Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Billion For Brighton and Hove

Photo credit: http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__10508.aspx
Photo credit: http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__10508.aspx

Today the council took major steps towards bringing in more than a billion pounds of investment into our city and our seafront. This investment will deliver jobs, homes and much-needed funding for local services, as well as maintaining Brighton and Hove’s place as one of the UK’s top visitor and conference destinations.

Our plans to extend Churchill Square to the sea and build a new ten thousand seat arena for concerts and conferences at Black Rock got underway in earnest this week, as part of a £540 million deal with Standard Life Investments. This will be the biggest investment in the city since the Brighton Centre was built in the 1970s, and marks our determination to compete with major cities like Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester for conference business and major music tours.

We also gave the go ahead for the “Sea Lanes” open air swimming pool complex on the former playground site on Madeira Drive, returning outdoor swimming for the first time since the much-missed pool at Black Rock closed. This £4.5m privately-funded scheme will feature a 50m eight-lane pool, sauna, exercise studio and shops. Along with the arena, £1.7 million investment in Volks Railway and the new £1.7 million zip wire attraction, this will form the basis for our major regeneration of Madeira Drive, with our £30 million plans for the Arches due to be revealed soon.

Other seafront investment, both privately and publicly funded, includes the £11 million Shelter Hall construction and road strengthening at the seafront end of West Street, 850 new homes as part of the £250 million development at the Marina, £47 million British Airways i360 attraction, and of course £200 million King Alfred leisure centre project. All this takes investment in our seafront over the next six years to well over a billion pounds.

Add to this the hundreds of billions being invested in other projects across the city, the £150 million Preston Barracks with Brighton University that will deliver 350 new homes, the new John Lewis store, £36 million plans at City College, the redevelopment masterplan at Sussex University, and the ten-year £486 million redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and it is clear Brighton and Hove will emerge as one of Britain’s major coastal cities. There will be significant infrastructure investment in our transport network and in a new centrally-located secondary school as well.

At the same time we must ensure that our valued heritage is protected, and this week we took the first steps towards placing our Royal Pavilion and our museums in a trust that will have greater freedoms to draw in the funds needed to protect and invest in our cultural assets.

These projects will deliver thousands of jobs, create new spaces for businesses, restaurants and retail, draw in millions of pounds in rent and business rates to fund council services, and boost our tourist and visitor economy. Many of these projects will between them provide thousands of new homes, adding to the money we earn in council tax to help pay for some of the local council services facing cuts of over £160 million from central Government.

We cannot stand by and see Brighton and Hove decline and decay. Our city has always changed to meet the challenges of the times, whilst retaining its culture and heritage. Even as we face a 30% cut in our funding, we must ensure we innovate, compete and prosper as a city, and that the benefits of that prosperity are shared by all.

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The Dream of Promotion

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Today I raised the Albion flag above Brighton Town Hall to show our support for the team in their push for promotion to the Premier League.

My column in today’s Brighton and Hove Independent:

In a season where clinging on to one goal leads has seemed the norm, the Albion’s five goal thrashing of Fulham on Friday and 4-0 win over QPR this week were a welcome celebration of just how well the club has done this season. A record breaking unbeaten run, with long stretches at the top of the table. Now, with three games to go, Albion are locked in a tight race for automatic promotion and at the very least have secured a place in the playoffs.

Ninety years before our two towns became a city, they were joined under one sporting banner at the Goldstone Ground as Brighton and Hove Albion. My grandfather took up his place in the sea of flat caps on the East Terrace in the Thirties, a place he occupied for sixty years. I occupy an equivalent vantage point today at the Amex. Some of my earliest memories are from Albion players renting our spare room not far from the ground.

I’m ancient enough to remember the last, and only time, the Albion gained promotion to the top flight in 1979, and the long trip to Newcastle where it was secured. The First Division, as it was then, bore little resemblance to what the Premier League is now, a global sports arena where hundreds of millions change hands in transfer fees and TV contracts for a worldwide audience.

