Earlier this week, the Prime Minister made the announcement that virtually all remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted on 19th July. This is at a time when the number of Covid cases is once again rising, but due to the vaccination programme the virus appears to be having a reduced impact on those who have been double jabbed and far less people are being hospitalized than in previous waves.
The removal of restrictions will come as welcome news to many businesses, especially retailers, hotels, restaurants and pubs, as these have suffered disproportionately from the lockdowns. With uncertainty over the rules that can be imposed at short notice when taking foreign holidays, the next couple of months will provide an important opportunity for Eastbourne, where so many residents rely upon the tourist trade for employment. I am hopeful of seeing an early boost to our local economy and am encouraged by the interest that those from outside of the town are showing in opening businesses here. Last week I was invited to visit ‘Churchills’ a splendid new Fish and Chip restaurant at the Langney Shopping Centre. This family-owned business is a great addition to the renewed centre. The owners of this shopping centre are to be congratulated on the investment that they have made, as they have transformed what was a tired old 1970s construction into something very attractive. They also understand the importance of community and have provided space for the ‘Langney Community Library’, which replaced the one which was closed by the County Council.
One of the new freedoms that I am looking forward to is the opportunity to visit the theatre once again. Sadly, the pandemic meant that the Congress had to close shortly after reopening following major refurbishment. Chris Jordan has put together an excellent programme for the next year with shows such as “The Play that Goes Wrong”; “Magic Goes Wrong”; “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”; “Waitress”; “Chicago” and “Mamma Mia” plus ballet and many famous comedians. The full programme can be found at www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/whats-on The Royal Hippodrome also has many great shows and on 17th July will be staging “Phoney Fools and Horses”, a good laugh guaranteed. Let’s all do everything we can to support our local businesses as they emerge from Covid restrictions.
As we arrive at July, I am sure that many people will be wondering whether the Government will actually remove the Covid restrictions from the 19th July or extend them yet again. This question will surely be at the forefront of the new Health Secretary’s mind as he views the increasing rate of infection in the UK and seeks to balance this with the knowledge that the vaccination programme is going well and that there has not been a similar surge in the number of hospital admissions seen during past spikes in infection rates. I find that I am hearing from what I believe are an increasing number of people who are suffering from lockdown fatigue. They are trying to obey the rules but are uncertain as to what they are as one gentleman said to me “I watch the football and there are crowds of tens of thousands in close proximity to each other without masks, but I am told that I cannot meet up with a group of a dozens friends for a meal at the restaurant, despite the fact that we have all had two vaccinations”. I believe that an early announcement about the way forward would be welcomed by all, with a clear explanation of any future restrictions and details of how they will be enforced. Without this, people will lose patience and the whole idea of managing behaviour will unravel fast.
The ambiguity over Government messaging has had an impact upon the County Council. Despite lobbying from Councils over all political colours, the Government refused to extend their ability to hold meetings on-line. I am led to believe that the reasoning behind this is that they consider that it is more democratic if we meet in person. If this is true, then it is not working. East Sussex County Council held their Cabinet meeting this week, but only had space for three members of the public and restricted the number of members that political parties could send as they did not have sufficient space to observe the Covid distancing rules. Whilst those unable to attend in person were bizarrely allowed to take part on-line, this effectively created two classes of Councillors, which cannot be good for democracy.
My personal hope is that we will soon be able to forget about restrictions and with the majority of the population vaccinated, return to the freedoms we enjoyed back in 2019, but I recognise that this depends on the impact that the current wave of infections has and whether those who do catch Covid will need to be hospitalised.
I really enjoyed taking part in the judging at the Young Traders Market in the Town Centre last Saturday. There were 12 stalls selling a good variety of different products from crafts and toys to food and drink. My thanks go to everyone who came out to support the event which gave Terminus Road a great buzz. Well done, Steve, Luke and Leanna from the Eastbourne BID team for organising the day and thanks to all the young traders for taking part. I hope that they will all return for the Christmas market. Whilst every stall was great to see, there had to be winners and congratulations go to:
Grocery Section – local Eastbourne bakery “To the Rise” I can vouch for how good their bread is.
Food and Drink Section – “Cane Forest” I was fascinated to watch them extract the juice from sugar cane and it tasted fabulous.
Overall winner – “The Healing Timber” from Polegate, who make some wonderfully creative wooden products and can customise these to order.
The other end of Terminus Road, by the seafront, saw the opening of the “pop-up park”. With this part of the road closed, there are tables and parasols to complement the local restaurants and provide an al fresco dining experience. This will remain in place for another two weeks, so please try to give it your support.
One evening last week I was awoken by the nocturnal activities of the local urban wildlife. Sleeping with the bedroom windows open because of the heat, I was raised from my slumbers at 03.20 in the morning - there were four hedgehogs on the corner of the road and it appeared that they were all shouting at the same time. This cacophony of sound brought about some unwanted attention as suddenly they were surrounded by four foxes, one at each corner of the group. As the foxes closed in I was fearful for the safety of the hedgehogs, only to be surprised, as the foxes appeared to be by the speed at which they ran away to safety. Watching this made me aware of how other creatures can take over the streets when most of us are asleep.
