CREATING thriving urban centres was the subject of a debate held in Bognor Regis.
Coast to Capital local enterprise partnership staged its annual stakeholder update last week on the town’s campus of the University of Chichester.
The organisation is set to negotiate a local industrial strategy with the government in the coming months to prioritise policy and investment in the area along the West Sussex coast and up to Gatwick Airport.
At the event, held in the campus’ tech park partly funded by Coast to Capital, the audience heard it would work closely with local businesses, local authorities and industry sector experts to refine the plans for future development.
A number of principles were set out for delivering strong urban centres, including great civic governance, wide public support and a clear vision.
The priorities identified in the Gatwick 360 strategic plan form the basis of what will be agreed with the government this year. They include opportunities to create skills for the future, pioneer innovation and promoting transport mobility.
University of Chichester vice-chancellor Professor Jane Longmore has specialised in urban history during her academic career and has a particular interest in the continuous renewal of urban communities.
She said: “Without doubt, our high streets have suffered over the last few years and this is of considerable concern to our region’s economy. High streets and shopping centres across the region and beyond are now missing some of the big name brands and shops that were a mainstay for decades.
“The university is working closely with Coast to Capital and other organisations to provide the expertise and business acumen necessary to stay ahead of the national trend.
“The aim is to ensure we regenerate our high streets into areas that attract residents, shoppers, and workers which work as vibrant centres of the community.”
Jake Perry, the government’s minister for local growth, said: “I’m impressed by the work Coast to Capital has done to produce its strategic economic plan, Gatwick 360, and its co-operation with local partners and the government to develop a local industrial strategy.”
The tech park was a great example of Coast to Capital investing in the science skills needed to underpin economic growth, he added.