The Eastbourne ECO Action Network in 2021: What was our year like?

As 2021 draws to a close, now is a good time to review the progress of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network.

As 2021 draws to a close, now is a good time to review the progress of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network, which has been very active throughout the year despite all the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Here’s a selection of the highlights as I, Andrew Durling, see them from my perspective as CEO of the Eastbourne Eco Action CIC.

Housing, Energy & Environment

The 2021 Eastbourne Eco Homes webinar was designed and hosted by the Housing and Energy Working Group. Their extensive research helped local residents make their homes much more energy-efficient. 

The Housing & Energy, Research and Transport Groups drafted three Technical Advice Notices (TANs), which were adopted by Eastbourne Borough Council. These rules form a crucial part of the planning guidance for ensuring that developments within Eastbourne are as environmentally sound as possible within current planning law. The TANs cover EV infrastructure, Sustainability in Development, and Biodiversity Net Gain. The Housing & Energy Group have scrutinised the EBC development proposals for the Old Magistrate Court site in Old Orchard Road, and are lobbying for these TANs to be fully incorporated into design schemes. Additionally, the group is actively working with Eastbourne Borough Council and the ECO Action Transport Group to create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods within the town.

The Research Group’s upstream liaison with Eastbourne Borough Council over the Environment Agency’s Pevensey Bay to Eastbourne Coastal Defences Scheme has been a success. Members of the group also collaborate with Ralph Lucas, an Eastbourne resident who is a member of the House of Lords, over biodiversity net gain standards in the Environment Bill and the ecological impacts of Queen’s Green Canopy Project. 

We liaised with councillors and council officers about the development of the Pevensey Bay to Eastbourne Coastal Management Scheme. The Environment Agency has designed the scheme to strengthen the local sea defences so they can cope with the predicted rise in sea levels that climate change will induce by 2100. Without improved sea defences, Eastbourne will become increasingly vulnerable to severe flooding from storm surges.

Sustainability in 2021

The Eastbourne Food Partnership (EFP), some members of which emerged from the EEAN’s Food Working Group and Climate Adaptation Group, became a Community Interest Company in 2021. The change enabled the group to successfully gain its first grant funding to facilitate the development of a sustainable, climate-resilient local food network that can ensure a supply of fresh, healthy, locally produced food distributed equitably to all local residents. 

Furthermore, the EFP is now a member of the national Sustainable Food Places network, and works in close collaboration with 3VA and East Sussex County Council. It has recently been liaising with councillors and council officers about how the Eastbourne Food Partnership, and the EEAN in general, could have some sort of presence within the Food Street project developing in Victoria Place.

Moreover, EEAN wrote vital proposals for ensuring that the Eastbourne Levelling Up Fund (LUF) remains within the purview of the Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 strategy. The Transport Group and CIC submitted a proposal for the delivery of bus priority lanes, to unlock investment in zero carbon buses to reduce pollution supporting modal shift from cars to buses. Given that the LUF aims to increase the number of visitors to Eastbourne by 500,000 per year, a Transport Plan has to be at the heart of the LUF to prevent transport emissions within the town from increasing, and the Transport Working Group has been instrumental in designing that plan throughout 2021.

We have supported the continuing success of Treebourne (which evolved from the Carbon Capture Working Group) and EcoEd2030 (which evolved from the Education Working Group) through administrative support such as draft policy templates, advice on CIC forms, banking services for Treebourne; and an offer of financial grant to help with set up costs. Two CIC directors along with colleagues planted and cared for hundreds of baby trees in the Churchdale Allotment, some 400 of which have been transferred for planting at Tugwell Park.

Social Media & Public Profile in 2021

We have extended our active social media presence with the help of the one paid employee in the EEAN CIC gained under the government’s Kickstart programme. We created a fresh newsletter format using that presence to complete, and publicise, for the first time ever, a detailed survey – prepared by the Kickstart employee with aid from the Transport Working Group – of local people’s opinions about the local bus service, and how it could be improved. This has given a voice to bus users within our community, and we continue to lobby on their behalf. 

