Question 10/20

Question:

Whilst appreciating that much of the Councils focus at the moment will be on managing the crisis caused by this pandemic, it would be good to understand how the Council is also looking at this as an opportunity to harness some opportunities that will benefit Bexhill, as a seaside town in the long run. For example, promotion of cycling in line with Central Government’s cycling initiative (and very tourism friendly). Getting in early on the E-scooter trials central government are proposing. Development of more pedestrianised space, for example Devonshire Road, to ease pedestrian congestion and also to facilitate outdoor table space to allow our restaurants to operate with social distancing. Promoting the town as a tourism destination for ‘staycations’. Promoting the town as a lifestyle opportunity for people looking to move out of more urban/metro areas.

It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives, and would be really great to get some assurance that there is real focus on the many opportunities that are borne out of any crisis.

I look forward to hearing from you. (23/05/2020)

Answer:

Thank you for your comments. As a council we have recently put significant resources into managing the local impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. But that does not mean we have stopped planning for the future, although how this future looks is uncertain.

We have a number of strategy’s that are in development which outline the Council’s vision for the coming years. The first of these is the Rother Environment Strategy which has recently been out to consultation and we hope to have adopted by the autumn. This will outline how we, as a Council and as a District, will be doing our part to reduce carbon emissions to a net zero by 2030. This includes working closely with East Sussex County Council to bring forward many of the things you mention in your message. We will be seeking to expand the promotion of walking and cycling as a preferred mode of transport, as well as reducing congestion and traffic movements in Bexhill Town Centre. This may also include some level of pedestrianisation or pedestrian priority to facilitate better socialisation of our public realm.

We are about to go out to consultation on our corporate plan, which is a key document outlining the Council’s overarching ambitions for the next seven years. This strategy will inform our approach to housing, the economy, and our own operations and we will be welcoming input from all residents and interested parties as part of this.

Our tourism marketing brand, shared with Hastings, is 1066 Country. Our current messaging is that we are not yet open to visitors, but come back soon. This is in line with government policy at this time. However as soon as it is safe to do so we will be using this vehicle to heavily promote the area as the go-to ‘staycation’ destination as you have suggested. This will further help promote the area as a place to live and work which ties into our East Sussex partnership for inward investment through Locate East Sussex.

In addition to all this the Council recognises that this pandemic will have an uncertain economic fallout which may influence some or all of the work that we undertake. As such, we will be bringing forward a Rother Economic Recovery Plan which will outline the impacts to the local economy but also the opportunities for the future of the area, including as you say as a prime ‘work from home’ area. This work will be coming forward over the next months as we seek to understand what policy guidance and funding will be provided by central government, as well as the wider impacts on our society.

I hope this reassures you that even during this very challenging period the Council continues to work to ensure that the lives and futures of local residents remain at forefront of our minds. (26/05/2020)