One of our key drivers at West Sussex County Council is supporting the economy and there has never been a more important time to do this. Without a vibrant strong economy across West Sussex the local area will stagnate.
One of our strands of work is promoting West Sussex as a brilliant place to visit, we have so much to offer coast, countryside, historic places, beautiful houses, culture, vineyards and gardens, lovely pubs, restaurants, eateries many of which use locally sourced produce from sparkling wines and beer to cheese and ice cream.
This is particularly beneficial to rural businesses and small artisan food producers as well as larger companies.
West Sussex, as you may have heard me say before, is a Box of Delights. The benefits of attracting visitors are many such as promoting local businesses but also in showcasing the county as a place to invest in.
We know that some may wish to settle here including setting up or bringing their businesses into the county and we need that inward investment.
Last week I visited Gatwick Airport to see the our new ‘Experience West Sussex’ promotion, panels of fabulous images all lined up to promote West Sussex as people arrive.
This is just one initiative that we are working with Gatwick who generously agreed to promote all that the county has to offer.
The Velo South cycle ride was something we wanted to support to highlight West Sussex and all its delights.
A closed road cycle event, similar to the London cycle event that goes through Surrey every year attracts many dedicated cyclists young and old. It helps promote the benefit of exercise and wellbeing as well as a sport that’s fantastic for the environment.
All events such as Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and Revival attract thousands into the area, as does Polo at Cowdray and even down on the coast, as the residents of the Witterings know, with thousands of visitors wanting spend a sunny day out on the iconic West Wittering beach and with that comes traffic inconvenience. So we know there will be some inconvenience in organising any event.
However for some people Velo South Event has not captured their hearts and minds and I have been greatly saddened at some of the aggressive and hostile stances taken. Of course some people will be inconvenienced and for that I have every sympathy and understanding.
For many the Velo event captured their imagination and they were keen to become spectators or take part.
Whatever side of the argument you were on, because the event did not take place, due to the weather, that debate at present remains unresolved.
I am so very sorry for the main charities who were anticipating some welcome additional funding.
Two particular charities for me were St Wilfrid’s Hospice and St Richards Hospital Urology Department who need £80,000 to help in this specialist field. Local charities serving local people providing important services for those in need.
I read every email that came in on Velo, some polite some, I have to say, downright rude, and I took up points raised with the organisers to mitigate the effects and impact.
Considerable effort was made by our adults social care team to identify all residents in receipt of care at home whether paid for by WSCC or privately funded to ensure everyone would receive the care they needed on the day.
Our Highways managers were regularly assessing the route proposals to find more access which is why the Temporary Traffic Orders were not approved until Thursday before the event.
I am not an armchair critic nor do I do tit for tat comments or finger pointing. Everyone has their opinion which I respect, what I want to make clear is WSCC went over and above to accommodate the many comments to mitigate the impacts of the event.
For the many riders, and there were plenty who were local to West Sussex, undertook considerable training and effort for nothing and that must be hard for them.
I have emails rejoicing no event and emails asking for the event to take place next year.
So where does that leave us? We agreed to support the Velo event for one year with a promise to review.
Although the event did not take place we do need to review. First we need a dialogue with local council members whose division it affected.
Then there are the communities affected and those taking part where soundings need to be taken – that is where we are now and until that work has been completed no decision will be taken.
We have learnt a lot . However there is one undisputed fact – West Sussex is a beautiful county, wonderful countryside, coast and all in between. People want to come here and visit – let’s ensure they all feel very welcome.
For more coverage on the cancellation and future of Velo South, pick up this week’s paper, out now.