Hastings’ £25m fund ‘does not go very far’ towards fixing town’s problems

Hastings Town Centre
Hastings Town Centre

The leader of Hastings Borough Council said he was confident of meeting a ‘tight timetable’ to secure a £25 million investment in the town.

Hastings was selected alongside 99 towns in England to potentially benefit from the Government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund ‘if they can make a strong bid for funds’ by the end of summer 2020.

The funding could be used to redevelop vacant buildings and land, drive private sector investment by supporting small businesses and ensure young people have the skills they need to get good jobs.

Hastings, like the other 99 towns listed, would receive the £25 million if a board is in place by January 2020, which then submits a ‘strong bid’ containg town investment plans by the end of summer 2020.

Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Borough Council, welcomed the announcement but said the £25 million ‘does not go very far’ towards fixing the town’s problems.

He added: “The three themes of the Towns Fund for developing our Town Deal are a good fit for our existing local priorities which means we have a lot of evidence to support the development of our deal: urban regeneration; skills and enterprise infrastructure; and connectivity.

“However, £25m doesn’t go very far towards fixing these problems – the cheapest proposal to bring HS1 trains to Hastings alone would cost ten times that, so the money would need to be focussed on a small number of key projects if it is to create a lasting impact. The timetable is quite tight; we have to assemble boards of local businesses, public bodies and community groups by January 2020, with investment plans produced by the summer. But we have some excellent partnerships in place already, and I am confident we can meet these targets.”

On Friday, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced a blueprint for the multi-million pound deals.

He said: “This government is committed to levelling up all parts of the country. We created the £3.6bn Towns Fund to help businesses grow, connect communities and give people the skills they need to succeed.

“But no place is exactly the same. That is why we want to help local people in Sussex to decide how this investment of up to £25 million in each town from the Government can help create new businesses, new jobs and new homes for generations to come.”