It is big business, and I’ve shared the frustration when fixtures have been changed for Sky coverage. But the club is much more than that, backing charities, tackling racism and homophobia, and winning awards for the work it does through Albion In The Community. The club motto this season is “together”, and it does bring people of all backgrounds and different politics together as a football family, who mourn the loss of their own as we saw after the Shoreham air crash, or the tragic death of a Dennis Caesar at Falmer station last week.

Promotion to the Premier League could bring hundreds of millions of pounds into the club, the city and the local economy, reaping the rewards of the vision, investment and commitment of Dick Knight, Martin Perry, Paul Barber and of course Tony Bloom. We had a taster of that with the Rugby World Cup last year.

Beyond that, as recently promoted Leicester have shown, the prospect of European competition is not the preserve of the big clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. No one thought Leicester or Bournemouth could hold their own against the bigger clubs, but they have proved the doubters wrong. With a fantastic stadium, global but locally-based sponsor, and state of the art facilities at Lancing, the Albion have the resources to do the same.

The boost for jobs, tourism and business from putting the city on a national and international sporting stage will be immense. As Leader of the Council that is something I’d very much like to see. But as a lifelong fan what matters most is the dream of promotion, and the glory of top flight football here in Sussex by the sea.

Securing the future and driving growth

Photo: Royal Pavilion and Museums
Photo: Royal Pavilion and Museums

In the closing weeks of the first year of the Labour Administration  we will move to accelerate growth and ensure that what we value in the city is protected from the Government’s assault on local councils, local services and local democracy.

We have said we will oppose Government plans to force all schools to become academies, as will many Conservative-led councils. We believe schools should have the choice, and that parents play a valuable role in running the schools their children attend as governors. Should the Government force through their plans, as a second line of defence we will protect our schools by setting up a co-operative trust to run them with full parental involvement. This should send a message to Government, as councils like Liverpool and Camden are also doing, that we will not stand by and watch our schools being cherry-picked by multi-academy trusts.

We will not allow our libraries and museums to be lost to Government cuts. We will, at our Policy and Resources Committee on April 28th bring forward plans to place the Royal Pavilion, the jewel in the city’s crown, in trust alongside our museums so that they are preserved for future generations, not sold off to private owners. Under trust status more money can be raised via charitable donation to invest in them. Culture and the arts is a vital sector of our economy and although we will in future be able to provide less funding, we will continue to give the sector our total support.

With the full business case for Hove Library re-provision coming forward to the same meeting, we can ensure that a library service continues in every community where we currently run one by significantly reducing running costs. Despite the cuts to our funding, Brighton and Hove’s libraries will be open longer, becoming neighbourhood hubs where public services, community advice and activities can flourish.

Now that the City Plan is in place, we want to accelerate the progress on major projects that will bring enormous benefits in terms of jobs, homes, business rate income and tourism to the city. The major extension to Churchill Square and the building of a new 10,000 seat arena and conference venue will move a step closer on April 28th, as will a new outdoor swimming complex. Progress on other sites such as Preston Barracks and Toads Hole Valley cannot be delayed any further, and we need to ensure that the hospital redevelopment, the West Street Shelter Hall works, the British Airways i360, the King Alfred and Valley Gardens projects are brought forward in a co-ordinated way so that the city keeps moving.

That’s why I am establishing a Strategic Delivery Board of senior councillors, reporting directly to a re-named and re-focused Policy, Resources and Growth Committee, to drive forward economic activity in Brighton and Hove for the benefit of all residents and all parts of our economy; retail, tourism, arts, digital, financial and more. We will ensure that the council’s planning service is fit for purpose, with reform overseen by the re-named Environment, Transport and Planning Strategy Committee.

This is part of a dynamic package of council reforms aimed at meeting the challenge of a future without funding from the Government, a package I hope the Opposition Groups on the Council will get behind.

The future of Brighton and Hove is in our hands; we have to seize it.