Crowborough group bids for council HQ

Pine Grove, Crowborough
Pine Grove, Crowborough

In a decisive move, a community group has made a formal bid to buy a former council office building.

The Crowborough Community Association has now unconditionally put a proposal on the table to buy the Pine Grove offices, formerly the HQ of Wealden District Council.

The association says the proposal will protect the town’s library, attract jobs and expand community assets.

CCA chairman, Chantal Wilson, said: “We are delighted to be in a position to make this formal offer to Wealden District Council.

“Our proposal has widespread public support, as evidenced by a survey we commissioned on the future of the Pine Grove site, and is being enthusiastically supported by the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce.”

Jeremy Woolgar, chairman of Crowborough Chamber of Commerce, said: “We believe it is vital to keep Pine Grove offices in non-retail commercial use, especially as it is not possible to build any new office space within 7km of Ashdown Forest.

“The Chamber fully endorses the CCA’s proposal to turn the building into a small business enterprise hub and will support the CCA whenever it can.”

Chamber members describe how the plan protects the existing library, will attract upwards of 150 jobs to the town in an enterprise hub and provide much needed additional space for community uses. Starting in January the refurbishment programme could see 60 business units, community use in the chamber and the atrium becoming a public space.

The chamber also says the scheme fits perfectly with the town council’s vision for Crowborough and its emerging neighbourhood planning Masterplan policies for Pine Grove.

By backing an Enterprise Hub at Pine Grove, Wealden District Council will be supporting employment and small businesses in North Weald. It will also help WDC achieve its declared objective for the building.

A funding and financing package of £2million to £2.1million is now being put together by the CCA, starting with an application to SIB Group which manages Community Assets and Services Grants on behalf of the Government. Ideally, the CCA’s development proposals would be fully funded by grant finance but, as this is unlikely, additional debt financing is being arranged.

CCA is seeking Wealden District Council support as ‘preferred bidder,’ a status which would boost CCA’s fund-raising capacity and potentially enhance the achievable level of grant funding.