That was the decade that was: Sussex 2010-2019

PUBLISHED: 06:10 07 January 2020

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, visit Chichester on October 3, 2018

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, visit Chichester on October 3, 2018

Credit: Paul Marriott / Alamy Stock Photo

Looking back on 10 years of Sussex history, from environmental protests to our new Duke and Duchess

Caroline LucasCaroline Lucas


Caroline Lucas 
first Green MP

In 2010 Brighton Pavilion elected UK Parliament's first Green MP, Caroline Lucas - who was also leader of the Green Party at the time.

She stood down as party leader in 2012 to devote more time to her parliamentary duties and focus on an ultimately successful campaign to be re-elected as an MP. She returned as party leader from September 2016 to September 2018, sharing the post with Jonathan Bartley.

South Downs National ParkSouth Downs National Park

We interviewed Ms Lucas in 2016, when she said: "[Brighton] suffers from huge inequality and a very visible homeless crisis. Much of my work in Parliament is about opposing legislation which makes matters worse.

"My vision is for all the good things here to be more accessible to everybody. Despite the government cuts, we need to do as much as we can to make the city more inclusive."


South Downs 
National Park

Football fans gather as Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. are honoured with a 90-minute seafront parade in Brighton,  to celebrate their promotion into the Premier LeagueFootball fans gather as Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. are honoured with a 90-minute seafront parade in Brighton, to celebrate their promotion into the Premier League

After a campaign lasting more than 60 years, the South Downs was finally granted national park status in 2010 - the last of the original 12 recommended for designation in the 1940s. Margaret Paren is chair of the South Downs National Park Authority and in a 2010 interview with Sussex Life she spoke of the need for "added value", saying: "I want it to be an exemplar of a 21st century national park where people come to learn."

The South Downs National Park Authority recently launched its 'Trees for the Downs' project with the aim of restoring trees that have been lost due to pests and diseases, including Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease.

The South Downs National Park Trust, the official charity for the national park, is now aiming to raise £61,500 to plant the trees. The campaign will aim to restore landmark trees that have been lost at community spaces and along roads or popular walking routes.


the seagulls take flight

When Brighton and Hove Albion moved into the American Express Community Stadium at Falmer in 2011 it signalled the beginning of a resurgence. The £66m stadium represented a new spiritual home after years spent in the wilderness at their temporary base in Withdean. The move coincided with their long-sought ascension to the Championship at the beginning of the 2012 season.

It was the start of a heady decade for Albion fans, the highlight being their 2017 promotion to the Premier League under the guidance of Chris Hughton. In the 2018 FA Cup, Brighton reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1983, losing 1-0 to Manchester City. They have continued to go from strength to strength under the management of Graham Potter, who recently signed a new contract. The women's team is currently competing in the Women's Super League.


Jerwood Gallery

Despite national belt-tightening leading to cuts in arts funding, it was a good decade for culture in Sussex. Hastings gained a brand new gallery while much-loved Eastbourne institution Towner Art Gallery settled into its new home.

Jerwood Gallery opened in Hastings in 2012 amid some controversy: some locals believed that the site on the Stade, surrounded by net huts and fishing boats, was the wrong place. Since then the gallery has become an established attraction of the Old Town, hailed by Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney as "a cornerstone of the borough's cultural regeneration programme". But more drama was to come in 2019 when a dispute between the gallery management and the Jerwood Foundation led to the foundation withdrawing funding and 300 artworks. The gallery has since rebranded as 
Hastings Contemporary.


The Battle of Balcombe

Having been granted permission to start exploratory drilling for oil, but not hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at Balcombe's Lower Stumble Farm on 25 July, Lichfield-based oil and gas firm Cuadrilla immediately commenced operations. A group of around 50 environmentalists wasted no time in attempting to block Cuadrilla's trucks from entering Lower Stumble, and subsequently several arrests were made. To some it appeared as if this would be another futile attempt by 'eco-warriors' to prevent fossil fuel development. But as coverage of the protests grew, an unexpected thing happened. Dozens of villagers unhappy with the prospect of fracking on their doorstep forged an unlikely alliance with the environmentalists and joined in with the protests. The media were quick to recognise the protesters were not merely the usual suspects, and regional and national television and newspapers carried pictures of local children enjoying the summer holidays by protesting against oil drilling in their village. The protests led directly to a debate in the House of Lords on 30 July.

