Drawing up a £25m wish list for Hastings – what would be your top priority?

Hastings Borough Council has been given the chance to bid for £25m from central government and will be coming up with ideas on how to use that money next year… what would your priorities be?

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Bidding for up £25m of government cash will be high on the agenda for Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) cabinet members when they meet early in the new year.

Hastings is one of 101 towns across the country eligible to bid for up to £25m from the Town Fund, launched by the government last month.

HBC’s leader Peter Chowneysaid: “The Town Deal offer is welcome and gives us an opportunity to bring together a wide range of interests across the borough to look at what projects could be funded to address our local priorities. This first phase provides £173,000 funding to put together a detailed proposal for what we would spend the £25m on.

“First, we have to establish a ‘Town Board’ that will represent different interests across the borough, including education, health, local authorities, businesses and the community sector. 

“This has to be done during January, so we will need to depend on those who have already been involved in local consultative structures.  It doesn’t give us enough time to recruit board members from the wider community.  However, we will also be looking to set up a community engagement framework to assemble the final proposal by the end of next summer. This will then be negotiated with government, with funding provided early in 2021.”

Mr Chowney says the council will be looking to create a proposal that addresses some of the problems specific to Hastings; lack of affordable housing, low skills and educational achievement and poor local transport infrastructure: “We will also be expecting funded projects to help achieve our goal of making Hastings carbon neutral by 2030,” Mr Chowney says.

But he cautions that £25m will not go very far in achieving the council’s goals: “We need far bigger investment in Hastings. It’s a start, but we will be expecting the government to come up with far more ambitious plans for deprived coastal towns such as Hastings in the future,” he says.

The Town Fund was launched by the government for towns like Hastings to improve their economy. The government invited 101 towns to develop proposals for a Town Deal, as part of the £3.6 billion fund.

This plan developed next year will represent the council’s vision for the future and its ambitions for Hastings and the council sums it up by saying the plan will be: “… our prospectus for the future, showing both public and private funders and investors that we are open for business.”

Key objectives will be to use the funding to provide jobs, homes, skills and take actions to reduce our carbon emissions.

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