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Eastbourne tennis cancelled

Eastbourne tennis court

The Nature Valley International tennis tournament in Eastbourne has been cancelled due to the continued disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lawn Tennis Association has cancelled all grass court events including Wimbledon.

Farm shop makes a comeback

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

This farm shop has reopened after 6 years in order to meet demand.

But it's also a farm shop with a difference.

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University students let off third term halls fees

Phoenix Brewery halls of residence, Brighton

Students at the University of Brighton have been told they will not be liable for accommodation fees if they choose to leave at Easter or have already left the campus.

The university said some of the rooms are going to provide accommodation for NHS key workers, many of whom are graduates of the university.

The university said in a letter to students: "If you have already left halls but didn’t take your personal possessions with you, where required, we will be operating a pack and store service on your behalf. There will be no charge for this.

"This will mean that we can maximise the number of rooms that we are able to provide to the NHS."

Firms which ramp up prices should have 'financial help withheld'

Sarah Booker-Lewis

Local Democracy Reporter

A council leader has warned “unscrupulous businesses” that she will ask the government to withhold financial help if they profiteer during the coronavirus crisis.

The warning from Brighton and Hove City Council's Labour leader Nancy Platts came during a “virtual” council meeting held today.

Councillor Platts and two opposition councillors approved a number of emergency measures as senior executives shared details of the authority's rapidly changing financial situation.

The council has already received more than £8 million from the government – and could receive more than £100 million, yet still find itself struggling.

Councillor Platts said: “I have been saddened to hear a few stories of scammers and some unscrupulous businesses who have put up prices on goods in short supply, like hand gel. This is capitalism at its worst.

“I want to be quite clear – if anyone sends me evidence of any business in this city that has sought to increase its profits on scarce goods, I will be asking for financial support from the government to be withheld.”

Severe disruption: A27 East Sussex both ways

BBC News Travel

A27 East Sussex both ways severe disruption, between A259 and A22.

A27 East Sussex - A27 in Pevensey blocked and it's slow in both directions between Pevensey Roundabout and Golden Jubilee Roundabout, because of a police investigation.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Covid-19 'puts fire service under pressure'

Coronavirus is placing a strain on the fire service in East Sussex, with 58 staff off work either with symptoms or because they are self-isolating, the county's chief fire officer has said.

Dawn Whittaker is calling for coronavirus testing for emergency workers to help keep them at work.

She said the fire brigade is still able to respond to 999 calls as normal.

Youth hostel to be used for homeless with Covid-19 symptoms

Youth hostel in Brighton's Old Steine

Brighton and Hove City Council says it is working with the Youth Hostel Association and has secured its Old Steine property to help provide accommodation for rough sleepers in the city.

The building gives 51 spaces and will be used specifically for anyone who has been sleeping rough and has Covid-19 symptoms.

A council spokesman said: "Including the YHA, we’re aiming to secure a total of 219 units on top of the 106 previously acquired.

"Of those 106, we have housed 69 people who were sleeping rough, with the others occupied by homeless people who we needed to move on from shared emergency accommodation."

He said the council was working with the NHS and public health to provide support for those sleeping rough.

'Swift justice' promised for attacks on emergency workers

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Assaults on emergency service workers will not be tolerated, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner has warned.

Katy Bourne spoke out after three police officers investigating a report of criminal damage were spat at by a man who claimed to be infected with coronavirus.

Mrs Bourne said: “I’m appalled that the women and men on the frontline of this crisis are being threatened with the virus that they are working so hard every day to protect us against.

“In many ways this pandemic has already brought out the very best in our communities but where it brings out the worst... offenders will be swiftly brought to justice.”

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced last week that such behaviour could constitute common assault, and attacks on emergency workers specifically were punishable by up to two years in prison.

Max Hill QC, director of public prosecutions, said: “The CPS stands behind emergency and essential workers and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who threatens them as they go about their vital duties.”

Frontline ambulance staff sought amid coronavirus pandemic

An appeal has gone out for ex-frontline ambulance staff to come forward to help with the response to coronavirus.

