Greater Brighton bosses have spent two days setting out their vision of the area’s future in a pitch to senior civil servants.
Members of the Greater Brighton Economic Board hosted a two-day workshop at which they spoke about the huge challenges around housing and mapped out a digital future for business.
Whitehall officials were taken on a tour which included a trip up the i360, a visit to Brighton University’s new Advanced Engineering Centre and to the “5G” testbed at New England House.
The testbed is intended to give digital businesses, including those which build apps and content for smart phones and mobile phones, the chance to try out 5G conditions.
The visitors also went to engineering firm Ricardo, in Shoreham, and the New Monks Farm site near by where 600 homes and an Ikea shop are planned, in Lancing.
The Greater Brighton Economic Board was formed three years ago and covers an area that includes Brighton and Hove, Adur and Worthing, Lewes, Mid Sussex and Crawley.
The board is made up of senior councillors and public sector officials, including education chiefs, and business representatives.
One person at the workshop today said: “This is the first step to generating more investment in the Greater Brighton city region.
“Already £150 million has been pulled in, generating thousands of homes and many more jobs. This is the next step.
“The emphasis today was on digital. Yesterday it was on housing and infrastructure. The whole two days were more ‘how to make Greater Brighton greater’.”
The £150 million government funding – channelled through the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – is credited with unlocking £2 billion of private sector investment.
One of the schemes – the £300 million Preston Barracks project in Brighton – was given planning permission on Wednesday (27 September).
Brighton University is working with developer U+I to build new teaching and research blocks as well as 369 homes and 1,338 student flats.
The regeneration of the long-derelict site, in Lewes Road, Brighton, is supported with £7.7 million through the Coast to Capital LEP.
This afternoon Coast to Capital spoke out about another aspect of the infrastructure needed to underpin the future prosperity of the area.
The LEP said: “Our region needs significant long-term rail investment to support our growing regional economy and to maintain our competitive advantage.
“Coast to Capital is currently campaigning for investment in the Brighton main line to protect our economic potential and support the growth ambitions of our businesses.
“Upgrading the line will enhance capacity, connectivity and resilience which is vital for businesses and fundamental for our links to London and our international connectivity.
“The benefits of upgrading the Brighton main line will be felt by everyone who uses it, including the tech sector in Brighton which is highly reliant on a fast connection to London.”
In an opening address yesterday Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Geoff Raw said that the Greater Brighton Economic Board was a “coalition of the willing with huge ambitions to make things happen”.
He told the civil servants that Greater Brighton was an economic region in its own right and not simply a “satellite of London”.
And while the area was a highly desirable area to live, brimming with potential, he added that there was a danger of government “misconception that we are an affluent area when it comes to making policy decisions”.
Just as local authorities in the north of England have combined to press the case for the “Northern Powerhouse”, the economic board believes that it is vital that our region does not miss out.
It wants the government to continue helping the region, pointing out that productivity is below national average while house prices are 12 times average income and transport infrastructure – vital to economic growth – is poor.
The economic board’s chairman, Councillor Andy Smith, who is also the leader of Lewes District Council, said: “ This is a great opportunity to have our voice heard by some important people in Whitehall.
“By coming together as a Greater Brighton region, we have a better chance of bringing coherent strategies on housing, transport and the economy.”