An Eastbourne summer buzzing with hope: a personal perspective

The CEO of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC, Andrew Durling, presents here his personal take on the local eco events of this eventful summer:

This summer has seen some dramatic developments in the Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 campaign. The Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC collaborated with its partners in the Eastbourne Climate Coalition and with Eastbourne Borough Council to put on a 3-day programme of community-led events in the E-Hive marquee in Princes Park during the first ever E-Festival that ran from July 29th to 31st.

This E-Hive was, in effect, a pop-up Climate Emergency Centre, and hopefully it will be a regular feature of the E-Festival in years to come, as well as contributing towards the establishment of a permanent home for such a centre somewhere in central Eastbourne. I pay tribute to the enormous effort put in by a fantastic group of local volunteers to organise and deliver such a varied programme that certainly created a buzz of excitement. Special thanks go to the High Sheriff of East Sussex, Jane King, for kindly officiating at the formal opening of the E-Hive. The feedback I received about the E-Hive indicated that it was a great success and that it drew in many local people to engage with a wide range of perspectives on the big environmental issues of our time.


A particular highlight of the E-Hive programme for me was the talk by Ben Cross of the British Flowers Rock campaign about the need to grow flowers locally and sustainably for the floristry industry rather than incurring the huge carbon footprint from importing flowers by air from far-flung parts of the world.

Ben Cross of Crosslands Flower Nursery with his crop of British alstroemeria in Sussex Thursday Nov. 04 2021. Picture by Christopher Pledger

Another highlight for me was listening to marine biologist Gonzalo Alvarez from the United Nations Climate and Oceans team, who gave a very detailed and sobering presentation about the current state of climate science research and the climate negotiations based on it. He also talked about the newly established United Nations Ecosystem Restoration and #GenerationRestoration campaign and explained how we can all be part of it.

But the greatest spectacle for me was seeing so many local people participating in, and watching, the Eco Fashion Show put on by Eco Fashion Eastbourne, a real testament to how  clothes and fabrics that are recycled/upcycled/repurposed can be very beautiful and how necessary sustainable fashion is given the huge carbon and water footprint of the fashion industry worldwide.


Earlier in July I had gone to Westminster to represent the Eastbourne Food Partnership (which my colleagues and I in the Eastbourne Eco Action Network work closely with) at a Sustainable Food Places Day of Action and Celebration at Parliament (a recording of some of the day is here). It was a wonderful chance to meet up with representatives from many other local food partnerships around the UK and share learnings and inspiration.

SFP Day of Celebration and Action

It was also a chance for me to meet up with Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne, to discuss in depth some of the local food issues that impact the town and to explore how important it is to create a local food system that is sustainable and resilient enough to ensure food security for all local residents and which can withstand the many damaging impacts of climate change.

SFP Day of Celebration and Action

The Eastbourne Food Partnership is now recruiting for a part-time co-ordinator to scale up its work in developing this urgently needed local food system.


Now the work of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC is currently focussed on collaborating with Eastbourne Borough Council to deliver a Solar and Sustainable Business Summit in October at the Welcome Building.

This gathering is intended to help kickstart a drive to massively scale up the installation of solar and other forms of renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency measures, in Eastbourne, particularly for local businesses, many of which are very exposed to the rising costs of energy, driven mainly by the massive rise in gas prices due primarily to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Eastbourne – one of the sunniest places in the UK – has an especially huge potential for more solar energy installations as there is so much roof space available on large warehouses, retail units, etc, as well as so many large car parks. A particular piece of good news is that Eastbourne DGH has recently submitted plans for a large solar car park on its premises, together with charging points for EVs. This would provide much needed renewable energy for the hospital and help stop the DGH from any longer being the biggest single point source of CO2 in the town.


Winter may be coming, and it may be hard for all of us in many ways, but this summer has given me some hope that the transition to a zero carbon society may be unstoppable, locally as well as globally, and that we’ll all be the better for it, especially if we can move away as quickly as possible from the increasingly expensive fossil fuels we have been overdependent on for far too long.


Will Eastbourne get a share of a £3bn bus fund?

We all know that East Sussex County Council hold the future of the Eastbourne bus service in their hands.

We all know that East Sussex County Council hold the future of the Eastbourne bus service in their hands.

A new report indicates that bus usage in the United Kingdom has decreased over the past decade as more people take journeys in their cars. The Annual Bus Statistics Report shows that over half a billion less bus journeys were made per year between 2010 and 2020, a fall of some 11.8 per cent compared to previous decades.

The decline in bus passengers across the country, particularly in England, has caused significant concern among local authorities. In March 2021, the Government announced Bus Back Better, a £3bn fund to help Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) make English bus services more appealing to people who live outside of London.