South East Coast Ambulance Service, which covers Kent, Sussex, Surrey and parts of Hampshire, has made a Twitter appeal calling on ex-staff to come forward.

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Severe disruption: A26 East Sussex both ways

BBC News Travel

A26 East Sussex both ways severe disruption, between A272 London Road and Five Ash Down.

A26 East Sussex - A26 in Maresfield closed in both directions between Budletts roundabout and the Five Ash Down junction, because of chemical spillage.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Keeping communities supplied

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

This general store is delivering for other businesses too.

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Severe disruption: M23 West Sussex northbound

BBC News Travel

M23 West Sussex northbound severe disruption, from J9 for to M25.

M23 West Sussex - One lane closed on M23 northbound in Surrey from J9, Gatwick Airport to M25, because of a break down. Traffic is coping well. In the roadworks area.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe accident: M23 West Sussex southbound

BBC News Travel

M23 West Sussex southbound severe accident, at J10 for A264 Copthorne Way.

M23 West Sussex - One lane closed on M23 southbound at J10, A264 (Crawley), because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Council chief may get 'unprecedented' powers due to coronavirus

Huw Oxburgh

Local Democracy Reporter

A council chief executive could be given "unprecedented" powers to make decisions without first consulting elected politicians during the coronavirus crisis.

Becky Shaw will be given the authority to make decisions related to the response to the pandemic, if the proposals are agreed by East Sussex County Council's leader Keith Glazier on 2 April.

The evolving situation requires "decisions to be taken at short notice" and in some cases it may "not be possible or prudent" to wait for councillors to hold meetings and discuss the decisions, a report by the authority says.

It recommends that powers are delegated to Ms Shaw "to take any executive decision which she considers appropriate in response to the outbreak of Covid-19".

“It is recognised that this is a significant step and unprecedented," the report adds.

The milkman returns

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

This Kent dairy says it had 600 emails in a single day, as customers try to return to traditional doorstep deliveries.

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Retired police staff sought

Police in Surrey and Sussex are creating a database of retired staff who may wish to return for a temporary period during the coronavirus pandemic.

The forces are looking at contingencies in case their resources reduce or if they need additional specific skills and experience.

As well as retired police staff, they are also looking for members of the public who may have specific skills that would be of use.

Those interested are being asked to register online.

New contract for rail operator Southeastern

The Government has signed a new contract with Southeastern to ensure train services continue during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department for Transport said the new agreement will ensure jobs are protected in the "unprecedented circumstances" brought about by the pandemic.

And officials said it will help provide those who cannot work from home with the connections they need to get to.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “We are taking decisive action across the board to ensure vital rail services continue, allowing those people who cannot work at home to get to work - particularly our NHS, emergency services and other vital industries."

Pubs organising paid "lock-ins"

Police officer
Getty Images

Police in Crawley say they have received reports of local pubs organising paid “lock-ins” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Officers warned that licensing officers will be checking every pub in the area to ensure all of them are keeping within the guidelines.

Severe disruption: M23 West Sussex northbound

BBC News Travel

M23 West Sussex northbound severe disruption, from J9 for to M25 J7.

M23 West Sussex - One lane closed on M23 northbound in Surrey from J9, Gatwick Airport to M25 J7, because of a car that's broken down. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Twitter name change to discourage tourists

Visit Brighton, the official Brighton and Hove tourist board, has changed its name on Twitter to DoNotVisitBrighton #StayAtHome.

It comes after thousands of beachgoers defied the government's social distancing advice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stringent new rules on Monday meaning people should only leave their homes for limited purposes during the coronavirus pandemic.

They include being allowed to take daily exercise but the Coastguard said beaches should only be used by those who lived close to them.

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Free DAB radios for over 70s

DAB digital radio

Vulnerable people aged over 70 are to be offered free DAB digital radios as millions are forced to stay in their homes and isolate because of the coronavirus outbreak.

