What is Greater Brighton and how can it benefit Lewes and Newhaven? What are its aims and how can it achieve them?
Construction Voice, a meeting organised by Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce last week, tried to demystify the concept, and answer those questions.
The Greater Brighton City Deal was agreed last year, unlocking funds for the region to “enable the area to fulfil its economic potential, turning it into one of the highest performing urban economies in the UK operating on an international stage”.
Now the group has gone a step further with a devolution bid. The initial “prospectus” was submitted in September, but a business case is now being built for devolved powers to the region, with a final submission to government in the new year.
The event brought together a panel representing three of the local authorities involved in the city region, who talked about the work of Greater Brighton so far, as well as what devolution might mean for the area.
The Greater Brighton body aims for a thriving “eco-tech” economy, more affordable homes, and better transport infrastructure for the whole region. This includes improving the A27, A259, railway links, and a joined-up bus service, with “an integrated and sustainable transport system”.
Local councils are set to work together to plan projects tailored to each part of the region - but for the greater good of the whole area. Whether it is improving Newhaven Port, pinpointing areas for homes, or a second mainline at Brighton, the Greater Brighton group aims to work together to bring growth to the area.
Nick Hibberd, head of city regeneration at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “What is Greater Brighton? It is the area that runs from Worthing to the west, across to the Lewes district in the east, Brighton and Hove, and Mid Sussex to the north. When we think about how this city operates, we know it operates on a larger area than local authority border. Each year, 3,000 people migrate from London into the city region. There’s also an outward migration, often larger households, moving to the wider city region seeking affordable accommodation.”
Greater Brighton, he said, aims to achieve three important things: More jobs, more employment space, and more homes.
Max Woodford, head of regeneration and investment at Lewes District Council spoke about what Greater Brighton means for the east.
He said: “Brighton has a bit of an overheating economy and a lack of growth space. We have more of that in Lewes and certainly in Newhaven. Lewes is a small district, we do not have a huge amount of clout on our own. It has given us a voice at the table of government.
“So what has Greater Brighton done for us in the east? Well, quite a lot.”
He said being part of a Greater Brighton had contributed to a whole host of projects in the area, such as the Newhaven regeneration scheme with £82 million investment until 2020, a £30m Network Rail grant for the Lewes to Seaford railway line, £9 million in flood defences and investment in the E.on Rampion wind farm.
Mr Woodford said the regeneration of Newhaven Port will give the entire Greater Brighton area a direct link to the continent.
“It is of vital importance to the city region,” he said.
Ed Allison Wright, executive director at Haydon Consulting, asked the panel: “If we are trying to look at benefits of Greater Brighton, is it the view of all authorities in Greater Brighton that what we are facing is regional economic development team, planning team, and other services offered by local authorities?”
Mr Hibbert said: “I think the answer is possibly. We meet regularly as a group of officers. The question is, should we go further than that?”
Mr Woodford said: “It is only going one way, that is aggregating. In Lewes, we work much more closely with Eastbourne. We are offering legal services to Adur and Worthing. It is happening.”
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