In June 2021, East Sussex County Council, which is the LTA for Eastbourne, declared the Council would pursue an Enhanced Bus Partnership in partnership with Stagecoach. The Council and Stagecoach must submit a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to the Government, who will then choose whether or not to reward the funding to Eastbourne.

Why does Eastbourne need a Bus Service Improvement Plan?

Investing in a better bus service could reduce the rush hour traffic on key Eastbourne routes, such as Lottbridge Drove

One of the Bus Back Better scheme’s aims is to move England towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. By stimulating the greater use of buses, the hope is that there will be fewer private car journeys. As a result, traffic congestion will decrease, which in turn will cut down the release of harmful greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere.

The next deadline for all LTAs to submit their proposals is the end of October 2021.  East Sussex County Council are required to publish their Bus Service Improvement Plan, which is highly anticipated by many Eastbourne residents.

A large part of the £3bn funding is dedicated to buying zero emission buses. However, East Sussex County Council will only receive funding if their bid is approved. The Government is clear that the funding will be allocated on the basis of the ’overall quality of the BSIP’. If East Sussex County Council submit a poor plan, Eastbourne could receive less funding than expected.

If the bid is successful, what can Eastbourne residents expect to see?

A better bus service is in reach…but only if East Sussex County Council can win over the Government

Because the government funding is spread thin across England, it is likely that local bus services will only receive enough money to make a few minor changes. As for spending the money, East Sussex County Council have several possible options. These “leveling up” plans could include the following:

  • More frequent buses.
  • Bus priority measure to speed up buses (e.g. limiting some road side parking).
  • Lower fares.
  • More comprehensive coverage by bus services.
  • Sections of bus lanes on roads.

What do Eastbourne residents want from a modern bus service?

A fleet of Stagecoach buses waiting for someone to invest in their wheels

Between August and September, the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC created a survey to find out what Eastbourne actually wanted from a modern bus service. Almost 300 people responded and their thoughts were inspiring.  The EEAN’s Bus Survey Report is now available to view. We recommend it highly.

David Everson

EEAN Transport Group

Allotments: Eastbourne’s Secret History

To most holidaymakers, Eastbourne is best known as the Sunshine Coast, a seaside resort where grand Victorian hotels and stout Napoleonic forts keep watch over busy shingle beaches. That’s what the tourists come to see, of course. Eastbourne has a secret; the town is home to a thriving culture of allotments dating back to the 19th century.

There are over fourteen separate allotment sites in Eastbourne

How one woman changed Eastbourne forever

In the early 1800s, poverty and hunger were endemic in Sussex. Many parishes dismissed the struggling poor as witless. However, one landowner disagreed. Mary Ann Gilbert was born into a wealthy landowning family in 1776. Despite her comfortable upbringing, Gilbert was an outspoken social reformer who created projects to help the working classes grow their own food instead of depending on relief. 

In 1830, Gilbert began redeveloping land on Beachy Head, hiring 27 paupers to remove waste and cultivate the soil. By 1835, Gilbert’s project had 235 allotment tenants, with over 400 allotment holders by 1844. Gilbert’s experiment reduced poverty in Sussex by almost half. It was an agricultural revolution that laid the groundwork for modern allotment management as we know it today.

Why are Eastbourne’s allotments so popular?

Gilbert died in 1845, but her legacy is still felt all over the town. Eastbourne Allotments & Garden Society, a non-profit organisation, has looked after the town’s fourteen allotment sites for many years. The society currently rent out over 1,200 plots, all of which are in high demand; presently, there are 500 people on a three-year waiting list for a plot.

A beautiful and green sight!
Audio Interview with Louise Elms, allotments manager
Louise Elms, allotments manager, speaks to Aaron Loose about her everyday experience running the Eastbourne allotments group. Listen to her thoughts here.

Sue Dixon, Co-Chair for the Eastbourne Green Party, says the allotments are popular because the routine makes people feel more connected to others. She explains “allotments contribute hugely to wellbeing in terms of exercise and being outdoors of course, but also relaxation and a break from the pressures of the modern world. Everyone speaks of the sense of community.”

Almost everyone on the allotments mentions a profound sense of community. Louise Elms, the allotment manager, says “one of the best things about allotments we get people from all walks of life” The society estimates their diverse membership includes over twenty different nationalities. Many tenants belong to the town’s thriving Portuguese community, and several Syrian refugees also rent out plots.

Elms speaks warmly about how the allotments became a haven for many people during 2020’s gruelling series of COVID-19 lockdowns. “It was amazing for people”, she tells me over the phone. “So many people have told us that the allotments were a lifesaver, because it was the only place they could go and speak to people. It’s great for people, physically and mentally.”

Are Allotments a form of Self-Care?

