Council to bid for millions to drive forward Hailsham transformation project

Wealden District Council is to seek government funding to help bring its Hailsham Aspires project to life. 

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 3:57 pm

On Wednesday (June 9), the council’s cabinet agreed to support a bid to secure money for the town centre and high street regeneration project from the government’s Levelling Up fund.

As part of this, the council is to appoint an external consultant to assist with its bid, to be funded from the Hailsham Aspires project budget.

While the council is to bid for up to £17.6m from the government fund (the predicted cost of a new leisure centre in Hailsham town centre), council leader Bob Standley sought to manage expectations on how much the council could secure. 

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Cllr Standley said: “It is a bit of a longshot, I have to say, whether we are going to get part of this money, but I think it is worthwhile spending the money on the consultants to up our chances of getting on this first tranche.

“It won’t be £17m but to be frank anything – even £4m or £5m – would be gratefully received.”

Part of the reason for this, he said, was because the authority has been ranked in priority category two, rather than the higher priority category one. The categories are a measure of deprivation and need, which play a part in how the government will allocate the funding.

Cllr Standley said: “We were disappointed we were in level two, doubly disappointed that we were the only Sussex district or borough to be in level two. All the rest were in level one, which is where we should have been. 

“We do have areas of deprivation in Wealden. I know overall we haven’t got huge areas of deprivation, but where we have them they are acute.”

The funding sought would be for a new leisure centre as part of the wider Hailsham Aspires project. 

The project, which concluded a masterplan consultation earlier this year, is intended to bring a wide range of new development to the town centre, including a new leisure centre, housing, shopping area and multi-storey car park. 

In the report, a council officer said: “With town centre regeneration being a key theme of the Levelling up Fund, Hailsham Aspires was the standout project to put forward from a Wealden perspective. 

“The work undertaken to date means there is a wide range of evidence already available to support the bid and illustrate the project’s compatibility with the award criteria.

“Additionally, having already undertaken this work to the point of [a concept design], illustrates the council has a scheme that is ready to take forward subject to additional funding and one that is potentially further along the line than projects that are being put forward by other authorities.”

The report also notes that the submission is to be supported by Wealden MP Nus Ghani, a requirement of the bidding process. An MP can only support one bid from their constituency. 

The deadline for submission is June 18.

The fund is expected to run until 2024/5, so if the council is not successful in the first round of funding there may be an opportunity to enter submissions for future rounds.

A decision on the first round of successful entries is anticipated to be announced this autumn.