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Brighton beach 'quiet' as people stay at home

Tanya Gupta

BBC News

Brighton beach has stayed quiet as people heed government advice on stemming coronavirus transmission, Sussex Police have said.

Brighton and Hove City Council had to put out an alert yesterday, warning too many people had gathered on the seafront to meet friends, making social distancing "impossible".

But this afternoon Sussex Police tweeted saying people were following advice and urged them to "keep it that way".

A forecast of warm weather had led authorities across the country to warn people to stay away from coastal areas, national parks and other visitor destinations.

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'Too many people' on Brighton seafront

Tanya Gupta

Social distancing has become "impossible" on Brighton seafront because of the number of people gathering there, the council has said.

Brighton & Hove City Council tweeted: "Too many people are using the seafront to meet up with friends.

"We know it's hard being inside and not seeing friends and family but..."

A forecast of warm weather had led authorities across the country to warn people to stay away from coastal areas, national parks and other visitor destinations.

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Parking charge increases delayed in East Sussex

The introduction of increased parking charges across East Sussex has been delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The cost of on-street parking and permits was due to rise on 27 April for the first time in a decade.

But concerns about the impact of coronavirus on communities in the county prompted East Sussex County Council to defer the increases until 1 July.

Following a meeting today, councillor Claire Dowling said: “These are extremely difficult times for our communities, and we are all feeling the strain of the ongoing restrictions.

“We want to do everything we possibly can to ensure we are supporting our communities and not adding to the pressure already being experienced by businesses and residents.

"By deferring the introduction of parking charge changes, I hope we can ease some of the burden."

Concerns over how some rough sleepers are adapting to new homes

Sarah Booker-Lewis

Local Democracy Reporter

Some rough sleepers are said to be struggling to settle into new accommodation and follow social distancing rules.

Brighton and Hove City Council said that it was moving people off the streets as quickly as possible.

This week it took over the Youth Hostels Associations (YHA) building in Old Steine.

However, workers at Sussex Homeless Support, a community interest company (CIC), said that they were working to find ways to keep people occupied.

They said that those they were helping would usually have companionship on the streets or through day centres and other services currently closed because of the coronavirus crisis.

The CIC’s team is trying to find radios, books and other items to keep people occupied as well as running its street kitchen.

Jim Deans, who manages Sussex Homeless Support, said: “All the day centres have now closed. There is no food support set up in the city for homeless.

“The council is getting rough sleepers into accommodation but there is no support. The rooms are bare. They are coming straight out and joining groups just like before.

“The rooms have no soap, towels, bedding or ways to cook. They have a microwave but no food. That’s where we are.

“We have continued with street support, including a street kitchen and three soup runs."

The council said: “The government asked us to find accommodation at very short notice for all rough sleepers for their own health and safety due to the coronavirus crisis and we have done so.

“We are using a variety of accommodation, including existing supported housing and hotels.

“We are now delivering hot meals to those former rough sleepers most in need and are working on getting breakfast and lunches and personal items for everyone unable to access these themselves.

“We very much welcome Galvanise Brighton and Hove’s work sourcing old Kindles, game devices, etc, to be shared with people who are self-isolating to relieve the boredom and loneliness this can cause. Their website is

“Overall, our rough sleepers have been pleased to be offered accommodation, and we’re really sad that some have struggled to adapt to their new circumstances and new accommodation.

“We recognise that for those with personal needs, such as mental health and substance use misuse issues, it is a particularly difficult time."

Adoration for 999 teams

There's been an outpouring of public support for emergency service teams up and down the country since coronavirus broke out.

In Sussex, officers who were dealing with a road crash were moved to find a drawing of a rainbow on their "slow" sign. Scrawled on it was the message: "Your the best".

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Top council officer given 'unprecedented' decision-making powers

Huw Oxburgh

Local Democracy Reporter

The leading officer at East Sussex County Council has been given “unprecedented” decision-making powers on a temporary basis.

