Gavin Stewart: The growing pains of Brighton and Hove

A good friend recently mentioned to me that Brighton and Hove was about to become an adult.

It’s been over 18 years since Queen Elizabeth II granted permission for the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove to become a city as part of the millennial celebrations. But are we ready to shed the things of childhood and grow up?

There’s a lot for us to be very proud of here in Brighton and Hove, not least our cultural heritage, foodie capital status and an unrivalled independent shopping mecca. Our city’s name is also a byword for inclusivity and our creativity (either digital or not) is often cited as a reason for business or personal relocation...

But with an eye on Brexit, major infrastructure issues and seemingly constant rising house prices, what can be done to help our glorious home transition in to the strong, resilient and productive young adult that we all know it can be, whilst, of course, maintaining that twinkle that we all love so much?

Well… at the moment we are in the eye of a perfect storm of strategic contrivance that I have certainly not seen before in 20 years of working in the city. Right now, the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership (a group of 50 leaders from the private, public and voluntary sectors), is working with the local authority to write the next economic strategy for the city covering the next five years. Within it, there is a live evidence base, giving us the ability to look harshly at some of our issues, and bring some exciting, and in some cases disruptive, ideas to allow Brighton and Hove to maintain its position in the regional and national psyche. Some areas include how we can facilitate more housing, more jobs and a robust attitude towards working with international markets; how we access them and what we can offer them here.

At its core is the aim to create a city which can provide skills and employment for everybody along with somewhere for us all to live, whilst acting as a ‘trailblazer for economic and social change and improvement in the UK and globally’.

Simultaneous to this, the city council is delivering a new tourism strategy, an industry which delivers over £850m to the local economy and attracts 11m visitors a year at the last count. It is an industry which is central to our overall economy and is the reason that the village of Brighthelmstone was irrevocably transformed in the first place.

But these aren’t stand-alone pieces of work.

On a regional level, the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (the Government’s regional body which delivers growth in our wider geography from Croydon to Brighton and from Chichester to Newhaven) is currently preparing its Strategic Economic Plan.

Then nationally, the Government’s industrial strategy proposals are beginning to boil down to the creation of Local Industrial Strategies. These will outline the long-term economic strategies for local areas, and will make sure that local needs are delivered around skills, transport and our all too prescient housing issue.

This linked up approach from local to regional to national sets the scene for an exciting future for the city and is one which will hopefully help us to navigate the challenges we have ahead. Maybe it is time to grow up…but not too much.

Gavin Stewart is the executive director of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership and the CEO of Brilliant Brighton.