Eastbourne Bandstand: Landmark didn’t meet criteria for government Levelling Up fund, says council

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The bandstand in Eastbourne didn’t qualify for Levelling Up funding, the council has confirmed.

Action group Save Eastbourne Bandstand (SEB) raised questions around the site’s eligibility to the Levelling Up (LU) fund.

The town gained a £20 million chunk of government money from the fund back in October last year.

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The money goes towards local projects including pedestrianising the sea end of Terminus Road and creating an art trial connecting the town centre, the seafront, and the Downs.

Eastbourne Bandstand (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-220126-115403008Eastbourne Bandstand (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-220126-115403008
Eastbourne Bandstand (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-220126-115403008

A SEB spokesperson said, “As a cultural and heritage asset, the bandstand did meet the criteria and could have been part of the bid.”

This comes as £750,000 has been set aside to spend on repairing the bandstand for it to reopen next year.

However, an Eastbourne Borough Council spokesperson said, “In regard to the LU bid, the bandstand did not sufficiently meet the government’s bid criteria to stand a good chance of success in a very competitive process.

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“Council officers, who are experts in preparing bids for government funding, and specialist external advisors, made that distinction clear from the outset and focused on areas that did fall into the scope of the Levelling Up initiative and as a result they secured £19.8 million for the town.

“While the government required a rapid turnaround in the bid process, consultation was undertaken with a wide range of stakeholders, including Christina Ewbank, CEO of Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce councillors, Caroline Ansell, Eastbourne and Willingdon MP; Eastbourne Hospitality Association; the Your Eastbourne Business Improvement District and the East Sussex College Group and others.”

The SEB spokesperson called the statement from the council a ‘knee jerk reaction’, arguing that two of three criteria were met for the funding.

The group said, “To us this criteria screams out the potential to develop a bid to regenerate our seafront the council have so badly neglected.

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“To imaginatively repurpose and develop sites like the bandstand, Fort Fun and The Redoubt into new centres of excellence providing education, entertainment and culture for the people of Eastbourne and it’s visitors. To add to our glorious promenade which runs from the Harbour via the centre of town through to Holywell linking the town with the downs.”

Government information says the LU fund money needs to be spent up to 2024-25.

Linking to this, a new statement from the Environment Agency (EA) explained why investing large amounts of tax payers’ money in repairing the bandstand now ‘would not be prudent’ as it is currently gaining final approval for the food defence scheme in 2025 .

The statement said, “We are very conscious of the level of community interest in the Eastbourne Bandstand, as well as the heritage significance of this important asset.”

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It explained the structure is at risk of flooding during coastal storms and EA is currently planning to gain final approval for the Pevensey Bay to Eastbourne Coastal Management Scheme in 2025.

The statement said, “This is the earliest date that any construction activities could start within the project area. Until then, we will not fully understand the nature and extent of works needed to reduce the risk of coastal flooding to the bandstand.

“The Eastbourne Bandstand needs significant capital investment, in the order of millions of pounds, to sustain its structure. Given that the Pevensey Bay to Eastbourne Coastal Management Scheme is in its early phases, investing this large amount of tax payers’ money now, when flood defence plans have not been identified, would not be prudent.

“For this reason, maintenance works will be completed to allow opening in 2023. Any decision on significant capital investment should only be made when the flood defence future of the structure becomes clearer.”

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