AN £8.5 million business boost has been announced for Hastings, which could create more than 500 new jobs for the town.
The interest-free loan from the Government’s Growing Places fund was granted as a result of a bid by East Sussex County Council.
It comes just days after the Government gave the green light to the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road which could lead to more than 3,000 jobs for the town in the next four years.
The cash injection will allow significant further development of the Priory Quarter business area in the town centre and creation of an out-of-town business park.
Priory Quarter is already home to insurance firm Saga and is marketed as a 21st century commercial, education and retail district.
The move could be the biggest boost to employment in Hastings since the announcement that Saga was to create almost 500 new jobs locally by the end of this year. Both schemes will be delivered by the new economic development company, East Sussex Energy Infrastructure & Development Ltd (ESEID).
The Priory Quarter business area in the town centre is set to be transformed with £7million going towards the creation of 2,323m2 (25,000sq ft) of office space.
With planning permission already granted, demolition is set to begin in the coming months and the work could be complete by 2014.
The remaining £1.5million will fund an access road and junction, intersecting Queensway to enable development of the North Queensway Enviro21 Innovation Park.
Construction of the road and junction could start this autumn and be completed next spring.
The business park, owned by ESEID, will be able to accommodate 16,000m2 of industrial and office premises and support over 700 jobs.
It is the largest remaining business development site in the area until new land in north-east Bexhill is opened up by the construction of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.
ESEID is in discussions with companies which are interested in the North Queensway scheme.
Councillor Peter Jones, leader of East Sussex County Council, said that between 500 and 600 permanent jobs could be created as a result of this funding, on top of around 100 temporary construction jobs.
He said: “This is another wonderful result for Hastings, following hot on the heels of the Government’s approval of the Link Road and the £500million capital programme the county council will be investing to support the economy over the next four years.
“All this spells more business investment, more company expansion room, more local jobs and a stronger economy for the benefit of the whole community.
Cllr Jones said that discussions were underway with major companies with regard to the Priory Quarter office space, and he was confident businesses would be interested in the North Queensway scheme.
“There are businesses in this area who desperately need to expand and are looking for the space.
“I think the potential owners are there.”
He added: “The county council budget included a £500million capital project over the next four years, and quite a lot of that money is being spent in this area, which will have an enormous impact.”
Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “This is great news for Hastings, great news to have more investment, which will create more jobs.
“It is exactly what the town needs.
“I do think that Hastings has turned a corner, we have seen growth in private sector jobs in Hastings, and the town feels more upbeat.”
Jonathan Dolding, Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce manager, said: “
“We are delighted with the announcement of further investment in to the town, following last week’s positive news about the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road.
“As the voice of business for the Hastings area, we have lobbied hard over the past few years to see continued improvements in all aspects of the town. Additional jobs, improved roads and commercial premises infrastructure can only be seen as a good thing for Hastings, St Leonards and the wider East Sussex economy.
“We’ll be working hard with ESEID, the county council and other local partners to promote these initiatives, which clearly show that Hastings is a serious business location.”