One notable example of a genuine allotment community is Gather Community Garden, a diverse group of amateur gardeners and seasoned planters who meet weekly at the Churchdale road allotment to chat. Dave Roberts, who serves as Gather’s spokesperson, views their work as a ministry of wellbeing. Gather grew from a church, but their outlook is diverse and inclusive. “It was quite important for us to create the social space that wasn’t totally utilitarian,” Roberts says. “People can join the network, relax, and even take a few potatoes. If people are coming from real anxiety of loneliness, then small group interactions are often the best way to find their way back.” 

The Gather Community Garden overs five plots and is often visited by officers working in the nearby police station

For many, the thought of looking after an allotment feels daunting. It is a big responsibility, but the workload is manageable. According to Elms, the average renter can expect to spend between 5 and 12 hours a week working a basic plot, although their workload may depend on what produce they grow. “If you’re growing a lot of fruits,” Elms says, “you probably require less time than if you’re doing vegetables.  And it’s not just vegetables you can have. You can have chickens and rabbits and bees.”

Allotments are a central pillar of Eastbourne’s rich history, as iconic as the Bandstand and Beachy Head. Working on an allotment is an opportunity to enrich not only nature, but one’s own wellbeing. If you want to know why that’s such a big deal, listen to Dave. “There’s a verse in Jeremiah”, he remarks, “where it says seek the prosperity as a place where you live. Plant gardens. Do good stuff.”

Aaron Loose

Are we Solving Eastbourne’s Transport Crisis?

Derrick Coffee writes to the Eastbourne Herald and explains the dangers of ignoring Eastbourne’s transport crisis

Derrick Coffee, County Officer for Transport Futures East Sussex, has written an open letter to Eastbourne Herald, explaining the dangers of ignoring Eastbourne’s developing transport crisis – and what we can do to fix it.

Dear Editor,

Lots of transport issues and some opportunities are discussed in your edition of 20th August. These topics included the Bus Service Improvement Plan, five proposed cycle routes, ‘paid for parking’, and £250,000 funding for ‘traffic signal controlled junctions’.

With the transport sector being the largest emitter of carbon in the UK, and the international Climate Change ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP26) only weeks away, all of the topics mentioned should have a part to play in securing measures to bring UK carbon emissions down. If successful, the biggest winners will be all children – and babies born after any successful commitments coming out of the COP26 gathering: but, we’ll all be winners!

Planning for Better Buses

A young Black woman sits in a bus, wearing a mask.

First, the buses. The Government’s own advisers warn against the simple notion that swapping petrol and diesel for electric vehicles is the answer. Congestion, casualties, sprawling ‘land hungry’ car based developments, ugly streets, habitat destruction and unhealthy inactive lifestyles would continue. Eastbourne and Wealden councils should collaborate on creating more forward-thinking solutions.

If successful, the biggest winners will be all children

Competition between richer nations for precious resources in vehicle and battery manufacture will cause conflict and environmental degradation. The  answers have to include shared transport, active travel and efficient and well designed urban development. (Current developments don’t have those characteristics!).

Shared transport means buses, trains and car clubs. The BSIP should include a whole range of incentives to increase bus usage including expanded services and new routes. Above all, the buses need priority measures such as bus lanes to speed up services and beat congestion. These already remove thousands of cars daily from the A259 through Peacehaven.

Transport Futures: Safe Cycle Routes

Cycling routes offer a solution to transport problems, but only if the routes are kept safe.

Cycle routes – yes please. But these must be measured against their ability to allow children to cycle to school and for the rest of us to access our daily needs. The 5 routes will help but more routes are needed with default 20mph limits in residential areas and on some sections of main roads.

However, without speed restrictions, parents will not allow their children to cycle. Frequent poor and threatening driving styles depress levels of cycling and walking, and must be eliminated. Acoustic cameras should be installed to remove aggressive and illegally loud vehicles. Furthermore, walking routes are also crucial and flared junctions should be narrowed, roundabouts redesigned to reduce entry/exit speeds, and pedestrian/cycle priority across junctions in residential areas should be adopted town wide. 

The Real Cost of Free Parking in the Transport Debate

Free parking may seem like a great idea, but the policy can cause increased pollution and congestion.

Parking? Too much cheap or free parking causes congestion and makes all other more sustainable forms of transport unpleasant or inefficient. Politicians love to promise freedom to park anywhere for free but they all know it will lead to gridlock. It’s not a very inefficient use of the precious resource: land. No-one wants more traffic. The £250,000 for ‘signal controlled junctions’ could be used to speed up the buses and to give pedestrians and cyclists priority. Prioritising sustainable transport locally is also shown to reduce longer car journeys, reducing the need for damaging road projects such as an off-line A27.