BBC local radio is teaming up with manufacturers, retailers and a loneliness charity in order to ensure as many people as possible have access to news, information and companionship.

It will be giving away DAB digital radios to people nominated by local radio listeners as part of the BBC’s Make A Difference campaign, which was launched in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

It is running across all 39 BBC local radio stations in England and is aimed at connecting communities.

From Monday, anyone can nominate someone for a free radio by completing an online application form at

Volunteers recruited to record 'life under lockdown'

Residents in Hastings are being asked to consider taking part in a project to record their experience of living through the coronavirus pandemic for future generations.

In a project launched today, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery is seeking volunteers willing to record their experiences of living under lockdown and how their lives have changed as a result of the virus.

Participants would be asked to keep a daily journal, charting the day-to-day experiences and the impact of the virus on ordinary life.

Kim Forward, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “Coronavirus has transformed every part of our lives in just a few weeks.

“We are experiencing restrictions on our daily lives that have never happened at any point in our country’s history before.

“As this is such an important point in our history, we believe it’s essential for the museum to start recording what’s happening.

“We’re recruiting volunteers to keep a journal about their experience of living through the coronavirus crisis.”

Centre set up to distribute food supplies

Distribution centre
Eastbourne Borough Council

Eastbourne Borough Council has set up a distribution centre to supply food parcels to 2,000 vulnerable residents in the seaside resort.

Sourcing food supplies that would have normally been used by now-closed hotels and restaurants, the food parcels include items such as pasta, baked beans and tea bags.

Council leader David Tutt said “I am incredibly proud of the way council employees are responding to this crisis and putting the interests of our residents first and foremost."

School makes visors for coronavirus assessments

Tonbridge School visor
Tonbridge School

A Kent school is making visors to protect NHS staff as they carry out assessments of those presenting with symptoms of coronavirus.

The Design Technology department of Tonbridge School is producing the visors for NHS staff who will be assessing patients at a new assessment centre in the school's sports centre car park.

The assessment centre, due to open next week, will only see people who have been advised to attend after callng 111.

Will Biddle, a DT teacher at the school, says he will be making the designs available to other schools so they can also produce the disposable visors for the health service.

The visors are being made by pupils and staff at the school at the rate of about 40 per day.

The Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells says it is providing goggles from the science department to local medical centres to help protect doctors and nurses.

One of the school's minibuses is to be used as a hospital taxi.

The South East joins Clap for Carers tribute

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

At 2000 GMT last night, people came out of their houses and opened their windows to applaud NHS staff tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

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Clap for our Carers

Set your alarms for 20:00 this evening when a big round of applause is planned to thank NHS staff for working tirelessly during the coronavirus outbreak.

People at attractions across the South East, including the i360 tower in Brighton, will be among those taking part in the applause.

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Free parking for health and care workers and volunteers

Parking sign
Getty Images

Parking charges on roads across East Sussex have been suspended for those delivering essential health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic, the county council has announced.

Health workers, social care workers and official NHS volunteers will be able to park for free in on-street bays, a council spokesman said.

Workers parking for free will need to display a copy of their ID on their dashboard while those volunteering for the NHS are being asked show evidence they are official volunteers.

Karl Taylor, assistant director of operations at East Sussex County Council, said: “We appreciate the vital work NHS staff, social care workers and NHS volunteers are doing at this time, and want to make it as easy as possible for them to care and support our residents.”

New chief constable will need to "hit the ground running"

Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne
Katy Bourne

The new chief constable of Sussex Police will have to "hit the ground running" to deal with social tensions brought about by coronavirus.

This was the message from Katy Bourne, Sussex police and crime commissioner, who has put out a national call for a successor to Giles York, who steps down in the summer.

Mrs Bourne said: “The new chief constable will be arriving just after the anticipated peak of the coronavirus infection which may undoubtedly bring social tensions and a rise in some crime types.

“So she or he will have to hit the ground running and get a grip straight away.”

Mr York has led the force for six years, during a time of change and stretched resources.

