The first steps are being taken to create a community hub at Pine Grove in Crowborough.
And speaking at Wealden District Council cabinet meeting, Cllr Roy Galley gave a guarded welcome to action taken by the town’s Community Association to protect the site - former HQ of the council - from commercial development.
He said: “We are happy to continue to support the Civic Hub proposals.”
But he made it clear he feels the process cannot go on indefinitely. “The building is a public asset and we have a duty to realise this asset on behalf of Wealden which will safeguard public finances and enable new mixed development opportunities to take place in the north of the District.”
Already Sussex Police, the District Registrar, County, District and town councils have all expressed an interest in occupying the community hub which would also house the library and offer space commercially to local businesses including start-up companies, community interest groups and charities.
The new Community Interest Company (CIC) is seeking grant aid through a government-led Locality network to help pay for a feasibility study into costs and technicalities which go into creating the hub.
This would be the first step of acquiring the Pine Grove building for the people of Crowborough particularly and Wealden in general.
Crowborough Community Association (CCA) Chairman Chantal Wilson said: “We are delighted that Wealden has expressed its support. There is a massive amount of work to do to turn our vision into reality but with the right amount of goodwill we are very confident of getting there. We are already receiving calls from local firms and organisations keen to be part of the hub. There’s a feeling of real excitement in the town about this project.”
The Community Right to Bid option was exercised by the Community Association under the terms of new legislation which allows authorities to preserve assets of important value to local people. The CCA now has six months to find funds if the hub proves unviable for public sector partners.
The council is currently waiting for the outcome of ESCC’s review of adult social services provision which should give future requirements for premises and which could help resolve how practical the hub scheme will be.