New Hastings business ‘incubator units’ require extra funding

A project to build a new business centre in Hastings could receive an extra £1.2m, if proposals gain the backing of council leaders next week. 

Monday, 1st February 2021, 3:41 pm

On Monday (February 8), Hastings Borough Council cabinet members are to consider proposals related to the construction of a two-storey business centre at the Churchfields Industrial Estate in Hollington – a scheme which was granted planning permission in June last year.

Initially expected to cost around £3.3m (a figure which included £800,000 of external grant funding), cabinet members are asked to back spending a further £1.2m on the project. 

According to council officers, the increased budget comes in light of changes to the planned works, as well as the potential for additional funding from the government. 

In a report to cabinet, a council officer said: “The specification of the build has been amended to meet higher sustainability criteria, and the project scope has been amended to include works that will facilitate a second phase of investment for additional units. 

“The most significant change is that the scheme has been included as ‘a shovel ready’ project in the Town Investment Plan (TIP) submission to Government for funding as part of the Town Deal programme. 

“The TIP identifies that investment in the town’s employment and enterprise infrastructure is essential to drive economic growth. 

“Whilst none of the funding requests from this programme can be guaranteed at this stage, the additional £750,000 ‘ask’ for this scheme would significantly reduce the council’s overall costs.”

If the council is unsuccessful in bidding for the TIP funding, the council says it will have to borrow the full £1.2m itself, which would cost the council around £38,000 per annum. If the £750,000 TIP funding does come through the loan cost would fall to £14,000 per annum.

Once built, the business centre is intended to be used as a business incubation complex, meaning it would have facilities to support the growth of new business ventures from start-up to maturity.

Under the currently approved plans, the building would comprise 28 business units, as well as training space and shared amenity space. It would also have space for roof-mounted solar panels.

The plans also include a new access point on to Sidney Little Road.

If extra funding is approved, altered plans would be expected to include greater energy efficiency measures, as well as works to “unlock future development potential.”

In a report to cabinet, a council officer added: “The likely post-pandemic recession will hit our town hard; mitigations need to be put in place to increase opportunities for skills, training and jobs in new growth areas of green technologies and supporting industries.

“This project will play a key role in future job opportunities and economic development. 

“With base rates at a historical low there is a window of opportunity to develop such sites, and it may become increasingly harder to fund such developments in the future. Whilst public subsidy is still required now the requirement could be higher in the future.

“As part of the Covid recovery, skills, retraining and job creation the projects are essential for the current economic need for modern businesses to thrive.”

If supported by cabinet, a decision on increasing the project’s funding will be put to a full council vote in the near future.