Leaders at all levels of government should be loudly proclaiming support for the objectives of COP26 (reducing carbon emissions; restoring habitats and increasing biodiversity) and measures to deliver them. The Herald could publish articles featuring transport and planning proposals and rate them out of 10 for eco friendliness!

Did this article interest you? Find out more about Eastbourne transport issues by joining our Transport Group!

Derrick Coffee

County Officer, Transport Futures East Sussex

Images: PA Media & Pxhere

Environment is a low priority for commuters

People do not consider the environment when making travel plans, according to a new study published by Decarbonising Transport Deliberative Research.

When commuters choose between travelling by car or a more eco-friendly alternative, they do not consider the environmental impacts of their decision. Instead, people are likely to choose whichever vehicle they are most comfortable using.

For example, people who drive to work are also likely to drive to attend hospital appointments, take part in leisure activities, and to see family and friends. They choose to travel by car because driving is a habit. It is rare for a habitual driver to use a bus or a train.

The research shows a clear hierarchy in making travel choices, with habit being the most significant. People also preferred transport modes with shorter travel times and higher reliability. The remaining key factors are summarised here.

  • Flexibility: several respondents preferred having immediate access to transport, instead of waiting for a bus to become available. 
  • Family Friendly: people want the ability to carry luggage, entertain children, and have easier access to toilets.
  • Convenience: people preferred ‘door to door’ modes of transport with a minimal interchange between different transport types.
  • Least Important Factors: comfort, hygiene, and personal safety were not considered as important.

Cost was also a key factor. Although car owners were satisfied with their vehicle’s low ‘on the day costs’, they did not consider the ongoing financial commitment of owning and maintaining a car.

It is clear that the behavioural change required to increase the use of public transport and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not be easily won.

David Everson

EEAN Transport Group

Image credits: PA Media & Clive G

This Summer – Food Project with Ambition

Nutrition, hydration and sleep are the cornerstone foundations to our health and well-being. They are the building blocks with which everything in life works from. Without them, a human being cannot thrive. Yet the principles such as ‘food as medicine’, the importance of microbiome and gut health are topics that are not well understood by most people.

The problems connected to poor nutrition are global, but perhaps the most urgent need is to help people below the poverty line to nourish themselves and their children. All those who through no lack of worth ethic find themselves one of this year’s many first-time food bank users, asking ‘Do I pay my rent, or feed myself’, all those parents going hungry to feed their children.

One Potential Solution

This Summer sparked an idea. Inspired by my own gut health awakening, the works of anti-hunger activist Jack Monroe, working on recruitment for the Trussell Trust, John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby’s imaginative 2013 UK School Food Plan and nursing my own mother’s poor gut health, I began putting together a project. A new UK School Food Foundation. A public private partnership that would ease the burden on the government with free school meals, raising private capital, and working collaboratively with the government on the matter to fix policy and curriculums. Bring in venture capitalists and businessmen to the SMT and run it with their mindset and efficiencies. A pipe dream of course, but one that might get me into working in an area about which I was increasingly passionate.

So I made case studies of my two previous schools and reached out to national private catering company bosses to understand the situation seven years after the school food plan. Talking to my old schools it was obvious just how far we’ve come, but there was of course still room to improve. The main feedback was that the food and nutrition-based standards introduced in 2014 are still not policed in practice, Ofsted has to enforce them, schools make ‘tweaks’ at their own discretion and vulnerable children, in particular, are still unaware of the consequences of bad food choices.

Why is this necessary?

And that fact is hardly surprising because where would they get that information from? When even the comfortable families are more overworked and disconnected than ever before – parents work all hours, children out – we’re not teaching younger generations how to cook. How many of us went off unprepared to university and came out with pancreatitis, IBS, or ulcerative colitis? Even GPs have little training on food as medicine and are more likely to question alcoholism and prescribe drugs than any considered analysis of diet. Surely this would go a huge way to reducing the crippling burden on the NHS?

School wise, we’ve heard a lot about the introduction of compulsory cooking classes for all students up to the age of Key Stage 3. Just talking to my two old schools they seem to be doing brilliantly with state of the art facilities and really attractive lesson plans. But they’re the good end of the scale and those cooking classes are still once a fortnight for year nines. GCSE cooking is more about comparisons between different types of food packaging than it is about cooking skills.

