TO WOODINGDEAN last Friday for my fourth leader’s surgery and walkabout following previous sessions in Queen’s Park, Hangleton and central Brighton, writes Councillor Bella Sankey. This time I was accompanied by our excellent ward councillors Jacob Allen and Jacqui Simon, both Woodingdean locals who have been working hard on behalf of residents since winning their seats last May.

I believe it’s crucial that I, along with all our Labour group councillors and senior management at the council, get out and about regularly, visiting places across the city and speaking to people about their concerns and hearing feedback. It’s only by seeing and hearing feedback that we can stay grounded in the experiences of our residents and ensure we are working to fix what needs fixing. If you’ve got an idea for where I can host my next surgeries and walkabouts please get in touch.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Woodingdean and last Friday was no different, clear blue skies meant the bus journey up the hill with the views over the Downs and down to the sea was breathtaking. My walkabout took in the Downs Hotel junction and issues raised by residents about the timing of traffic light signals and the build-up of traffic, especially heading towards Brighton. I heard concerns about the lack of availability of parking by the parade of shops and the perceived lack of enforcement. All these issues will be taken away and raised with officers. On our tour we also took in Woodingdean Library and the lovely exhibition put on display by the Woodingdean Wilderness Group (WWG).

The group – a resident-led community conservation group - has overseen the rewilding of Warren Road wildflower meadow, the largest road verge in Brighton and Hove, following a pause on mowing in spring and summer last year. WWG recorded a stunning 102 species of wildflowers and meadow grasses and an abundance of butterfly and bee species. Paths were mown through the meadow last July to allow easier access and many residents were reported to make use of it and feedback WWG has gathered from residents has been very positive.

Before starting the surgery, we took in the world’s deepest hand-dug well, 390 metres in length, which is located outside the Nuffield Hospital, dug to provide water for the workhouse on the old Brighton General Hospital site. The site needs some TLC and a plaque to showcase the story of this Brighton and Hove landmark.

My surgery, kindly hosted by the Parish Church of the Holy Cross, was on a wide mix of issues. From positive feedback for the council’s response to a noise complaint concerning a local Airbnb to queries about council tax banding, and how we can best raise awareness and support residents with aphasia.

Aphasia is a communication disability which occurs when the communication centres of the brain are damaged. It is usually caused by a stroke, brain haemorrhage, head injury or a brain tumour. Aphasia makes it difficult to read, write or speak. It affects people differently and affects up to 350, 000 people in the UK but is still relatively little known and understood. I’m now pleased to know more about it and about the local support group Say Aphasia which meets in Hove and Woodingdean. I fully intend to attend one in the next few months so I can meet others with the condition and better understand the challenges they face.

I was moved by a session with a resident with MS who has a private prescription for cannabis but who struggles to be able to take the prescription in public for pain relief, due to a lack of knowledge around medical prescriptions and assumptions that are often made. This is something we are going to look into – it’s crucial that those with disabilities are able to take their prescriptions in a timely manner and be confident that their rights will be respected. I was also moved by a discussion concerning a young trans person whose family members wanted to let us know that the support they have received from schools in Brighton has been superb. They wanted to thank the council for our commitment to supporting inclusive education that promotes the individual dignity and needs of all of our young people in the city.

I know Jacob and Jacqui are ambitious for Woodingdean. From the new bus route they are pushing for to connect Woodingdean directly with Lewes, to celebrating the interesting heritage of the village, to the action they take getting road signs repainted, to supporting residents with any issue that arises – they are making their mark as the first Labour city councillors for Woodingdean.

Bella Sankey is the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council