Last week was one of mixed fortunes for Eastbourne. Firstly, we received the good news that the Government has approved our bid under the Levelling-up fund, but this was quickly followed by the University of Brighton’s decision to concentrate all of their activities in the city.
The Government’s Levelling-up fund allowed Local Authorities to bid for sums of up to £20m. The time period for bids was very short, and I would like to thank everyone involved in the work that went into the Eastbourne submission, particularly Christina Ewbank, who chaired the group and the officers who ensured that our bid matched the rules set down by Government. To have been granted £19.8m will make a big difference to the town. It will: create an educational and cultural centre at Black Robin Farm, in conjunction with East Sussex College Group and Towner and, a permanent pedestrian area in Victoria Place (the seafront end of Terminus Road). One side of this road had become quite rundown until the Council purchased it from the Administrator. It now has new shops opening up, most recently a new butchers just a couple of weeks ago. This initiative will see green infrastructure installed and provide for all year-round Al Fresco dining. Several people have asked if some of the money could be spent on other schemes. The simple answer is ‘no,’ as in order to be successful our bid had to fit within the strict criteria laid down by the Government.
The announcement by the University of Brighton that they are planning to leave town and consolidate all of their activities in Brighton, came as an unwelcome shock. When they withdrew from Hastings we sought and received assurances from them that they would be staying in Eastbourne, so this news, without any prior warning came as a total surprise. They are currently one of the largest employers in town and if they depart it will have a big impact, not only on those directly employed but also on all of the local businesses that provide goods and services to them. It will also skew the age demographics of Eastbourne. The university statement explains that they will be consulting over this move, and together with local M.P. Caroline Ansell, I am seeking an urgent meeting with them.
Finally, on Monday, I heard that following an internal ballot, my friend Josh Babarinde OBE, has been selected as the next Parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats. I have known Josh since he was Head Boy at Cavendish school and in the relatively short time between then and now, he has done a tremendous amount. In his own words, he is “someone who will always roll his sleeves up and work to make a difference.” He is an excellent choice and I wish him every success.