Pine Grove plan wanted in Crowborough

An artist's impression of a 'local market' inside Pine Grove, Crowborough
An artist's impression of a 'local market' inside Pine Grove, Crowborough

Crowborough residents are showing remarkable support for plans to transform the former Wealden District Council offices at Pine Grove into an Enterprise Hub with a mix of business, community space and the existing library.

In a survey organised by Crowborough Community Association (CCA) as part of the consultation process in a bid to secure Pine Grove for the town, nearly 98 per cent of respondents were either ‘in favour’ or ‘very much in favour’ of developing the site as a business enterprise hub.

Only two of nearly 370 respondents came out strongly against the proposal and only six were neither for or against.

The CCA believes up to 150 jobs will be secured in Crowborough if it can arrange funding to buy Pine Grove.

CCA director Cllr David Larkin said: “Because of the planning restrictions placed on development in Crowborough by its proximity to Ashdown Forest, Pine Grove represents virtually the only available employment land left in the town. CCA has set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) to drive the bid forward. It would be a great pity if this site were to be sold off for some other purpose.”

The survey also sought to secure local feeling about other important issues on the land surrounding the Pine Grove site. Asked whether some of the car parking around the site and Crowborough Community Centre should be retained in any development plan, an overwhelming 86 per cent declared themselves to be ‘very much in favour’. Similarly, there was widespread support for Bluebell Wood (behind the town’s main car park) which 94 per cent of respondents said should be retained and enhanced in any plan.

The CCA is currently drawing up plans and seeking funding for a full feasibility study and simultaneously sourcing grant aid and professional partners to deliver its vision for Pine Grove and manage the Enterprise Hub once the building has been acquired and modernised. In June, directors of the CIC will meet Wealden District Council for formal discussions.

Funding is being sought through Locality and The SIB Group (Social Investment Business Group.) Locality is a network of more than 700 community-led organisations and 200 associate partners.

The SIB Group, established 10 years ago, is one of the UK’s largest social investors, having made over 1,300 investments in civil society organisations ranging from under £5,000 to almost £7 million. SIB manages Community Assets and Services Grants on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government in partnership with Locality.