Archive for September, 2010

Brighton Marina – clarification

A story which appeared in Tuesday’s Argus newspaper claimed that discussions were going on ‘behind the scenes’ between Brighton & Hove City Council and Explore Living over their proposals to redevelop part of the Marina. I would like to make it clear to residents in the area that this is categorically not the case.

As far as I am concerned, the decision back in July by the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to dismiss Explore Living’s plans is the final word on this matter. They are, of course, entitled to submit a fresh application but as yet, I am not aware that one is forthcoming.

Undoubtedly, the Marina is a very important site for future development, for providing housing and employment, and we are looking forward to working with developers who can offer a first class scheme that will work well for the area. Our aim is to make sure that the regeneration of the Marina enhances the site and is of lasting benefit to residents. This will form the basis of any future negotiations about the site.

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Brighton & Hove must not become a ‘clone town’

The report by the New Economics Foundation (‘Re-imagining the high street’) makes for interesting reading.

It takes an in-depth look at the effects of the increasing domination of large chain stores in our towns and cities and argues that so-called ‘clone towns’ are not only less attractive to consumers but that they are also much more vulnerable to economic downturns, such as the one we are currently in.

There is no doubt that a proliferation of one kind of company or a single type of retailer can create a feeling of sameness. That feeling of sameness and similarity can erode the character and individuality of a given location and this in turn can deter commerce and alienate residents. If you don’t recognise or value the place you live in, how can we expect community and business to flourish?

As I have blogged before, Brighton & Hove has a unique character and individuality which itself attracts many businesses and people to be here. We cannot afford to let that selling point be diminished by high-street homogeneity.

I have been working hard with cabinet colleagues and officers to raise the profile of this issue – throughout the year we have been supporting local businesses and encouraging people to think about their spending – and keep it local.

This appears to be an approach that is working; we fare well in the NEF report, with Hove just outside the ‘Home Town’ ranking.  Brighton, I can only assume is not included because it is too large … or perhaps it could be that we do so well, we are not considered at risk!

National and international retailers obviously have a key part to play in our economy (not least through the local people they employ). However, by definition, a lot of the money spent in them by residents and visitors does leave the City.

Money spent locally boosts our economy, supports trade and benefits communities. A diverse, rich and varied high street not only protects against the consequences of losing a major player (Woolworths etc.) but supports the City by attracting a mixed economy of people into the town centre.

I don’t often encourage people to read lengthy papers – and I can’t say I agree with all the findings of NEF –  but do take a moment to have a look. The summary at least will give you food for thought and perhaps a flavour of the challenges that the City faces as the economic situation remains tough.

Academy schools can make a real difference in Brighton & Hove

It was really encouraging to see the report out on Friday from the National Audit Office which concluded that Academy schools have achieved greater rates of academic improvement than their predecessor schools.

In Brighton & Hove, we have just opened a new Academy school at Falmer with Rod Aldridge of the Aldridge Foundation and are extremely hopeful that this will have a similar impact. By their own admission, GCSE results at Falmer this year were disappointing and have been well below average for some time now. We owe it to the children in this part of the City to turn this situation around. The new Academy building is still being constructed and will open fully in September 2011, but phase one is now complete and the Academy officially opened last week. This is a really exciting development and represents upwards of £25 million of investment in a new state-of-the-art educational establishment.

We also remain very hopeful of being able to turn Portslade Community College into an Academy. We should know more after the Government has completed its Comprehensive Spending Review in October but the noises we have been hearing so far are encouraging.

Finally, a word to the Green Party, who remain dogmatically opposed to the Academy and ‘free school’ programmes. Take a look at the evidence of improvement, take a look at the investment that this is bringing into our City. It is shameful that you are actively working and campaigning to try and deny the opportunities that this will bring to some of the most disadvantaged children in our City.