Greater Brighton leaders have agreed to work up a sustainable Economic Recovery Plan to help the City Region bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With lockdown affecting many of the tens of thousands of businesses and one million residents across the area, the Greater Brighton Economic Board – which is made up of representatives from local authorities, business and academia – acknowledged the need to work together to outline ways it can support residents and firms.

With one of the UK’s premium airports, a thriving visitor economy and a large commuter workforce, Greater Brighton is expected to face big challenges in the months ahead.

At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday April 21, 2020), the board agreed to pool public and private sector expertise to work up proposals which could support sectors adversely affected by COVID-19, such as hospitality and tourism.

Leaders also acknowledged the crucial role that education, skills and infrastructure could play to ensure the Greater Brighton area – which stretches along much of the Sussex coast north to Gatwick – can get up and running again after the pandemic.

Cllr Daniel Humphreys, Chairman of the Greater Brighton Economic Board, said:

“There’s no doubt that our businesses and employers are facing a challenge which we have never experienced before.”

“While there remain a lot of unknowns and uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19, one thing that’s certain is that a united voice and purpose will be essential in making sure our economic area is ready to get going once restrictions are lifted.”

“By working together, pooling our resources and sharing our expertise, Greater Brighton can play a key role in helping our City Region not only bounce back but also adapt to what will be a very different world.”

The proposal to create an economic recovery plan was put forward by Cllr Nancy Platts, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, and supported by Lewes District Council leader Cllr Zoe Nicholson and Crawley Borough Council leader Cllr Peter Lamb. It received unanimous backing from all organisations attending, including businesses, universities and Greater Brighton Metropolitan College.

All acknowledged there was a need to ensure the recovery plan targeted individuals as well as businesses.

Member organisations will now identify ways in which the board and its members can work together to develop a response, as well as identifying key issues on which it can present a coherent case for investment to lobby decision makers.

The recovery plan will build on a range of existing work by the board and its members, including the Local Industrial Strategy which is being developed by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership.

It will also be supported by a new Inward Investment offer, which Greater Brighton is expected to release more details on later this year.

At the board meeting, Cllr Humphreys also acknowledged some of the ongoing work that Greater Brighton organisations were already doing to combat COVID-19.

This included:

  • Crawley Borough Council establishing a major distribution centre to get food supplies to the vulnerable; 
  • £2 million of additional small business grants made available by Coast to Capital; 
  • an interactive map of local businesses still trading created by South Downs National Park which is supporting the circular economy; 
  • and engineering consultancy Ricardo repurposing some of its assembly lines to manufacture bespoke face shields for NHS staff and other key workers.

Cllr Humphreys added:

“As we emerge from the current crisis we will continue to work together to ensure that we provide businesses and employers with the necessary platforms upon which they can best recover.”