In recent weeks we have seen a steady decline in the number of Covid cases which has helped to give us all a bit of a boost. Given this I hate to sound a note of warning but the risks are not over yet. Following the return of children to school there has been an increase in cases in some parts of the country. Here in Eastbourne the number of new cases in the past 7 days has gone up from 13 to 23, which is mercifully low but nationally around 5000 new cases are reported daily. The Chief Medical Officer has said that what happens here tends to be about 2-3 weeks behind France, which has seen another increase in cases and as a result introduced a daily curfew from 19.00-06.00. A difference is that our vaccination programme is far more advanced and I hope that will protect us from yet another lockdown, but clearly we need to remain cautious.
One of the biggest challenges for the Borough Council is housing. The Government has made a commitment to increasing housing supply and sets each local council targets for the number of houses to be built in their area each year. If the council fails to meet these targets, they face the prospect of seeing their planning powers reduced or removed. This makes things difficult for areas such as Eastbourne where the building targets are high but where there is little development land available. The need for affordable rented accommodation is very real, as average house prices are around 10 times the average salary in the town and many local people are finding it almost impossible to get a mortgage. The Council is therefore looking at brownfield (previously developed) sites in order to create a new housing development programme, to address this need.
With the County Council elections taking place in May, we are now entering what is known as a period of purdah, where, quite rightly rules apply to press coverage given to all political parties to ensure that none receives an unfair advantage. As a result, this will be my last column in The Herald until May. I look forward to being back with you again then and hope that by that time we will have seen the worst of the pandemic. In the meantime