A major redevelopment scheme for Seaford costing more than £18m has been approved by councillors.
As part of the plans for the site off Sutton Road, the Downs Leisure Centre is set to be retained and improved alongside a new healthcare hub, convenience food store with flats above, grass mini-pitch and extra parking spaces.
The current facility, leased to Wave Leisure, would be reconfigured with a new entrance and offices, while the Downs 60+ Club would continue to run within the leisure centre building.
A capital budget of £17.2m to fund the project was approved by Lewes District Council cabinet members earlier today (Monday September 17).
Bill Giles (Con, Newhaven Denton and Meeching), cabinet member for finance, said: “This will deliver a lasting legacy we can all be proud of.”
As Seaford has a growing and also ageing population, the town’s two GP surgeries, the Old School Surgery and Seaford Medical Practice, are struggling to meet current demand. Much of the capacity issue relates to the space the two surgeries have available to work in.
A new healthcare hub next to a leisure centre would not only mean more space for doctors and better services, but also increase opportunities to promote health and wellbeing in a more holistic way.
The new building will include facilities for 21 GPs with support nursing and admin teams and extra facilities such as operating suites for minor surgery.
East Sussex Healthcare Trust (ESHT) would look to provide its community health and out-of-hospital teams within the hub.
Paul Franklin (Con, Seaford North), cabinet member for waste and recycling, said: “This is an extremely exciting project and long long have residents been waiting for a nice joined up health hub.”
Officers said: “The approach is to have a faultless transition between the health and leisure facilities, albeit the buildings will be configured so they can be leased as separate entities.”
Duncan Kerr, chief executive officer at Wave Leisure, said: “This will give us a ground-breaking opportunity to work with GPs and ESHT to provide some really proactive healthcare.”
Meanwhile terms have been agreed with a national operator for a lease of the new 4,500 sq ft convenience food store, according to the officers’ report.
The existing all-weather pitch is very popular but there is a lack of junior pitches in the area and the district, so a new junior pitch is proposed.
The Downs 60+ Club, which has a long occupational lease to Age Concern for its current home on the site, would be relocated into the leisure centre with Wave Leisure helping to manage and integrate the club into the overall structure of running the leisure facility.
The car park areas would be extended to provide a minimum of 270 spaces, compared to the approximately 106 currently provided.
Peter Gardiner (Lib Dem, Ouse Valley and Ringmer), chair of the council’s scrutiny committee, described it as a ‘brilliant scheme’ but suggested even the higher number of parking spaces being proposed would not be sufficient for the new facilities due to be built.
Cabinet members had previously set aside £1.5m to develop the scheme to the planning stage, bringing the total cost of the scheme to £18.7m.
After the meeting Martin Writer, chair of Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are delighted to work with Seaford Medical Centre and Old School Surgery on the delivery of The Seaford Health Centre development, which will offer their patients better equipped, modernised facilities providing first class primary care in their local community.
“Although we are operating in a challenging financial climate, Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG believes that delivering improved GP premises are the cornerstone of providing the best quality of services.”
Andy Smith, leader of Lewes District Council, added: “This will give Seaford residents a ground-breaking new healthcare space and a more holistic approach to healthcare.
“The town’s population is growing, and our GPs are stretched to the limit, so this is absolutely vital for Seaford. The new health hub will give more space and better facilities, which means local people can be offered more services and appointments.”