for more than 11% of reported deaths and even allowing for poor recording in some places it is clear that this deadly virus has been worse here than in most of the world and as the rate of infection decreases I believe that we must do all that we can to avoid a second wave.
Fortunately, the information available suggests that the number of cases in Eastbourne is toward the lower end of towns and cities in Britain, not that this news will be any consolation to those who have lost loved ones. My thoughts are very much with them.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the East Sussex College Group via video conference. They deserve to be congratulated for the way that they have responded to the current challenges. They have made buildings available for a chemotherapy unit and also for TechResort who have been making PPE face masks using 3D printers. The college also donated thousands of frozen meals which have helped feed those in need. If you find that you have time on your hands and want to learn something new, they have a range of free online courses available. These can be found at http://www.grasplearning.co.uk/elearning-short-online-courses why not take a look?
So, as we move towards a lifting of the lockdown, let us try to keep some of the positives which have come from it, like cleaner air due to less use of vehicles and with Government-support accommodation for those who were sleeping on the streets.
Stay safe – Keep well.
The May Day Bank Holiday, which is traditionally held on the first Monday in May, was moved to Friday 8th May this year in order to form part of the 75th anniversary of VE Day commemorations. That event will however inevitably take place in a different atmosphere, for as we reflect on the horrors of war and how different the life would be had Hitler prevailed, the whole world is now untied against a different type of enemy, a pernicious virus which has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
In this strange spring, we all look forward to a time when we can once again mix freely, without the risk of infection and when life can regain some form of normality. In reality for this to happen we are reliant upon scientists finding a vaccine which will protect us against Covid-19. This will be at least many months away and until then the best we can hope for is a gradual relaxation of the lockdown rules when the number of newly recorded cases starts to fall, but even then, our freedom is likely to come with strict rules on social distancing.
In the meantime, there are those whose aim is to help others who are finding that it is even tougher to do so. One of these is Foodbank. In recent years a lifeline to so many, foodbanks, which are charities, are facing unprecedented demand during the current pandemic. At the same time the number of donations of food is down, possibly because we are visiting supermarkets less frequently. If you would like to help ensure that they can continue to help those in need you can make a donation at http://eastbournefoodbank.charitycheckout.co.uk/Donate#!/
Schools would normally have a short break in May but for most children it has been a long time since they were last at school. Whilst this can feel like an extended holiday, it is of course possible to study on-line, but only if you have access to IT equipment which enables this. There are many children who either do not have a PC at home or where the one that is there, is needed by their parents who are now working from home. I hope that the Children’s Services Department of the County Council will find a way to help them and avoid the creation of two-tier education for those in lockdown.
My best wishes - Stay safe.
Cllrs Alan Shuttleworth and Candy Vaughan in Friday Street
Local Liberal Democrat councillors are urging East Sussex County Council to keep our roads safe.
Work on the installation of a new crossing in Friday Street had started but was halted due to the coronavirus crisis.
Langney Councillor Alan Shuttleworth who led the new crossing campaign commented: “This is a really dangerous road to cross. It will be a relief to get the job completed.”
A traffic calming scheme for Sevenoaks Road has also been put on hold.
As we enter another week of lockdown it is important to ignore thoughts of going to the beach or countryside to enjoy the sun and remember why we are doing this. Covid-19 is a wicked virus which is easily transmitted from person to person and whilst thankfully the social isolation that has been imposed has stemmed the rate of increase, it is still causing between 500-900 deaths a day here in the UK. So, staying in is not only protecting our own lives but also reducing the pressure of health workers who are putting their own lives at risk as they care for those who have been infected.
On a Thursday evening we rightly applaud our NHS workers for all that they are doing at this time of crisis. To be part of the applause, together with so many others who come out of their homes, does I am sure give us all a lift as it brings the community together. There are so many people who we need to thank, in addition to NHS staff: all care workers; refuse collectors; food producers; shop workers (including those who deliver groceries); volunteers and so many more.
The economic impact of the lockdown will be immense. Whilst the Government has acted quickly to devise schemes to assist those who are suffering loss of trade/income (more than £13m was paid out to businesses in Eastbourne in a week), there are gaps in these schemes which leave some individuals and businesses unprotected. It is probable that many businesses will not reopen. Large organisations like Cath Kidston will not reopen their stores and many small businesses will struggle to do so. Locally, a number of small businesses which supply food are not only still open but some are also providing a delivery service. Details of these can be found on the internet at eatlocal.info and selecting the Eastbourne area. Please do your best to support them.
Stay safe – my best wishes,