Langney councillors Candy Vaughan and Alan Shuttleworth joined local residents and Eastbourne Council’s Neighbourhood team in a Community Action campaign to clear rubbish from some of the areas where a lot of litter has accumulated and benefitted from a Litter Team approach. The first two action days were very productive and another 'Clean for the Queen Litter Pick' is being planned.
As Cllr Candy Vaughan said,
“We would like to develop this Community Action Team and visit other parts of Langney. If you would like to join the Direct Action team and have suggestions for areas to visit please get in touch.”
We are also concerned about the number of supermarket trolleys which are abandoned around the area. We have discussed the matter with Tesco stores in the past, but we think more needs to be done to deal with this matter.
If you see abandoned trolleys please phone Trolleywise 0800 3161241
Plastic Free Campaign
Cllr Alan Shuttleworth has been working with the Environment Agency and Eastbourne Borough Council on a project to clear the waterways in the park from plastic and other pollution. The worst areas of waterways are under the bridge near Bannatynes and the waterways in front of Causeway/Hazel Court schools in Larkspur Drive.
Refill Station for Langney Shopping Centre
Our Langney Lib Dem councillor team are working with the Plasticfree Eastbourne group and Langney Shopping Centre on a project to provide a Refill Water Fountain at the Centre to try to encourage people to use refillable containers to get a drink.
You may be aware that East Sussex County Council are planning to repaint the footbridge which crosses Langney Rise at the Shopping Centre. However, we are advised by East Sussex County Highways that there is not enough room to paint it on site whilst keeping the road open. Therefore, the bridge will be removed temporarily to paint it and then reinstated.
The Project Manager has advised that when they remove the footbridge, the painting and repairs can be done in a controlled environment, with every part fully accessible.
If they were to paint it in place, it would require fully sheeted scaffolding and even with this there is the potential for debris to fall out. Also, the scaffolding would be too low over the road and could possibly be struck by high sided vehicles.
The road will be closed for up to 4 days to remove the bridge and another 4 to re-erect. The works should be starting in approximately 6 weeks time. A start date has not yet been confirmed.
Thank you to all who responded to this planning application.
We are pleased to report that the planning application to build on Eastbourne Park area, on the western side of Sevenoaks Road in the area close to Kingfisher Drive has been withdrawn.
Over recent weeks the Eastbourne Planning officers have been consulting with the applicant over aspects of the scheme. The long delay was due to the enormous response from local people who have raised so many legitimate objections and the planning officers also having concerns about the impact of the development and the fact that it is contrary to Council policies.
As Langney Councillor Alan Shuttleworth commented,
“The proposal would be in conflict with the allocation of the site as a Primary Open Space as part of the Eastbourne Park area. The area of the proposed development is an area rich in flora, fauna, and wildlife habitats including several migratory birds and would certainly suffer.
The land is also part of the flood defences, and with climate change and rising water comes increased risk of flooding. The existing drainage system is currently running at full capacity. After heavy rainfall water engineers have to attend, and this can also affect the use of toilets.
The current speeding and safety issues in Sevenoaks Road would be exacerbated. Parked cars are already damaged by reckless driving.
An application would be significantly contrary to Council policies.”
The applicants failed to present the detailed evidence in terms of surveys of the land and of the consequences of building on this precious site and were advised to withdraw their application.
However, It does not prevent an applicant bringing forward a fresh application over the coming months, and we are very concerned that with Government changes in planning law it is becoming harder for local planning authorities to stop the building on green areas. We cannot allow the Eastbourne Park area and other green spaces to be threatened with developments. House building should be in designated areas within the built environment. Local Councils and local people must decide.
We need to remain vigilant.
East Sussex Lib Dem Councillors have welcomed plans to develop an improved partnership with bus companies.
Councillor Stephen Holt says:
“We all want improvements to our bus services and this partnership will be a significant step to making this happen. It will mean improved connections between bus services and will support greener travel.
However, the Government’s ambitious plans need to be backed with proper financial support to make this a reality. We also need to ensure equity across the region to make sure that there is full connectivity across our towns, along the coast and in our rural areas. Creating new greener routes will not only help the travelling public but will also deliver our goal of carbon neutrality.
The proposals also make clear the importance of partnership working and, in particular, the work and information provided by the Eastbourne Eco Action Transport Group.”
Cllr Colin Swansborough adds:
“My concern is that the walking and cycling strategy has been kicking around for 20 years. What we want is a commitment from the Conservative Lead Member that this is going to happen quickly – so that we can get a functioning bus partnership plan together quickly."
