It’s been a year of real change for Greater Brighton.
When I took up the role of chairman on a rotating annual basis, I made clear that the time was right for the City Region to start talking about how we deliver for our near one million residents.
As my term draws to a close, I’m pleased to say we are now meeting that ambition. For that, I must thank the collaborative work of the six local authorities, business groups and education representatives that make up the Greater Brighton Economic Board.
Since it was established in 2012, we’ve brought in more than £150 million worth of investment into the area which has helped kickstart regeneration, creating tens of thousands of homes and jobs.
It’s also helped our economy to continue to grow, by ten per cent in the last five years.
In order to keep the success of the City Region going we have to think about the wider ambition of Greater Brighton – what do we want to achieve and how we can use the collective power to benefit residents and businesses in an area that stretches from Brighton north to Gatwick.
I’m pleased to say we’re starting to ‘join the dots’ – so rather than just focus on jobs and homes, we’re thinking about skills, education, infrastructure, water and energy.
Without these things, our communities would not be able to reach their potential. But growth must not come at a cost of diluting the identity of vibrant places like Haywards Heath, Worthing, Shoreham and Lewes.
The next year will see the development of a five-year strategic plan. Work towards a local industrial strategy, aimed at supporting growth and jobs, and a local water and energy plan will also continue.
We’re also taking steps to draw in more investment and trade into the area.
Despite being home to 40,000 businesses and generating an output of around £21 billion every year, Greater Brighton is falling behind when it comes to attracting investors.
The new trade and investment team will go some way to dealing with this.
There is a lot to be excited about though. The addition of Crawley Borough Council and Gatwick Airport as members of the board means that we are bigger, not only in terms of geography but also reputationally.
We still have challenges, most notably in transport. But, through working with partners and the Department for Transport, we’re hopeful of bringing in much needed investment to improve our road and rail network. This will also support the ongoing activities of our two ports at Newhaven and Shoreham and our very successful international airport at Gatwick.
As I pass over the baton to another chairman, there’s still a lot to achieve. But I know that by working together, Greater Brighton can deliver for our residents.
For more information about the Greater Brighton Economic partnership see: greaterbrighton.com
Councillor Andy Smith is the leader of Lewes District Council and was the chairman of the Greater Brighton Economic Board in the 2017/18 financial year.