The last 12 months have been a time of real change for Greater Brighton – a year when there have 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.
When I joined the board four years ago, it was not immediately apparent what a city region was, never mind how it would work.
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.
I started off my year as chairman of the city region by saying that working together was paramount. Brexit was (and remains) on the horizon. We continue to face major challenges around issues of affordable housing, transport and skills – not helped by the government’s fixation on other urban areas outside the south east.
One of my first aims as chairman was to ensure that we developed a clear narrative about what Greater Brighton is and present a unified voice, clearly heard at a national level. So I’m pleased the government is now listening.
Our five key priorities – international, creative, connected, talented and resilient – have now been agreed.
Our relationships with regional partners, civil servants and ministers have been strengthened.
Our message is appearing more regularly in local, regional and national media.
I am confident that this renewed focus will accelerate investment in our region.
The fact we are growing in size and scope supports this work. Crawley Borough Council and Gatwick Airport have both brought new ideas and energy to the table while opening up new funding opportunities for the city region.
Arun District Council is joining the board, taking Greater Brighton’s population to more than one million.
On the ground, the benefits of the £200 million of investment brought in by Greater Brighton is being seen by residents and businesses.
The fact we continue to bring in money from government is a sign that Whitehall trusts us to deliver.
In the last 12 months I have made it a priority to get out and about across the city region to see some of these major schemes take shape.
Homes are, of course, in great demand across the region. In Burgess Hill, Homes England’s involvement in the 176-hectare Northern Arc development will help deliver 3,500 new homes, over 1,000 of which are affordable.
We also know that jobs are important which is why I am delighted to see advances in the 5G testbed which will support our creative industries while the Advanced Engineering Centre at the University of Brighton is starting to train the entrepreneurs of the future.
Public services are important too. In Lewes, there is the New England Quarter. Thanks to One Public Estate funding the development will bring together health services in a new state-of-the-art building to free up land for new homes.
There is also investment in communities too.
In Newhaven, the enterprise zone is not only creating jobs but changing perceptions of this port town.
In Crawley, a major growth programme focused on regenerating the town centre is well under way.
Our focus on improving infrastructure is bearing fruit. In Shoreham, thousands of homes and businesses have been protected from the risk of flooding thanks to the £45 million Adur Tidal Walls scheme.
Greater Brighton also remains acutely aware of the need to look to a sustainable future. I am delighted to see our Infrastructure Panel making headway on how we will provide enough water, energy and digital infrastructure to support our communities.
For me, personally, I leave the role as chairman of Greater Brighton knowing that the city region has already delivered on many fronts.
Our task is now to accelerate our work by unlocking our potential. This can only be achieved if we continue to work together delivering continued prosperity for our residents and businesses.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our fantastic city region.
Garry Wall is the former leader of Mid Sussex District Council and chaired the Greater Brighton Economic Board in 2018-19.