At a virtual meeting held today, council leader Keith Glazier agreed for chief executive Becky Shaw to be given authority to make decisions, which are deemed “appropriate in response to Covid-19 to help safeguard the residents or East Sussex”.

Before making his decision, councillor Glazier heard that such decisions would only be taken when “time was of the essence” and the matter was not already covered by current delegated powers.

The powers will be reviewed in October, or sooner, to take account of future developments.

Station ticket offices close

Rail operator Southeastern says it is closing ticket offices at about 60 stations temporarily as fewer of us are using train services.

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£100m emergency package agreed to help aid people and firms

Sarah Booker-Lewis

Local Democracy Reporter

A £100 million emergency financial package has been agreed by senior councillors to support individuals, businesses and other organisations across Brighton and Hove through the coronavirus crisis.

The cost is likely to rise but officials and councillors said that they would do everything that they could, and try to recoup as much as possible form the government.

Brighton and Hove City Council has already received £8 million to help with extra adult social care costs.

Some of the money will be used to help ease bed blocking so that hospital patients needing community care or nursing home places can be discharged more quickly.

And some will be spent putting up rough sleepers in places like the YHA in Brighton and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or hotels that would otherwise be closed during the lockdown.

A report to councillors said: “Grants to businesses will see the council receiving £82.8 million in early April that will flow out during April.”

Labour council leader Nancy Platts thanked council staff for working “flat out and around the clock to deliver vital services to our residents in difficult circumstances”.

Call for Clap for Carers to recognise other key workers

Clap for key workers

Those taking part in the second Clap for Carers later are being asked to extend their support to other key workers, including supermarket workers, warehouse staff and delivery drivers.

Last Thursday, households across the UK stood on their doorsteps and balconies and applauded the efforts of the NHS and care workers in treating those affected by Covid-19.

The second display of support will take place at 20:00 BST.

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.”

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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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.

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."

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

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

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.

NHS staff offered free Albion tickets when football season resumes

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

NHS staff are to be offered free tickets to Brighton and Hove Albion matches when professional football resumes.

The club says it will reserve at least 1,000 tickets for health workers and their families, either at a single match or spread across several fixtures.

The Amex Stadium
Getty Images
NHS workers will attend the Amex stadium for free when football resumes

The club is calling on other sides in the Premier League, English Football League and Scottish and Northern Ireland leagues to make similar gestures.

AFC Bournemouth has already said it will.

We fully appreciate football is the last thing on anyone’s minds at this moment, but we feel this is a small way in which we can show our gratitude for those NHS staff on the frontline who are fighting the battle on behalf of all of us and give them something to look forward to."

Paul BarberBrighton and Hove Albion chief executive

All football has been suspended until at least 30 April, with the Football Association saying the season could be extended "indefinitely"

Brighton are launching their telephone campaign on Thursday

Brighton are launching a telephone campaign to check in on elderly fans who are self-isolating because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fruit and veg growers call for workers to 'feed the nation'

Fruit picking
PA Media

UK growers have launched a recruitment drive, calling for a modern-day "land army" to prevent millions of tonnes of fruit and veg going to waste.

Farmers need 70,000 workers to cover the jobs usually carried out by seasonal migrants, according to the British Growers' Association.

The key workers will still adhere to social distancing rules in the fields.

The National Farmer's Union (NFU) said temporary workers would "contribute to the health of the nation".

Travel and movement restrictions caused by the pandemic have left a "serious labour shortage" as the picking season starts.

Adverts appearing in newspapers and across social media will use the slogan "Feed Our Nation" from Tuesday.

Cambridgeshire-based grower, G's, which produces celery and lettuce for major retailers, is offering £400 a week to temporary workers.

The firm said it had "more than 2,500 vacancies across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Sussex and the West Midlands".

Find out the latest rail travel advice

Many rail operators are running pared back services to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, including Southeastern - which operates in London, East Sussex and Kent.

To find out more, click on the link below...

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