Buying up Newhaven town centre ‘not an approach that delivers,’ say council

Lewes District Council has responded to MP Norman Baker’s opinion that it should ‘buy up’ Newhaven town centre and ‘almost start again’.

Lead member of the council, Cllr Rob Blackman said he agreed with much of the sentiment behind Mr Baker’s wish to keep the momentum for improvements in Newhaven, which were highlighted in his Express column last week.

But said he did not think buying up the town centre was an ‘approach that delivers’.

Instead, the council said Newhaven is beginning to reap the benefits of a £28.2m investment, such as the new University Technical College, the mitigation of flood risk with £9m to increase land values amd development viability secured, and the Newhaven growth quarter which will allow Newhaven to create and sustain local jobs.

The council said it recognises there has been a decline in the range of retail outlets but it is outweighed by the fact ‘there is real growth in Newhaven’ that will ‘make a significant contribution to the town’s long-term vitality’.

Cllr Blackman said: “We are proud of the achievements that our council and partners have accomplished in Newhaven. Over the last few years funding has been committed to a number of large development programmes and with the further commitment through the Greater Brighton City Deal, Newhaven has a real opportunity to grow. Lewes District Council’s regeneration strategy is to create a climate where new ideas and schemes are welcomed, so there is not dependence on just one scheme or employer and we are working hard to encourage other businesses to locate in the district, bring forward new developments and create new jobs for the future.

“However, Norman’s suggestion to use our compulsory purchase order powers seems to go against the spirit of success to date. We have achieved so much by bringing people together in real partnership working. I’m not sure that threatening to buy up the town centre is an approach that delivers.”

The council said it is involved in a number of projects to revitalise the town. As well as the new college, flood mitigation, and growth quarter, the final application for the Enterprise Zone status has been delivered which could deliver commercial development and new jobs. Enterprise Zones are a government initiative to help attract business into towns by building business facilities and transport links.

It said more than £590,000 in loans and grants has been invested to support businesses.

It also said Newhaven Port Access Road will provide a new link to the port which will include the Operations and Maintenance Facility for Rampion and unlock employment space to the north of the port. The council said the current estimate of time is that Phase 1, which has been funded by the developer at an estimated cost of £12m will be completed by autumn 2014 and phase 2 which will be funded from £13.2m in the East Sussex County Council Capital Programme and £10m from Coast 2 Coast LEP will be carried out over the next two years.

A new interchange at Newhaven Station will improve accessibility to the station by people on foot, bike or bus.

A council spokeswoman added: “Lewes District Council is actively promoting Newhaven as a place to live, work and do business, and is in discussions with a number of companies who have recognised Newhaven’s potential growth and are seeking to invest. These discussions represent a further £2m investment in Newhaven as well as the creation of new employment opportunities for local people.”