Last week I was invited, along with BHBPA Chair Susan Fleet, to the CAE headquarters building on Thursday evening to attend the launch of the new MSDC economic development strategy. Also gathered there were county councillors, business leaders from large companies such as Time 24, Edwards and other stakeholders.
Having in the past been critical of the Council in the fact that they seemed to disregard the interests of business, I was keen to find out what new schemes Sally Blomfield had managed to put into place in this regard. It turned out that she has done a fine job of moving the Council forward and setting up a structure which involves forging relationships with business in recognition of the key role it plays in Mid Sussex.
Essentially the new Strategy divides simply into four main priorities – Places, Premises,People and Promotion. The Council states that this area is clearly one in which people are keen to live and work, and that businesses are drawn to it for obvious reasons. The unemployment rate is close to zero in Mid Sussex.
However, there are issues and challenges which are recognised by MSDC which need to be addressed. The Three Towns need regeneration programmes, which have been put in motion (eg in Burgess Hill £1bn is to be spent on the new centre, the largest growth programme in the South East.
Premises need to be renovated so that businesses can continue to succeed and fulfil their potential (eg we urgently need new commercial development in Burgess Hill).
There is a need to attract more high value jobs into the district and thus to reduce the need for so many high earners to commute to London. The district needs to regain its 6th form provision, the loss of which is a local disaster.
The need to attract more visitors here was flagged up, and with it the need to improve transport links and ensure that Mid Sussex is well connected in the future.
SIr Nicholas Soames, MP, stressed the need to attract more hi-tech and digital businesses as well as the need to regain a 6th form facility. He was certain that government would invest in talent, ambition and excellence in Mid Sussex. Jonathan Ash-Edwards spoke of the huge amount of development going in in Mid Sussex, as the Council tackles the issues of building new residential and commercial properties.
Wayne Channon, an entrepreneur who runs three companies in Burgess Hill, spoke of his desire not to have to move away from here as the conditions for business are so favourable. Justin Thomas of New River Developments, who own 34 shopping centres including the Burgess Hill one, told us of his excitement for the local town centre upgrade which, he insisted would be completed by the end of 2020. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex explained just how the university is a local powerhouse and contributes a huge amount to the local economy. He is very keen to be involved in the proposed development of a Science and Technology Park on the A2300 to the west of the town.
We at the BHBPA applaud this latest initiative by MSDC to become more involved with the business community, and look forward to the new business parks development with great interest. Well done to Garry Wall, the Council Leader, and to Sally Blomfield for pushing on with these developments. The new commercial units can not come soon enough for BHBPA members looking to expand. We hope the Council might also consider freeing up some more land for business owners to purchase.
For the Strategy in full please click here