Some of the results have been used by East Sussex County Council in compiling its own analysis of local bus services and how to improve them.  This has helped increase our newsletter subscriptions by 47%. This bus survey reached over 12,000 local citizens. Our recent social media posts of Andy Durling’s speech at the COP26 rally in September reached over 6,800 people via organic growth across our social media channels. 

On wider communication, the CIC and other network groups contribute to the Eastbourne Borough Council ECN2030 Newsletter sent to over 10,000 residents; and the CIC and Groups have had articles published in the Eastbourne Herald, stimulating further engagement from the community.

As members of the Eastbourne Cultural Strategy Group and following on from our collaboration with them to facilitate the “Full Frontal” artworks on the empty Debenhams store, we have introduced this group to the possibility of using cultural engagement on the theme of climate change awareness and responses modelled on the excellent work of Creative Carbon Scotland.

We were delighted to work with a local artist and Eastbourne BID in the creation of the ‘You are part of history mural’ located at the junction of York and Grove Road in Eastbourne.

We participated in the march and rally organised by the Eastbourne Climate Coalition on 6 November to coincide with the start of the UN COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. I delivered a speech to the rally on behalf of the EEAN, which was later published as a blog on the website. This address had an organic reach in social media of over 6,800, thanks to our Kickstart employee. The EEAN CIC is now collaborating with the Eastbourne Climate Coalition to set up a Climate Hub in Eastbourne.

Eastbourne residents participate in a protest march to recognise COP26

Thank you!

On behalf of all my colleagues in the EEAN CIC, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and deep gratitude to all the CIC directors, groups and partner organisations within the EEAN for their hard work in the face of the incredible difficulties we’ve all had to deal with in this pandemic year. You are heroes all! I hope you have a very restful and peaceful Christmas and New Year and come back refreshed in 2022 to continue the great work of helping to deal with the greatest challenge of our time: the Climate Emergency.

On a more personal note, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude and thanks to Miles Berkley, my predecessor as CEO of the EEAN CIC, for his immense contributions to the EEAN and to ecological action generally during his two years in office. His dedication to developing effective collaboration between all partners within the Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 campaign was exceptional and will have a lasting and deep impact.

Happy holidays!

Andrew Durling

Executive Director

20mph speed limit gets trial run on Polegate High Street

East Sussex County Council have consulted the public over plans to make Polegate High Street a 20mph speed limit.

East Sussex County Council have consulted the public over plans to make Polegate High Street a 20mph speed limit, which suggests the Council are using the road as trial to see whether a lower speed limit could make the county’s streets safer and cleaner.

The consultation closed on 26 November. Other suggested improvements for Polegate High Street include better pedestrian access and improved bus stop facilities.

The 20mph speed limit trend

There is a growing trend to make densely populated urban areas more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists. 

The Welsh government already have a head start. In Wales, the current Government is introducing a 20mph speed limit on certain roads across the country.  The change will be trialled in eight communities to gather data about best practice. If the trial is a success, the 20mph speed limit could become the standardised in Wales by 2023.

Why a 20mph speed limit?

The Daily Mail has reported that reducing speed limits from 30 to 20mph can reduce emissions from a typical car by 28%.

Scientists once thought driving at 20mph was less efficient and more polluting than travelling at 30mph.

However, these scientists based their findings on engines ‘cruising’ over a period of time. New research by Skyrad based on ‘stop/start’ traffic tests, suggests that one might find in a town centre that CO2 emissions were 26% lower at 20mph while NOx was 28% lower at 20mph.

This is great news for campaigners who believe urban speed limits keep pedestrians safe and reduce noise pollution.

Speed limits reduce carbon emissions

Skyrad’s graph shows that the mean CO2 produced is a minimum between 15 and 20mph

Researchers tracked the mean CO2 produced at various maximum speed limits for the average family car in an urban area. Finding 20mph was the most viable limit

According to the evidence, if more UK urban areas enforce a 20mph speed limit, carbon emissions will decrease.