Mrs Bourne said: “Now we find ourselves in a global fight against Covid-19, police forces like Sussex are part of the front-line so I am looking for a chief constable who can continue to lead Sussex Police through unprecedented times.”

As well as being able to earn the confidence of the public and galvanise staff and officers during the pandemic, the new chief constable will be expected to make the county "a hostile environment for criminals", she added.

NHS nurse stranded in Cambodia returns to UK

NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter
PA Media
NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter

An NHS nurse who had been stranded in Cambodia and called on Boris Johnson to help get her home has landed back in the UK.

Cheryl Baxter said she “had a few tears” when she arrived back at her front door in St Mary’s Bay in Kent on Thursday morning after her ordeal in South East Asia.

Mrs Baxter works in Hastings where she is head of the Conquest Hospital’s Covid-19 ward, and is looking forward to rejoining her colleagues soon.

Speaking after she and her husband Ivon arrived home, she said the whole experience was a “mental roller coaster”.

Mrs Baxter, 52, and her husband had been travelling before the UK pandemic commenced and were due to fly home on March 22 via Bangkok.

But as the coronavirus crisis intensified, they had huge trouble securing the right medical certificates to fly home, with different agencies demanding different papers.

She said: “My worst fear was that Bangkok would shut down, then we would be stuck for how long.

“My other fear was either of us would become unwell out there.”

NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter
PA Media
Mrs Baxter with her boarding passes

Free parking for medics, social workers and volunteers

People helping to tackle the coronavirus pandemic can park for free in one of Crawley's car parks.

NHS staff, volunteers and social care staff will not be charged at Orchard Street multi-storey, which is less than five minutes from Crawley Hospital, for the foreseeable future.

To sign up for free parking, staff and volunteers should email from their work email address with their name, vehicle registration number, telephone number, and the organisation they work for.

More changes to rail timetables

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

Further changes to the region's rail services will come into effect from Monday, including the suspension of the Gatwick Express until further notice.

Operator Govia Thameslink says there's been a significant fall in passenger numbers, with the airport now served only by regular Southern and Thameslink services.

Gatwick Express train at airport
The Gatwick Express service is suspended until further notice

The company says this will release staff to help keep other essential rail services running.

Passengers are being asked to travel only if their journey is essential, and to check the new timetables before they leave.

Extra bus services for key workers

Enhanced bus services are being introduced in parts of East Sussex to enable key workers to get to work at hospital.

Brighton & Hove Buses will operate an enhanced Sunday service between 30 March and 4 April, with earlier journeys on most routes.

The company says the move is to enable staff to get more easily to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

It added early morning journeys after NHS staff relayed their needs.

Coronavirus: Popular science centre closes

The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux
The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux

The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux near Eastbourne has announced it has closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The interactive domed science centre said in a message on its website that it did not know when it will reopen.

It said: “This decision was made in the light of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recent UK government advice, which our charity has been carefully monitoring and following.

“The safety and well-being of our visitors, staff and volunteers is our absolute priority during this difficult time.”

People who have booked group visits and upcoming events will be contacted when the centre returns to work.

MP calls for government to be held to account "remotely"

Amanda Akass

Political Editor, BBC South East Today

MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle
PA Media
MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle

In his first appearance in the House of Commons since returning from coronavirus isolation, Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said closing down parliament early without a means of carrying out debates online is "foolhardy".

Hove's Peter Kyle also told MPs he is "extremely concerned" about the implications of Parliament being closed down early.

He said people would appreciate the irony that builders are continuing to work with the sanction of government but that the government is shutting parliament and "stopping our ability to scrutinise in the normal way".

He says normally in times of crisis parliament would be recalled. He is calling for "extraordinary" new measures to be brought in so "we can remotely hold the government to account".

In response the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said parliament is not being closed down, the date of return is set and that hasn't changed.

He claims the business scheduled for the final days is not pressing so it's reasonable to suspend it.

On Monday, for example, they were planning on discussing relief of rates on public toilets. He says it was therefore reasonable to suspend parliament as this business is not essential.