Having lived across the continent as a languages student in France, Germany and Russia, it’s clear we’re a laughing stock internationally. Before lockdown forced us to take up home cooking, we spent a smaller proportion of our income on meals at home than any other European country. We tend to rush our meals, spending almost half as much time eating as the French. We eat out more, cook less, and are much keener on ready meals. (Our household spend on pre-cooked food is 28% higher than in France, 64% higher than Spain, 101% higher than Germany and a whopping 178% higher than Italy.) When I wanted to cure my mother’s gut health at the start of the Summer it was the Polish section I turned to in the supermarket as well as the best of Gousto’s anti-inflammatory range (fish, vegan and vegetarian meals). Eastern Europeans are champions of seasonality and fermented foods, the friendly bacteria that we all need to fill ourselves with in order to boost our immune systems and fight disease. Their biggest well-kept secret within that is Kefir, cultured milk which repaired my misused gut many times whilst living away from home. It’s now a regular in well-stocked shops here thanks to Eastern European immigration.

So how did we fall so far behind everyone else?

The History of Free School Meals

As far as school food culture is concerned the story goes back probably to the end of the 19th century.

After the introduction of compulsory education in the 1870s, the city of Manchester became the first to feed impoverished students. In 1906 the Education Bill attempted to combat the shocking state of national and infant health and placed the responsibility under the remit of local authorities. Unfortunately, despite multiple worrying reports compliance remained low until 1944, when laws were passed to ensure all children had access to free nutritious meals. Free milk burst onto the scene two years later. School children over the next two decades are widely believed to be the best nourished of the twentieth century.

Policy first turned against state involvement in 1968 when the Conservative government withdrew free school milk from all secondary schools. Margaret Thatcher launched her infamous extension of this scheme for the over sevens in 1971 followed by the Competitive Tendering Act in 1980. The responsibility of the government was, as they considered, to provide the parts parents could not, the buildings and books. Not the peripheral services. The move towards parental and consumer choice was predictably accompanied by a move towards meals that were cheap rather than nutritious and the rise of powerful food and drink companies.

Worse was to come. The 1986 Social Security Act cut the numbers of children who were eligible for free school meals at a time when unemployment and inflation were rising. Aggressive advertising of unhealthy foods continued. This changing food pattern, towards fatty, sugary, and highly processed foods – has become known as the “nutrition transition”.

It was not until April 2001 that school meals were again called to adhere to standards. But by this time the impact of so many years of aggressive low cost food advertising had taken its toll.

Then came the establishment of the Food Standards Agency in 2000 to promote healthy eating practices. This was bolstered by new regulations on healthy food in schools, in part as a response to a campaign by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

But fewer children were entitled to free school meals, while unhealthy food was cheaper and more readily available than ever before. Fast forward to the present day and fast food after ten years of austerity the extent and causes of child poverty are, according to some commentators, remarkably similar to those at the start of the twentieth century. Enter Marcus Rashford’s much-needed campaign.

So that’s how we got here.

Results of that Decline

The resulting crisis in our habits has arguably now led us to the staggering number of obesity-related covid deaths. It’s also worth noting that lots of them will have absolutely nothing to do with wealth and being too well-fed, but rather due to poverty and food insecurity and malnutrition.

There is a lot to say about the hidden scale of poverty in the UK today, but probably something that more people are confronting post Brexit. The one point I would like to raise awareness of from a nourishment perspective is the emergence of food swamps inside already barren food deserts.

More than a million people in the UK live in so-called “food deserts” – neighbourhoods where poverty, poor public transport and a dearth of big supermarkets severely limit access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, a study has claimed. Nearly one in 10 of the country’s most economically deprived areas are food deserts, it says – typically large out-of-town housing estates and deprived inner-city wards served by a handful of small, relatively expensive corner shops.

Public health experts are concerned that these neighbourhoods – which are often also “food swamps” with high densities of fast-food outlets – are helping to fuel a rise in diet-related conditions, as well as driving food insecurity.

The most deprived areas include Marfleet in Hull, Hartcliffe in Bristol, Hattersley in Greater Manchester, Everton in Liverpool and Sparkbrook in Birmingham. Eight of Scotland’s 10 most deprived food deserts are in Glasgow, and three of Wales’s nine worst are in Cardiff. The question I’d love to investigate is what is food education and school canteens like in these deserts? Disadvantaged kids will have to fight twice as hard as it is in life to break into better education, be accepted, taken seriously and paid the same in top tier firms. Can we not at least ensure the foundations for social mobility are secure?

Pitch to the Sector

So, to come back to my project. Having made case studies of my schools and spoken to catering company bosses I began putting together a presentation. One catering company I had reached out to offered to discuss the idea to see if they could help push it forwards.

My argument was that the scandal in free school meals comes amidst a much wider crisis in our food system, exacerbated by growing levels of poverty. And the issues loom like a perfect storm over the heads of the most vulnerable facing Brexit. There were seven key problems, as I saw it, which could be alleviated by the Foundation and more hard-hitting education. Yes we’ve had plenty of healthy eating campaigns, but the information definitely hasn’t reached many in my corner of rural Northamptonshire and I suspect that’s the same in many places outside the wealthy home counties.