Rob King, MBE and founder of ‘20’s Plenty for Us’, praised the research’s findings

He said ‘This research quantifies the effect and shows how reducing maximum speeds can have a significant effect on emissions.’

Speed limits improve air quality 

Skyrad’s second graph shows that a lower speed limit would also improve air quality by reducing the amount of NOx. A combustion engine produces NOx, a harmful pollutant, when it burns fuel.

They also looked at NOx, nitrogen dioxide and monoxide, produced at various speed limits

Speed Limits: The Transport Group view

1] The EEAN transport Group support this project in Polegate and are keen to see other similar projects in the Eastbourne. In response to the consultation, the EEAN Transport Group suggested further improvements to the plan.Install low cost ‘implied’ zebra crossings. These cost less than £1,000 each and do not include a Belisha Beacon, which can take the cost to around £30,000. In Greater Manchester, early trials show that drivers are more likely to give way to pedestrians when an ‘implied’ zebra crossing is in place. The implementation of the ‘implied’ zebra would give more priority to pedestrians, particularly children and older adults. An ‘implied’ zebra crossing would also improve mobility between transport hubs on the High Street.

2] Providing more prominent signage to encourage drivers to turn their engines off while stopped at the Polegate railway crossing.  This would improve air quality for pedestrians and residents. The signage should be extended along the road on both sides of the crossing so that more drivers are aware of the request to turn off their engines. In our experience of walking along the High Street when the crossing is closed, most drivers do not turn off their engines.

David Everson

EEAN Transport Group

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

Going Electric: new app could help drivers give up petrol for good

Drivers up and down the United Kingdom can explore making the switch to an electric vehicle this World EV day with a new government-backed app. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, set out plans to roll out the app, which is named EV8 Switch, on 9 September. As the UK prepares to host the COP26 climate summit this November, the Government is working with industry leaders to provide the tools and practical advice drivers need to go electric.

A free app called EV8 Switch – backed by £2.7 million of UK Space Agency funding – launched on 13 September. EV8 Switch calculates how much money a UK driver could save by switching to an electric vehicle compared to their current petrol or diesel model. In addition, the app will also estimate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that would be reduced if the driver changes to an electric vehicle.

Drivers can also see which electric vehicle would be most suitable for them based on their current vehicle and how switching to electric could fit in with their current lifestyle. Users of the app can also see how close their nearest charge points are, and which journeys can be completed without the need to recharge their vehicle en route.

The UK zero emission car market is growing; more models are coming onto the market and one in seven cars sold so far in 2021 were electric. Making the switch from petroleum to electric is not only an exercise in ecological carefulness. It’s also a chance to be a step ahead of the curve.

The Government is also helping drivers across the country with an extension to the £50 million government fund to install electric vehicle chargepoints. The move will see small businesses such as Beds& Breakfasts gain access to the Workplace Charging Scheme, supporting the UK tourism industry and improving access to rural areas. 

The new fund will also see those in leasehold and rented accommodation enjoy the benefits of the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. The transition could create 40,000 UK jobs by 2030,encouraging people to make the switch in areas where charging provision is currently limited and challenging to secure. ​ 

To learn more and to download EV8 Switch, visit the app’s official website.

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

Cycling in Eastbourne during COVID-19

Emergency protected cycle lane proposals: from the railway station to DGH via King’s Drive.

Emergency protected cycle lane proposal: from the railway station to DGH via King’s Drive

King’s Drive (and Lewes Road) is one of Eastbourne’s busiest arteries, linking the town centre and seafront with several large residential areas: Upperton, Ratton, Hampden Park, Willingdon and beyond to Polegate and Hailsham. It also connects to the hospital (DGH), East Sussex College, various schools, David Lloyd sports club and retail parks.

King’s Drive runs along the edge of flood meadows, it is essentially flat and it provides the quickest, most direct North-South route. Sadly, the good news for cyclists ends there. As anyone who has attempted to ride along King’s Drive knows, the sheer volume and speed of traffic feel uncomfortable and at times it’s downright dangerous. Data from Crashmap bears this out. Not surprisingly, few people attempt to use their bicycles here and most opt for the car, even for short trips.


