I took the opportunity a few days ago to be shown around the innards of the new Arndale (Beacon) development and it’s looking tremendously exciting.
The sheer scale of it, including the next phase of our new multiple-screen cinema, was impressive. I am reminded that we are, as far as I know, the only seaside town in the UK to be getting such a substantial private retail investment in the town centre. This is a celebration of Eastbourne’s potential. I can’t wait to see it finally open, teeming with residents and visitors, enjoying themselves and spending their money across Eastbourne. Which I am 100 per cent sure they will. Not least as other new businesses are also beginning to move in nearby. Such as the Anytime Fitness Gym which opened at what used to be the old Bed Centre in Langney Road. Another company willing to invest substantially into our town which is such a positive sign. We read almost daily of how hard it is for retailers so I’m grateful many are showing their faith in Eastbourne’s future and, frankly, I agree with them!
A key part of this success should go to our very own Chamber of Commerce. Many people won’t see what they do behind the scenes but I want to publicly pay tribute to them. Under the dynamic leadership of Christina Ewbank our Chamber is now one of the largest and most active across all the UK coastal towns. If not ‘the’ most active! For instance I attended an event they’re in charge of last weekend, opening with the mayor, the regular Sunday market. With numerous stalls and shoppers it’s become a successful fixture on Terminus Road. Well done Christina, and her talented, committed team.
Last weekend was also national B&B Day, and I had the pleasure of visiting one of the many outstanding B&Bs in Eastbourne. Bassets House run by Howard and Catherine Simpson. Small and cosy with only six en-suite rooms but beautifully fitted out. It’s no wonder that so many people still choose to use B&Bs for when they go away; they’re usually less cost than a hotel and if Bassets is anything to go by, more luxurious. As the patron of the EHA (Eastbourne Hospitality Association) it was particularly enjoyable for me to visit such a first class example of our B&B offer on their national day.
In Westminster this week I had a meeting with the minister, Theresa Coffey, who was in overall charge of the emergency services response to the noxious haze which blighted us last August. A reasonably productive meeting and she confirmed that a full stress-test of our response teams will be conducted in the summer to see if the right lessons have been learned. I do hope so. We got away lightly with no-one being permanently affected but I don’t believe we can be sanguine about what happened. And I made this point clear to the minister and her DEFRA officials.
I have also just written to the Department of Transport minister in charge of roads, Jesse Norman, emphasising my and others’ wish for a new dual carriageway from Lewes to Polegate. Plus, I included a number of video clips of the traffic queues on that section of the A27 which had been sent to me by local people, so that he can see for himself why we are all determined to fix this dreadful road once and for all. A business case is being put together, there’s a strong cross-party and cross-community desire to make it happen and it’s important we keep pulling together over this with the Department of Transport. I don’t want what happened with the Chichester relief road which was cancelled because of a lack of consensus, to happen to us.
One of the many local charities that receive a lot of support locally is Chestnut Tree Children’s Hospice. So it was good to attend the 15th year celebration held at Pacific House in Sovereign Harbour, hearing of the fantastic work they’ve done for children and parents over the years. To make the most of it being their 15th year, and reminding us that virtually every penny they spend has to come from the public, they’re launching a ‘15 challenges we can do to keep Chestnut Tree thriving for many years to come’ campaign. See the link here: https://www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk I’ve observed what they do for local children - more than 20 across Eastbourne at the minute - and it’s impressive. I also know a lot of local people put a great deal of support and effort into Chestnut Tree - and rightly so. There can’t be many things that can be worse or more painful for a parent than for their child to die before them. Just awful. But Chestnut Tree and other great local charities such as Demelza do a lot for people experiencing this sad journey. Their clinical skill and support are obviously well known but so is the kindness of their staff; I know many people across Eastbourne and beyond are enormously grateful.
Only a couple of months now to our wonderful Eastbourne Sunshine Carnival. It’s always a fun event and the sense of Eastbourne’s community pulling together and enjoying itself is genuinely palpable. We’ll be returning on Saturday May 26 so do mark it in your diary now. A day packed full of entertainment and live music to be enjoyed by all on our beloved seafront. If you want to get involved please visit our website: www.eastbournecarnival.co.uk I’ll be bringing out my trusty carnival top hat in time for the procession. The final logistical bits and bobs are all falling nicely into place with the brilliant carnival committee, and our theme this year of Heroes and Heroines is generating plenty of excitement. All good fun!
That’s all folks. Happy Easter. Have a lovely weekend and I hope to see you around town.