The issues were:

  1. Rising inequality where people at the bottom have less money to feed themselves
  2. Poor public understanding of basic food education and good gut health.
  3. The school food system is overcrowded, fragmented and heavily subsidised.
  4. Obesity and eating extremes are at their highest ever levels ever, placing a crippling burden on the NHS.
  5. Agriculture and food production in this country are unsustainable. Yes, we will adapt, but not with a heavy toll on the most vulnerable.
  6. Needlessly high levels of food waste
  7. Disjointed political will and accountability. No one government department takes responsibility for hunger or free school meals

At the start of the Summer I wanted to fight them all, to set up a body like Nutrition England which would offer education outreach to schools, businesses, hospitals, prisons, and charities. How many of us know we actually have control to reduce anxiety, slow down ageing and fight the big avoidable killers linked to chronic gut inflammation: arthritis, dementia, cancer, autoimmune disease? But the problem seemed too broad, many people in the most need don’t have cooking facilities and education will probably only scratch the surface. The Food Standards Agency of course does a lot of good work already. So my thinking evolved and it seemed clear that schools were one environment we could control, influence and fund, irrespective of division in social classes.

So, in the middle of November I pitched my plan to the senior management of one wholesale company and the feedback was that’s it a very worthy idea, the link between mental health and gut health is definitely under-reported, but the business case still wasn’t there. There was still nothing to differentiate the Foundation from all the other well meaning outlets in the over crowded school meal industry. Holiday hunger is by far the most burning issue to solve.


Ultimately most of my best intentions to launch a nation-wide food revolution and fund a nutritious safety net for all school children have already been implemented and gone full circle in the course of the twentieth century.  But as well as getting into the sector to work on the business case, I hate to give up especially when there is such momentum. What else can we do differently this time? How do we engage four-year-olds to care about nutrition? How do we police standards? How to create national leadership on the issue? Were my pipe dream ever to materialise I’d love to make cooking as important as Maths and English, for all schools to have an in-house nutritionist and push for a Minister to be responsible for the new UK School Food Foundation. That would underline just how important the task is and ensure policy never again fell victim to changes in administration. Boris’ u-turn provides vulnerable children with an extension of the holiday activities and food programme until Christmas next year. There’s also work to be done around extending the scheme to all children whose parents are in receipt of universal credit.

So if any more seasoned business people reading this have ideas on how to solve the problem and impose structure in the fragmented school meal industry, I would love to hear from them. The need is there and the momentum is clear to see from the countless local councils and businesses which stepped up to feed children over October half term: Nestle UK & Ireland, Burberry, Frankie & Benny’s, the University of Reading, Queen Mary in London, Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council, TESCO, COOP, Manchester United, the UEFA Foundation.

Rebecca Emerick

Guest blogger

Rebecca Emerick is an independent campaigner. Her background has been in executive search working on high profile headhunts for the UK not-for-profit and creative industries. She developed the idea of This Summer inspired by her own gut health awakening, the works of anti-hunger activist Jack Monroe, working on recruitment for the Trussell Trust, John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby’s imaginative 2013 UK School Food Plan, nursing her own mother’s poor gut health and then Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

One Small Step Toward Big Change

By now we are all versed in the evils of single-use plastic products and their impact on the environment, yet not enough is being done to tackle this issue. Like many, I am disheartened when I walk into a supermarket and see shelves lined with plastic packaging. It’s a big problem, which is why it might seem counterintuitive when I ask you to turn your attention to one small segment of this big problem: packaging of citrus fruits in polypropylene mesh bags. 

Hear me out.

Polypropylene mesh bags are harmful for the environment and for wildlife. Polypropylene is a plastic that has a high rate of degradation when exposed to UV light, leading to the release of dangerous microplastics in our land and oceans. Additionally, prior to and during degradation, these bags are hazardous to wildlife which can become tangled and trapped in their mesh. They also often contain one or more mouldy fruits, leading to both customer dissatisfaction and to increased food waste.

The practice of packaging citrus fruits is completely unnecessary. Citrus fruits have a sturdy rind that makes them ideal for selling and storing loose. There would be no need for a supermarket to invest in more expensive biodegradable packaging as a replacement for the mesh bags, as the fruits could instead be sold individually.   

I am therefore campaigning Morrisons Supermarkets to stop packaging their citrus fruits in polypropylene mesh bags and to sell them loose instead.

While this might seem like a small goal, Morrisons is the fourth largest supermarket chain in the UK with 494 stores in the country. Imagine the impact if 494 stores ceased using these bags to package their lemons, limes, and oranges, and instead sold them loose – it adds up.