Bespoke Cycle Group has long argued for a separate cycleway to be constructed along the meadow to the east of St Thomas A Becket school (see below) and behind Weavers Close. It would continue to the DGH roundabout and join up with the existing cycle path alongside Cross Levels Way.

Sustrans echoed this idea in its draft recommendations (310.2) to ESCC in 2017, but signs of progress have not been detected. In the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept in, forcing local authorities around the world to wake up to the importance of cycling and walking as genuine alternatives to cars and public transport in urban areas.

It is surely the time for ESCC to construct temporary protected cycle lanes here. Bespoke propose one-way 2m wide lanes (in line with the traffic) on each side of King’s Drive and Lewes Road, extending from the DGH roundabout to the junction of Tutt’s Barn Lane for southbound cyclists and from the junction with Upper Avenue to the DGH roundabout for northbound cyclists.

Here, a cycle lane could replace the grass verge, or take up part of the road next to it.

In this section of King’s Drive, temporary bollards could be placed on the road 2m from the kerb.

The same applies here, by St Thomas A Becket school, so this dad and his daughter wouldn’t need to be on the pavement.

Southbound cyclists could turn left into Tutt’s Barn Lane, then continue along the quiet Gorringe Road.

At the junction with Lewes Road, there could be a combined pedestrian and cycle crossing to Upper Avenue – ideally to the pavement on the north side (on the right of this picture).

This pavement could be widened, or space reclaimed from the road to accommodate a two-way cycle lane:

The grassy area could be narrowed to accommodate a two-way cycle lane.

There’s plenty of space on this corner of Upper Avenue:

A new crossing for pedestrians and cycles here on Upper Avenue, opposite St Mary’s House, would enable safe passage to and from St Leonard’s Road.

The quiet St Leonard’s Road probably wouldn’t need any cycle infrastructure.

Nor would St Ann’s Road, on the left in this photo.

St Ann’s Road leads to the station car park – for access to trains, the Enterprise Centre, town centre and seafront.

Robert McGowan

Transport Group, Bespoke

The bus is here,
but not quite yet!

Recently the Department of Transport has issued its vision for transport Decarbonising Transport report, which it hopes to achieve by 2050. One of the main threads of their vision is to reduce our dependence on petrol and diesel car.

Recently the Department of Transport has issued its vision for transport Decarbonising Transport report, which it hopes to achieve by 2050. One of the main threads of their vision is to reduce our dependence on petrol and diesel car.

The burning of petrol and diesel in cars produces carbon dioxide which goes into the atmosphere and significantly contributes to climate change. The gases emitted by these vehicles also produce pollutants damaging people’s health, causing breathing problems, skin reactions and having a particularly bad effect on people with respiratory problems. 

One way of achieving a reduction in these gases is to encourage the use of electric cars. But these are expensive to buy, need a new charging infrastructure and a lot of energy, which produces more pollution.

One of the government’s aims is to reduce the number of car trips that we all make. They hope to do this by:

  • Provide frequent and reliable public transport (buses) so that we don’t have to use our cars.
  • To get us to lead healthier life styles by walking and cycling rather than driving.

But how do you get people to abandon such a convenient form of transport as the car? This will require a lot of changes in our everyday life and our mentality.  EEAN is convinced that tackling transport pollution and achieving a culture change in societal attitudes to transport is one of the crucial elements in reducing the effects of climate change.

See the summary of the Decarbonising Transport report in our Library.

David Everson

Transport Group

Cleaner air and healthier food beyond the pandemic

The COVID19 pandemic is an unintentional real-time experiment in how our economy and society can cope with and adapt to a profound shock. There are already many lessons to learn from it about how to build a more resilient and sustainable economy in the future, one that also better protects people’s health and wellbeing.

