Greater Brighton had spent the last year growing stronger and more influential and is on the cusp of “something exciting”, says the outgoing chief of the body that has brought in more than £160m of investment to the region.
Cllr Garry Wall said he believed the region was finally winning hearts and minds of residents who live in the region, which stretches from Gatwick in the north to Brighton in the south and from Worthing in the west to Newhaven in the east.
“The last 12 months has been one of real change for Greater Brighton; a year where there has been visible signs of what working together can deliver for our residents and also a year which has seen the Region grow in size, stature and confidence,” he said.
Cllr Wall, the former leader of Mid Sussex District Council, stood down ahead of the annual meeting of the Greater Brighton Economic Board on Tuesday ahead of the election of a new chairman.
“When I first joined the board four years ago, I’m not sure anyone was truly clear on what a City Region was, never mind how it would work,” he said, “But what we did know – and still know today – is that the economy of our region knows no boundaries.”
“It is only by working together and presenting one united voice that we can draw in the funding and support needed to help our communities thrive.”
Set up under government legislation to devolve power to the regions Greater Brighton must compete for investment to create jobs and homes from other powerful regions across England.
Since inception in 2014 Greater Brighton has helped create, or set in chain plans for, 24,000 jobs, build 18,000 homes and unlocked £2bn in private sector investment as well as securing at least £160m of direct investment that has helped fund projects such as the Adur Tidal Walls and the Advanced Engineering Centre at the University of Brighton.
Cllr Wall said there were clear signs that the identity of Greater Brighton was starting to form in the minds of those living in the region and, as importantly, on a national level where investment decision where made.
But he warned it was not all plain sailing.
“We continue to have major challenges around issues like transport and skills and the government’s attention was firmly fixed on other urban areas outside the south east.”
The population of Greater Brighton was now a million with Crawley District Council and Gatwick Airport bringing “new ideas and energy to the table”. Plans to add Arun District Council to the region with towns such as Arundel, Bognor and Littlehampton would add to the impetus. Important work was also under way on projects to help conserve energy and water across the region, he said.
“For me personally I leave the role as Chairman of Greater Brighton knowing that the City Region is on the cusp of something exciting” he said, “But this potential can only be reached if we continue to work together to ensure continued prosperity for our residents and businesses. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this fantastic City Region.”
The Region is a collaboration of six local authorities, the districts of Mid Sussex, Adur, and Lewes, the boroughs of Worthing and Crawley and the city council of Brighton and Hove, with the chairman of the Greater Brighton Economic Board being taken by leaders of each on an annual basis.
In addition education providers the Universities of Sussex and Brighton and the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College are on the board as are several business partnerships and other bodies including Gatwick Airport and the South Downs National Park Authority.