Many people have asked why this campaign does not target all supermarkets and all of their produce packaging. I believe that by targeting one supermarket and one unsustainable practice, we are more likely to affect change than asking for a sweeping change across the entire industry. Once we have achieved this one small change, we can use it to leverage Morrisons and other supermarkets to further improve their sustainable practices.

I hope that you will consider joining me by signing the petition and sharing it with your friends, family, and networks in the UK. Together we can achieve this change for the planet and all her creatures.

Amber Erwin


A message from the guest blogger:

This campaign started two weeks ago when I was doing the shopping at my local Morrisons in Northampton. My usual frustration at seeing the amount of plastic packaging tipped into action when I reflected on how unnecessary it is to package citrus fruits. I went home and began developing a plan of action, starting with this petition.

Although I don’t live in Eastbourne, I am so inspired by the strides made toward carbon neutrality and the community effort that has gone into bringing about change. I believe that it’s exactly the type of effort needed to make this campaign a success. I hope that everyone will spend the 2 minutes it takes to sign and share!

Are Consultations Blocking Progress?

I think everyone is aware that traffic levels appear higher than last year and with all the new housing this will only get worse. At the same time, Eastbourne is committed to a shift towards more walking, cycling and bus journeys. So why is this change not happening?

ESCC Hailsham to Eastbourne Sustainability Corridor

It has been increasingly apparent that consultations and public engagement can result in no change at all.  You may think they are the best example of the democratic decision on the local matters but let us look at the evidence. There are more car users than any other group and many of them will want what they already have. The share of car trips has gone up by 40% since 1981 whilst bus and cycle trips have more than halved.

One of the key reasons that progress is not being made is that even with Covid-19, there is built-in inertia. The car-centric view is simply entrenched across all of East Sussex. So out of all the county’s funded Covid-19 schemes only 2 pedestrian schemes were built. Locally in Eastbourne, everything was eventually dropped “following public consultation”.

Eastbourne Draft Local Plan

There are probably four ways that consultations can be used to reinforce the status quo:

1) Only some key stakeholders are consulted

2) The questions are adapted to fit the agenda

3) The comments are simply counted as for and against.

4) Weightings are used to prioritise certain groups

The Government has said that they want to double cycling numbers by 2025, link future transport funding to current performance and set higher design standards. So for routes, away from the roads, such as Horsey Sewer or Shinewater it is possible to build reasonable shared paths. However, because space is limited in town, and cycling is marginal, either the routes are removed – such as around Terminus Road – or designed to make the least change to the road layout. Currently, there is no cycle route in Eastbourne town centre of sufficient quality to appear on either Google maps or Cyclestreets.

The same issue is true for buses. One of the reasons that there is no local Quality Bus Partnership, which would mean better and greener buses, might be that the road network would need to be re-allocated in favour of buses. That would once again face some resistance through a consultation process. There are indeed some bus lanes being added on the route from Polegate to Eastbourne but they are short and may not make enough difference to get the bus companies to invest.

With the County Council elections coming up,  now is the time to question the candidates. Do not ask if they are in favour of cycling or bus lanes, as nearly everyone says yes. Instead, ask about a specific route that you want and where there are consequences and hard choices to be made.

Paul Humphreys

Bespoke & Cycle East Sussex

Photo: Eastbourne Bespoke cycling group 

Are Local Traffic Neighbourhoods Possible in Eastbourne?

Perhaps the most contentious debate in transport, at the moment, is Local Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). They are a hot topic across the UK, especially in London, and even more so during Covid-19.

Perhaps the most contentious debate in transport at the moment is Local Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). They are a hot topic across the UK, especially in London, and even more so during Covid-19. LTNs are usually a relatively cheap and quick way to change the dynamics of the streets in an area. During Covid-19 they are being funded by the Government as emergency measures to provide safer walking and cycling whilst discouraging car use as public transport is operating with limited capacity apart from school buses.  LTNs are linked to the wider ideas of 15-minutes cities and 20-minute neighbourhoods.  Where most things people need are nearby and so there is less need for a car. This builds up the idea of community and increases residents’ exercise which reduces chronic illness in future years.

LTNs are areas where most through traffic has been removed from local residential streets. This might involve barriers, bollards, planters or other street furniture that blocks the roads for through traffic, whilst allowing pedestrians and cyclists. Often there are solutions using keys or barriers that allow emergency vehicles and buses access. If you are interested, Waltham Forest is a multi-award winner with various LTNs. There although most people are in favour there is a smaller vociferous group against. Just take a look at Social Media to follow the conversation. 

So why is the subject so contentious.