Some of the environmental effects of the pandemic have been significant, such as a cleaner, more breathable air as a result of the collapse in traffic levels and a resurgence in wildlife and nature as a result of the lockdown of the entire communities.

The COVID19 pandemic is an unintentional real-time experiment in how our economy and society can cope with and adapt to a profound shock. There are already many lessons to learn from it about how to build a more resilient and sustainable economy in the future, one that also better protects people’s health and wellbeing.

clean air eastbourne

Some of the environmental effects of the pandemic have been significant, such as a cleaner, more breathable air as a result of the collapse in traffic levels and a resurgence in wildlife and nature as a result of the lockdown of the entire communities. The citizen science air quality monitoring project led by the volunteers of Clean Air Eastbourne has already recorded a 70% drop in particulate air pollution during March 2020 compared with March of 2019, confirming that air pollution can decrease rapidly in Eastbourne if road traffic levels drop far enough and stay reduced for long enough. 

This is leading to calls from across Eastbourne, mirrored across the rest of the country, for more safe cycle lanes and better walking infrastructure now, even if only on a temporary basis, so as to ensure that the much needed modal shift to active travel  –  a shift already accepted as necessary by Eastbourne Borough Council in its draft local plan  – can be accelerated during the pandemic, and sustained after it. The UK government is responding to these calls by introducing new statutory regulations authorising those local councils responsible for local highways to introduce such cycling and walking infrastructure and providing a £2 billion fund to facilitate their construction. 

The pandemic has also highlighted many of the issues around food supply and delivery in a crisis and the difficulties involved in ensuring that everybody has all the food they need, an issue that may get more urgent over the coming year given the acute shortage of foreign labour to help bring in the summer harvests. The Climate Adaptation and Food working Groups of the EEAN, in collaboration with the Eastbourne Food Partnership, organised a joint visit, just before the pandemic, to two ecological community farms at Arlington – Aweside Farm and Fanfield Farm – which are about to start providing fresh organic sustainably produced food for local delivery.

organic vegetables

More such local farms, together with the already existing local organic farms and horticultural nurseries, will surely be needed as the large commercial farms begin to struggle and the international food supply chains start to fracture during the upcoming global recession. According to Sustain, only 1-2% of all the food we consume comes from local food chains. So bringing local food producers and suppliers into a resilient local food network to provide local people with a diverse range of fresh, healthy local food is an essential part of any strategy to create a truly sustainable local food economy in the Eastbourne area, cutting down food miles, reducing food and plastic waste, reducing overdependence on fragile international food chains, and reducing carbon emissions through the sustainable care of soils practised by organic growers.

The pandemic may be a time of great tragedy and suffering, but it is also a time in which the positive changes previously thought too difficult to introduce are now becoming possible, helping to improve health and wellbeing in the long run. The EEAN aims to promote and facilitate those changes through collaboration across all sectors of our local community.

Andrew Durling

Climate Adaptation Group, EEAN Director

A waste of roof space?

Scorching through Google Maps’ 3D satellite function, Top Gun-style, the other day, I found myself bearing down on Hampden Park.

Scorching through Google Maps’ 3D satellite function, Top Gun-style, the other day, I found myself bearing down on Hampden Park. And saw familiar out-of-town places: Sainsbury’s, Halfords, B&Q, Dunelm Mill, King’s Church and Bannatynes – those temples to last-minute DIY missions or spiritual enlightenment – in a new light.

Viewed from above, their logos and functions fade and they take on the appearance of a great herd of pale grey hangars, jostling for position in the flatlands beside Cross Levels Way. The ambition of their construction – the sheer scale of the retail parks and factories, warehouses and health clubs is impressive. But is something missing – in Britain’s sunniest town at a time when scientists tell us we’re entering a full-blown climate breakdown? Could those great expanses of metal roofing and south-facing walls be smothered in solar panels?

A 2016 report for the BRE National Solar Centre seems to think so: “There is an estimated 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial roof space in the UK. If utilised this could provide approximately 50% of the UK’s electricity demand”.

Robert McGowan

Journalist, ECO Research Group