September has flown by and, as ever, it’s been a very busy one at County Hall. I’ve been out and about a lot this month seeing what’s happening and meeting people – something I particularly enjoy.
One visit was to Selsey Academy where there was a large fire on August 21. Much of the building was destroyed and, standing looking at the burning embers on that day, the question was how would children be provided with their education?
Our Fire and Rescue Service is integrated with the County Council so, throughout the whole emergency response phase to that incident – the putting out of the fire and making sure everyone was safe and that neighbouring buildings were protected - our fire officers were liaising with teams from our Education and Children’s Services departments. It didn’t matter that it was a Sunday, staff from those departments were busy working to support and help Selsey Academy and its sponsor TKAT in every way possible from the minute the call came through to them.
Together, a plan was co-ordinated. Temporary accommodation was organised to provide classrooms on site (rather than children having to travel to other bases) and an interim school site being prepared to provide accommodation from October.
We did not lead on this work. TKAT must be commended for its swift planning and co-ordination in the face of this huge fire. But we stepped in to provide support and, I know they will be the first to say, we were instrumental in helping to get everything pulled together and ready for children for the start of the new school term. The temporary school buildings, for example, were from the Bohunt Academy in Worthing because they had just become available and were quickly reallocated over to Selsey.
So, 24 days after I stood watching firefighters put out the blaze and the community in Selsey rally to do everything they could to help, I found myself back at the Academy.
I visited the school and met with the head teacher who showed me around. It was good to see youngsters in class and learning and one had the feeling that it was very much ‘business as usual’. Of course the area will have to be cleared and the buildings replaced but for the children, they will be attending classes in Selsey.
Another of my visits out and about took me to Crawley where work has just started on the town centre refurbishment of Queen’s Square. We have been working on this project for some time with Crawley Borough Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership, Coast to Capital. The contractors are now on site and work has started and I really believe this will be an asset to the town centre.
Another partnership project close to my heart has been the refurbishment of Montague Place in Worthing. It is a really important space that leads from the town centre to the seafront. Plans were put forward and consulted on for this joint project between Worthing Town Centre Initiative, Worthing Borough Council and West Sussex County Council and on Friday there was a celebration of the completed works. It was sunny Worthing at its very best and just demonstrated what an attractive open space it now is for people to walk through and enjoy.
There are ambitious plans for a phased refurbishment of much of Worthing Town Centre and we are currently awaiting the outcome of a bid for funds to progress these plans.
These are just a few of the very many examples that are happening here in West Sussex thanks to joint collaborative working.
Together we can achieve so much by pooling resources, talents and skills with our partners to help achieve the very best outcomes for our residents, whatever their ages.
This is very much the future and I am really pleased there are so many good examples of it already happening in West Sussex.