Connectivity is at the heart of creating a successful economically viable and sustainable place

Chris Founds, CJ Founds Associates


A multi-million-pound investment has put Mid Sussex at the pioneering edge of delivering ground-breaking high quality digital infrastructure to enable a potential innovation hub in the south of England, that will rival the offer from the very best cities of the north.

Part of the investment is a fibre spine with gigabit capability which will connect the region's business hubs, including the Science and Technology Park at Burgess Hill, as well as residents and key places, to the commercial hubs of London, Brighton and Gatwick, the region's universities and then directly to the global network via sub-sea cables from Brighton.

Chris Founds of CJ Founds Associates has led on the delivery and implementation of the Local Full Fibre Network Programme which has involved providing Gigabit capable connections for more than 5,000 premises, working closely with Homes England , on the Northern Arc Development and building over 80km of new fibre infrastructure spine between Brighton and Gatwick Airport, along the "Route23" corridor.

"Historically, the towns of Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath were the connected hubs between Brighton and London thanks to their mainline stations and that is what grew the towns into economic successes.

What we are doing now is adding gigabit capable connectivity through full fibre to that infrastructure to bring that connectivity right up to date, putting Mid Sussex as the connected hub at the heart of the south's innovation clusters, enabling the creation of industry eco-systems.

One of the top three reasons businesses choose an area for is connectivity – that's why we put the focus here. The fibre spine is a new way of achieving that same goal which created the towns' original economic successes and supported both corporate and neighbourhood aspirations.

From a technical perspective, it will mean Mid Sussex can compete as a place to build supply chains and digital and creative industry eco-systems with major cities, as there are few other places that have the same spine network – I can think of Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Tyneside and others, but they are usually connecting greater city areas - few will have that direct connection both to London and the world via sub-sea cables.

But we must remember that it is not connectivity alone which creates a economically viable, successful place. While it is in the top three reasons businesses choose areas, they also choose them for a host of other benefits – they look for places with talent to recruit, affordable homes for their staff, leisure facilities and access to open space for well-being, attractiveness, etc. We need a place that caters for all.

Mid Sussex has all of those, supported by a passionate and determined local authority in Mid Sussex District Council that is focused on making it all work, getting funding to kick start regeneration and govern interventions.

And this is all being put into practice in Burgess Hill, where we can put together a package of measures to enable the district to be innovative and bring in economic growth, wellbeing and value for residents, businesses and stakeholders.

Based on the 20-minute neighbourhood theory, this is a long-term approach that, supported by the opportunity to create a world-leading science park, will bring about a reinvigorated town centre offering a retail mix, high-skilled jobs, affordable homes and most importantly, a community.

Acting as a gateway to the wider county, the district will facilitate wellbeing and be an interesting and exciting place to live and work.

Fibre connectivity is a USP we have here in Mid Sussex, and along with the other benefits outlined above, that we can offer to businesses and residents alike, there is a real appeal to locate right here and benefit from all the advantages of great connectivity mixed with a fantastic quality of life."

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