Cllr Stephen Holt 07510 074254
Cllr Colin Swansborough 01323 707580 / 07986 560167
We now know that it will be at least another four weeks before all of the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Whilst this is frustrating, it is probably the right decision given the alarming increase in the infection rate in some parts of the country, which appears to be caused by the Delta variant. Fortunately, the number of cases in Eastbourne remains low but there is no room for complacency and so as the Government has insisted that Council meetings must once again be held in person and not digitally, I have found myself taking regular Lateral Flow tests. For those who are unaware, this involves using what is best described as an extra long cotton bud and jiggling it around your tonsils, then using the same bud to put up each nostril. I will not pretend that the sensation is pleasant, but you know the result of the test in half an hour and it gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you are protecting others and reducing the risk of the infection spreading. The test kits are free of charge and can be ordered at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing/regular-rapid-coronavirus-tests-if-you-do-not-have-symptoms/
At an East Sussex County Council meeting next week, the Lead Member for Transport and the Environment will be deciding the response she will recommend to my colleague Sarah Osbourne’s request for an extension to the roads that have a 20mph speed limit. We have made this request before especially around schools and play areas, but it has been rejected. Hopefully, this time we will have a different response, as evidence shows that not only will this lead to less accidents, but that those which do occur are less likely to result in death or serious injury.
Following cancellation last year due to the pandemic, Eastbourne will once again be hosting top tennis stars this week at the “Viking International Eastbourne” taking place at Devonshire Park. Six of the top ten women’s players will be taking part and whilst the crowd will sensibly be reduced to approximately a quarter of the normal number, it will see Eastbourne broadcast in countries around the world, which is so important for our local tourist industry.
With the easing of the Covid restrictions I was able to join together with others this week to take part in the Eastbourne Youth Radio Question and Answer session at the Eastbourne Academy. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, this event provides an opportunity for students to quiz local politicians and business leaders. This year was the 20th anniversary of the event and as always the questions were challenging and demonstrated the interest that the questioners have in local issues.
Sticking to the theme of youth, next weekend (19th of June) I am one of the judges of Eastbourne’s first ever Young Traders Market alongside our MP and East Sussex College Group. The event has been organised by Luke Johnson of “Your Eastbourne BID” who has organised 15 young traders to compete to be crowned Eastbourne’s Young Trader of the Year. The winner will go to a regional final and maybe even compete nationally. As it is the opening of the tennis, the BID have arranged for live music, entertainment, and tennis demonstrations along with a selection of high quality products which you cannot buy anywhere else. All of this will be taking place between Bankers Corner and The Halifax in Terminus Road so please pay it a visit.
Market trading is invaluable as it helps businesses become established and provides real vibrancy to a town and Young Traders Markets have a proven record of success in other parts of the country. I also understand it’s not too late to enter – you can contact [email protected] for full details.
At the seafront end of Terminus Road (Victoria Place) traders have worked with the BID and Eastbourne Borough Council to organise a pop-up park to be installed for three weeks from the 19th of June. This part of the road will be closed to traffic and is a great example of what we can do when working together. Given the pandemic we know how important alfresco dining has become, and I hope that, plans for this area will be a key component of our levelling up fund to government. I am confident that pedestrianisation for this area will be a game changer, and I am delighted that the traders have come forward with this plan. We have never had a pop-up park before, but I understand there will be deck chairs, picnic tables and planters as well as other items to match the tennis theme. Do make sure you check it out – it will be operating every day from the 19th of June until the 11th of July.
Happily the Bank Holiday brought the good weather that we had been hoping for meaning that it was pleasant to be outside in the fresh air and enjoy the beach, parks and South Downs. For the first time in over a year it felt as if life was getting back to normal. Alongside this feelgood mood however is the news of increasing rates of Covid infections and concerns that we might be at the beginning of a third wave of the virus in the UK. This is really worrying, especially for a town like Eastbourne which imports holidaymakers from many other places. It leaves the Government with a difficult decision over whether to continue to follow their roadmap and remove the remaining restrictions on the 21st June, with many urging them to delay making these changes.
One factor which impacts on the number of inflections is of course the vaccination programme and this continues to go well. I had my second jab a week ago and am pleased to say that it went very smoothly without any side effects. A few people have said to me that they do not want to be vaccinated. This is of course their choice, being vaccinated is not compulsory but I believe that it is sensible. Whilst it is true that there is a risk, evidence shows that this is very small and much less than the risk attached to catching the Coronavirus. Being vaccinated will not only help to protect you but will also help to keep the infection rate down, so please think carefully if you are considering rejecting the jab.
In line with our aim to achieve carbon neutrality in Eastbourne by 2030, the Council’s Cabinet adopted a Biodiversity strategy this week. This plan aims to:
- Maintain and increase biodiversity on council-owned and managed land
- Engage and enable community-led nature-based projects and to be involved in partnerships that promote natural capital and biodiversity across the borough
- Ensure that all developments maximise the opportunities for well-considered gains in biodiversity
This plan is part of our attempt to address climate change which is undoubtedly the major challenge facing the planet.