‘For West Sussex to recover we need to focus on what it is that makes our county tick’

As we continue to adapt to the new realities that Covid-19 has brought us it is fascinating the mix of reactions as we, as a country, start to tentatively look to the future.

South Downs Nurseries was one of a number of garden centres to reopen this week. Pic by Steve Robards
South Downs Nurseries was one of a number of garden centres to reopen this week. Pic by Steve Robards

It will mean change for us all, for many, a huge relief that the lockdown will ease, for others concern and fear about what it may bring.

With the Government’s announcement that we can start to look at how we move forward it has been a time for many of us to reflect on what we’ve been through in the past two months as well as how we had got used to living our lives at homes and work.

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Covid-19 has for many people brought tragedy and grief and the long lasting effects of this virus will be, for some, always desperately sad. This virus has swept through our country, and the world, and will leave its mark. For others it has been an opportunity to do different things and to do things differently.

Paul Marshal, leader of West Sussex County Council SUS-200331-163647001

Because of that huge impact on our lives that we need to make sure we take the time to see what it has taught us as well. There are many commentators talking about how it is has shown us what is important, how it has highlighted the amazing work of our key workers and of those people we sometimes forget who keep the country ticking over as we go about our daily lives.

It is so important that as the restrictions on us our lifted we do not simply go back to where we were but take the best of changes we have made during these worrying times with us into the future.

In West Sussex we have been lucky for a long time to have a largely prosperous economy. We have areas of deprivation and unemployment, of course, but generally we have a thriving tourism and service industry, we have many high streets that were managing to buck the trend and prosper with independent shops and businesses, and we had many people in work, across a range of industries.

For West Sussex to recover from the wide-reaching effects of Covid-19 it is going to take more than luck. We need to work with our partners at local, regional and national level to make the very best of our communities, of our businesses and our industries, and support them to move forward.

We need to focus on what it is that makes West Sussex tick and how we can help it thrive and fulfil its potential in the future.

I am talking to businesses, communities, the voluntary sector and partners to look at what is required for us to move forward when the time is right.

We will look at how we can support businesses; some of that is about money, but it is also about putting in place the right networks, the right opportunities. It’s about focusing on where we need to go and being optimistic about the future we have ahead of us.

Gatwick airport should and does remain one key area of focus for us. This major transport hub is vital for the country’s economy and is a key part of our local economy providing jobs and infrastructure. As well as the airport itself we have significant, national and international businesses with bases in this part of the county. This area and Crawley in particular, has received a massive blow as a result of Covid-19 with great swathes of job losses and industry around tourism, travel, leisure and aviation, ceasing overnight.

We, together with our partners have written to government calling on them to tailor their recovery plans to those sectors and parts of the country that have been hardest hit.

We recognise and welcome the unprecedented Government support for businesses during the pandemic. We now need to begin to focus on recovery in the widest sense including economic, social and environmental.

Despite the huge challenges we all face, personal and as a country as a whole, I do feel optimistic about the future, particularly for West Sussex.

If this time has taught us anything it is about valuing our family, the interactions we have with friends, neighbours and colleagues, about the importance of community and how those communities support and pull together in times of trouble and valuing our place, the area we live and we are so lucky to call this county our home. Let’s make sure we focus on treasuring it for the future.

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