  1. Some opponents believe that they should be allowed to drive in any street to complete their journey in the shortest time. They do not agree with the phrase rat running where traffic will use residential roads when main roads are blocked. This is a problem that will grow with more congestion in Eastbourne.
  2. Opponents believe there is a fixed amount of traffic and if you prevent through traffic in LTNs, it will simply get to the main roads. However, supporters will say how LTNs often show that after a while residents have 20% fewer cars, 20% fewer trips and 20% less time in the car. Since cars are the least efficient use of road space when driven or parked this is a big saving.  This 20% saving can also be partly linked to other initiatives such as safer cycling routes or more local shops in the pedestrianised streets.
  3. Opponents say that where there are Residential Main Roads (RMRs) the pollution and congestion will be worse. These roads often have the poorest housing, so these residents are then further disadvantaged. However, evidence from London shows that within LTNs are large blocks of social housing so it is not always so clear cut. Opponents make the point that in LTNs, if these streets are now more pleasant, they will be gentrified and the working classes will be squeezed out. This would be much less of an issue in Eastbourne.
  4. Within any LTN there is often an increase in cycling and children walking to school as the risk from injury from motor vehicles is reduced. Where school streets are closed then some parents who drive and want to drop off their children are frustrated from doing so.

So what could this mean in Eastbourne?  Normally these could be implemented in the more deprived areas. So for example the area around Seaside, St Philips Avenue, and St Anthony’s is a matrix of streets that can be used as rat runs.  One simple improvement would be 20mph zones but so would modal filters, such as signs and bollards, that limit access by certain modes of transport, normally motor vehicles,  and would deter through traffic.

In more affluent areas such as Sovereign Harbour, they are already similar to an LTN. Meandering cul-de-sacs that are not interconnected apart from by cycle or foot. Very slow traffic, local shops and any traffic displaced from main roads have no way through these estates. Rather they will go through Langney, Seaside or along the seafront.

In conclusion, now is the time to look at the idea of LTNs within the town. Let us see if we can improve the quality of life in these local neighbourhoods.

Paul Humphreys

Bespoke & Cycle East Sussex

Photo credit: Paul Gillett

Cycle Lanes along the Seafront

Compromise, conciliation, and consultation, all seem such reasonable words, and opponents to cycling often use them against Bespoke Cycle Group. They are perhaps partly the reason that active travel (buses, cycling and walking) in Eastbourne is in decline.

Compromise, conciliation, and consultation, all seem such reasonable words, and opponents to cycling often use them against Bespoke Cycle Group. They are perhaps partly the reason that active travel (buses, cycling and walking) in Eastbourne is in decline.

The Eastbourne Cycling Plan makes reference to the need for a strategy, reducing congestion, pollution and improved public health, along with a network of cycle routes that includes the controversial one along the seafront from Fisherman’s Green to the Pier.

It all sounds familiar, until you realise that this is the 1994 version. Quite usefully it shows the data from 1981. The share of trips by car was 40%, bus 14% and cycle 4%. Now the shares are 70%, 5% and 2%. The current scheme that requires Bespoke to “compromise” is the Covid-19 seafront cycle lane. East Sussex County Council decided this week it wants further consultation. It is a difficult choice for Bespoke to make. The seaward side was bid through Covid-19 funds, and was a segregated, safe and secure route. In fact, probably the one specified over 25 years ago. The landward option, not shared with Bespoke, is mainly paint on the road. In its favour are a 20mph speed limit and some signage. Unfortunately, it will be like the rest of the cycle infrastructure in town and hardly fit for purpose.

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But for Bespoke it may be “take it or leave it”. It is the type of poor solution that compromise, conciliation and consultation create. It looks like not all the Covid-19 money will be spent and there has been the suggestion that ESCC’s new bid for Tranche2 will partly fail. ESCC acknowledge that “whilst emphasis [from the national guidance expects] schemes which enable the reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists” their bid is around “footway surfacing and kerbs”.

Because 70% of trips are undertaken by car, this dominates the whole approach to transport within the county. Even to the extent that councillors, businesses and shops overestimate the number of people using cars and their relative spend. Considering this it took a certain strength, perhaps against the views of some of the residents, for Councillor Tutt to support the seaward side, as he did at the Transport committee.

For all the ESCC investment, the gold standard test is the actual cycle numbers. The new DfT statistics by Local Authority show no improvement across the county in the last 4 years. For those who cycle once a month, East Sussex, as one of the 25 similar shire counties, has only one county that performs worse.

In conclusion, there is no evidence that the current approach, via consultation and compromise, with the most powerful groups getting their way, will achieve any significant changes in road congestion, public health, pollution and CO2. The requirement is still for a limited number of safe, segregated and secure routes into town. This would be in line with the new DfT guidance, where they clearly state that paint on the road is no longer enough.

Paul Humphreys

Bespoke & Cycle East Sussex

Photo credit: Paul Gillett