By Clare Calder
Jobs, inequality and the housing crisis were three issues discussed at the Future of Brighton Debate at the first Together The People festival this weekend.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, local property developer Ed Allison-Wright, and Brighton Housing Trust chief executive Andy Winter were on the panel chaired by former BBC journalist Steve Bustin.
Caroline Lucas, referring to the general election results, said that Brighton was special because on 8 May people had woken up to an island of green and red in a sea of blue.
On community she said: “Brighton is outward looking and has an optimistic spirit. It aspires to be open and celebrate difference”.
Ed Allison-Wright said that as a city we needed greater innovation and “must make use of the space we have”.
But he stressed the importance of looking outwards and “pitching ourselves as a region not an area.”
He said job creation in the city must be a priority. Brighton’s City Plan for 2030 proposes 6,000 more jobs and the council’s proposal to launch a city employer skills task force would hopelly to reduce youth unemployment in the city was “one of the city’s biggest opportunities,” said Mr Allison-Wright.
The other panellists agreed that job creation, protection of youth services and more investment in training for young people were vital for young people in the city.
Andy Winter said Brighton needs to “retain its creativity and it has a sense of independence and quirkiness which makes the city what it is.”
On the issue of inequality, Ed Allison-Wright said that the city is “caught between aspiration and diversity … we need jobs and more affordable homes.”
Mr Winter highlighted the acute housing crisis in the city, saying that extraordinary circumstances needed extraordinary measures.
He proposed that Brighton and Hove be declared a Housing Crisis Zone requiring all publicly owned land to be used to build homes for rent at living rent levels, and that 50 per cent of all development in privately owned land be similarly designated.
He also called for at least the suspension, not extension, of the Right to Buy.
He said: “The DFLs, those moving down from London, are exacerbating the housing crisis, creating a new group, the AFBs, those moving across from Brighton to Newhaven, Eastbourne and Hastings. We need to return to a time when housing was where people lived, not merely an investment.”
He added: “Unless we address the housing crisis, the creative spark that has made Brighton what it is will be lost, and we will become no more than Kensington and Chelsea by Sea.”
Caroline Lucas echoed Andy Winter’s concerns. She said housing was the biggest issue for her constituents.
She said: “The government needs to be put on the spot, give powers to people so they can build their own homes and create a living rent commission.”
She added that Brighton should “harness its energy and become a genuinely sustainable city” both environmentally and socially.
She suggested using more of our public land to build affordable housing and lower rents.
Mr Winter said that it was “down to each of us here and beyond to be the conscience our city and country needs”.