The proportion of residents of Rother who are over 65 years old stands at 33 per cent.
This is the third highest in the United Kingdom and is expected to rise to over 43 per cent by 2033.
That people are living longer is a cause for great celebration. It should also act as an immediate catalyst to build a local community, and a local economy, which will support people in their advanced age. Government grants to local authorities are likely to disappear meaning that our adult social care budget, which will need to increase as the local population lives longer, will need to be funded exclusively by local business and domestic rates. This is a challenge for us in Rother because we do not have big business operating in our area in the way that, say, Crawley has in West Sussex and we are going to need some of it to look after ourselves. In short, we need to bring in more local money via business rates in order to care for an increasingly ageing population.
With this issue uppermost in my mind, I was delighted to join the highways team from East Sussex County Council to view progress along the new link road between Bexhill and Hastings which is scheduled to open this year. This new highway between the towns will not only help ease traffic congestion, it should also provide an economic boost to the local economy by providing a location for up to 2,000 new houses and 3,000 new jobs on land adjoining the road. Glovers House, the first building on the new Bexhill Innovation Park is already near completion. Currently, business will not relocate to Rother, or expand, due to a lack of labour. People will not move here due to a lack of jobs. This link road, delivering both together, should break through this Catch 22 (albeit we also need to deliver more on the A21 and in high speed rail).
The link road itself is not far from completion. It is not just a concrete space for the exclusive use of traffic either. Adjoining the road on a higher ridge is a separate cycle and pedestrian highway. Horse riders will also have their own bridleway to use. A whole series of ponds and lagoons have been built and are already proving to be a haven for wildlife. A country park is planned. This whole project will allow residents to view, enjoy and traverse this beautiful piece of local ecology by car, bike, horse or on foot.
I recognise that some local residents are fearful of the impact that a new road, houses and jobs will bring and I understand these concerns. I do, however, hope that everyone will think of it as an opportunity for Rother to prosper as a local community and not only stand on our own feet but ensure that the most needed in our community have the care and resources they deserve over the next 20 years of change and beyond.