On 19 August 2013, Green MP Caroline Lucas was arrested at a non-violent protest against Cuadrilla's fracking operations. 
She was subsequently charged with obstructing a public highway but was found not guilty on 17 April 2014 at Brighton Magistrates' Court.

In November 2019 the government halted fracking in England with immediate effect - a major victory for environmentalists and activists.


Shoreham Air Disaster

The community and grieving families still bear the scars of the tragedy of 22 August 2015. Eleven men died when a Hawker Hunter jet exploded in a fireball on the A27. Pilot Andy Hill was acquitted of manslaughter by gross negligence at the Old Bailey in March 2019.

November 2019 saw the completion of a memorial on the banks of the River Adur by Portslade-based artists Jane Fordham and David Parfitt. The sculpture features 11 personalised arches and a bench where visitors can sit, reflect and pay their respects. Solar-powered illuminations act as a focal point on the opposite bank.

Maurice Rex Abrahams, 76, of Brighton, Dylan Archer, 42, of Brighton, Anthony David Brightwell, 53, of Hove, Matthew Grimstone, 23, of Brighton, Matthew Wesley Jones, 24, of Littlehampton, James Graham Mallinson, 72, of Newick, Daniele Gaetano Polito, 23, of Goring by Sea, Mark Alexander Reeves, 53, of Seaford, Jacob Henry Schilt, 23, of Brighton, Richard Jonathan Smith, 26, of Hove, Mark James Trussler, 54, of Worthing.


British Airways i360

When the West Pier opened in 1866 it was sold as a chance to walk on water.

Exactly 150 years later, in August 2016, the British Airways i360 opened, offering the opportunity to walk on air. From a height of 138m visitors could now enjoy an unbroken view across Brighton, the South Downs and on a clear day as far as Beachy Head and the Isle of Wight.

The steel tower, designed by Marks Barfield Architects, was made in the Netherlands and the glass came from Italy. The structure was awarded a Guinness World Record for the world's most slender tower at just 3.9m.

The project launched in 2006 and work began in 2014, signalling a major redevelopment of Brighton's seafront and an end to long-running debates about what should be done to rehabilitate the former site of the West Pier.


The ballad of Hastings Pier

In October 2010, Hastings Pier was largely destroyed by fire in a suspected case of arson. The pier was subject to a compulsory purchase order in 2012 by the council and it reopened in 2016, after a £14.2m redevelopment. Visitors were able to walk around the entire pier for the first time in a decade, as the BBC reported at the time.

At the time of its reopening the pier was run by the Hastings Pier Charity with 3,000 shareholders who paid £100 a share. However after it went into administration, businessman Sheikh Abid Gulzar - who also owns Eastbourne Pier - bought the pier in 2018 for £50,000.

The pier was closed for repairs from December 2018 until April 2019.


Southern rail crisis

Commuters suffered months of misery when a dispute over staffing levels plunged Southern Rail into total chaos. Local and national media abounded with tales of collateral damage due to late or cancelled services: jobs lost; the loss of tourist revenue; house sales falling through. The Guardian reported that Brighton and Hove Albion FC said it had lost £300,000 in 2016 alone. Labour MP Peter Kyle said at the time: "This is having an unacceptable, soul-destroying impact. Let alone damaging the economy of the south east." Transport secretary Chris Grayling came in for heavy criticism over the saga.

At the heart of the story was the dispute between the RMT and 
Southern over the role of guards on trains - which was still the subject of strike action in 2019, marking three years of industrial action.


Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Two billion people watched the wedding of Prince Harry and US former actor Meghan Markle - and the news that they would take on the Duchy of Sussex meant that our part of the world hit headlines all over the world. Speaking to Sussex Life at the time, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Peter Field said: "I don't think there is anyone in the US who doesn't know that Sussex exists. That can only be beneficial to the county." His West Sussex counterpart Susan Pyper added: "It will take an awfully long time to just scratch the surface of both counties. There is so much diversity… we know what their interests are - we want to broaden their interests and get them all over Sussex in the next few years."

The royal couple made their first visit in October 2018, beginning in Chichester where they met crowds and visited the county's copy of the American Declaration of Independence at Edes House. In East Sussex they visited Brighton Royal Pavilion and the city's Survivor's Network.

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