Funding to improve Lewes has never been spent

Ruth O'Keeffe at Convent Field with missing play equipment
Ruth O'Keeffe at Convent Field with missing play equipment

The Lewes area is sitting on a fortune allocated to projects which has never been spent, claims a district councillor.

In the town alone, more than £175,000 earmarked for play facilities remains unspent, said Ruth O’Keeffe.

The Independent estimates that across Lewes District a staggering £2.5m of funding has never been used.

Cllr O’Keeffe said she had become concerned about the length of time it was taking for money which had been agreed and paid over to Lewes District Council to provide or improve outdoor play facilities in the town as a result of planning permissions given as far back as 2004.

“I found that the total amount outstanding to be spent on facilities for five sites in the town was more than £175,000,” she said.

“I began looking into this because residents in my ward [Lewes Priory] were contacting me worried that the long-promised new play area for the Convent Field was still not in place.

“Then I discovered that not only was there nearly £130,000 waiting to be spent, some of which had been allocated through a planning application made in 2004, but also approximately a further £45,000 available for four other sites - Timberyard lane, Nevill Green, Malling Recreation Ground and the Pell play area - was also unspent from applications made between 2006 and 2010.”

Cllr O’Keeffe investigated further – and said more than £2.5m remains unspent across the District on play and recreational facilities alone.

In addition to Lewes, where 91.5 per cent of original values for applications made in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010 remain unspent, these include Newick (£45,538), Plumpton (£15,555), Ringmer (£9,636) and Wivelsfield (£43,019).

She continued: “I have not included promised but not received money, nor money which has been given over to the South Downs National Park Authority in recent times to administer. I have included interest which has accrued on the original amounts while it has been waiting to be spent.

“There are time limits for some of these amounts to be spent. It would be very unfortunate indeed to lose any of the money by missing a deadline.”

Cllr O’Keeffe added: “I will be asking the Lead Member for this area of council responsibility how this has happened and, more importantly, what we as a district council are urgently intending to do about this, at the next council meeting on October 16.

“I feel that all the members of the council should be working together to get this granted money used for facilities for our residents, across all the affected wards.”