CAROLINE ANSELL MP: Incredibly proud of Eastbourne’s response to pandemic

One year ago this week, the country locked down for the first time to battle Covid.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 3:01 pm

Since then, more than 126,000 have died of the virus in what is a national tragedy. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and to all those who are still suffering from the effects of the disease.

It has been a challenging and, at times, incredibly difficult year. Probably the most difficult the country has faced since the Second World War. I have been incredibly proud of how Eastbourne and Willingdon have come together to support communities and to do our best to keep infections low.

The vaccine rollout is a tremendous success and we are just a few months away from going back to some form of normal as more and more of the population receive their Covid jabs. I’ve just booked mine.

Already the government is looking to further support our town with the council receiving more than £156,000 from the Welcome Back Fund that gives councils and businesses the funding to boost tourism, improve green spaces and provide more outdoor seating areas, markets and food stalls. As a coastal town, we have received more money.

This is very good news and comes on top of considerable other support for Eastbourne and Willingdon in the shape of the VAT reduction, furlough and businesses grants and loans.

Now is not the time, but I fully support the government’s intention to hold a public inquiry into the pandemic. There is no doubt lessons need to be learnt across the board. We also need to be better prepared and I welcome the Health Secretary setting up a new UK Health Security Agency - led by Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England - to prepare the UK against future pandemic threats.

Another big part of the government’s support for the town comes in the shape of the £4.8 billion Levelling Up fund. Eastbourne is a priority one area and up to £20 million is available to us, £50 million if it is a transport project.

There are also opportunities to max the fund by working with neighbouring councils and pooling bids.

The criteria says any project needs the local MP’s endorsement to stand the best chance of success and the pressure is now on the council to come up with a bid and business case for a project which is transforming and deliverable if Eastbourne is to get this money. There’s a future out there to reach for.

I am delighted to say that the future just got a bit greener this week with news on my sea kelp campaign. My former boss, the Environment Secretary, George Eustice MP, has approved a byelaw on nearshore trawling. New measures therein will allow essential habitats such as underwater kelp forests to regenerate and promote a richer ecology and the most sustainable fishing methods. I’m planning for George to come to Eastbourne but I don’t think the team would sign off an underwater visit. Shame!