Wealden District Council has unveiled ambitious plans to revitalise Hailsham town centre with a fresh mix of retail, leisure and nightlife opportunities and provide new homes for younger people in what's being termed a 'once in a lifetime opportunity' for the town.
The plans would see new a new development across both the Vicarage Field shopping area, which the Council purchased in 2017 for £12.35 million, and also the land on the other side of Vicarage Lane, which currently includes the Council Offices, the Leisure Centre and the car park.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to redevelop and regenerate Hailsham,” said Councillor Bob Standley, Council Leader. “Wealden District Council bought the Vicarage Field shopping centre as part of a long term plan to regenerate the town. By including all of our landholdings in this project, we now own a large portion of this 18 acre site in the heart of the town. By joining together with other landowners, including Hailsham Town Council, we can help shape the destiny of the town.”
The site redevelopment will include modern apartments and town houses to make Hailsham a place where people want to live as well as visit. It will also capitalise on the success of the Council’s own Vicarage Lane offices in providing office and public access to other public services and volunteer groups, putting support at the heart of the community.
By consolidating the existing car parking spaces into a new multi-storey car park, the project can make much better use of the land to reconfigure the existing shopping centre. This will provide new retail outlets and restaurants drawing in people from the high street. It will take advantage of the gradient on the site to blend the car park in with the existing townscape while opening new vistas across the centre of Hailsham.
The Council is also proposing to reconfigure and re-provide the existing Leisure Centre, Charles Hunt Centre and Hailsham Club. This will help enhance existing leisure and social activities which will be essential for a vibrant town centre at a time when traditional retail faces fierce competition from the internet.
“So far we have only had a first look at what the future may hold,” said Councillor Standley. “We now want to explore this further with the people of Hailsham and the District as well as other organisations and possible business partners.
“It will be a big project. We are possibly looking at a £100 million scheme taking five years to complete. So we want to be sure the mix of retail, leisure, office and residential space we propose will enable the town to evolve and adapt to what people want today…and in the years to come. It is also important that the overall costs of the improvements are able to pay for themselves.”
The initial proposals are being discussed by Wealden’s Cabinet on 30 January. The Council is looking to apply to the Government’s Future High Street Fund for funding support with the exploratory stages. Last month the Government announced it was make £675 million available to support the transformation of Britain’s high streets to enable wider economic growth.
A key part of any final proposal will be a green energy strategy. This will use Combined Heat and Power technology to provide electricity and heating for site occupants and a series of Electric Vehicle charging outlets.
What could be achieved:
- A new retail format for the Vicarage Field Shopping Centre, opening out to the High Street and attracting the next generation of shoppers to the town.
- Cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues to grow the town’s night- time economy.
- New leisure facilities to promote exercise and health within the community.
- Cohesive pedestrian access to the town centre’s main destinations and enhanced vistas of its historic assets including the C15th church.
- New facilities for the Hailsham Club and Charles Hunt Centre.
- Up to 280 new apartments and town houses attractive to younger buyers and tenants.
- A new multi-storey car park to satisfy parking requirements in the town arising both from existing car parking requirements and the increased density of development.
- New civic offices providing accommodation for a range of public and community services making them more easily accessible.
Details about the public participation in the Vicarage Field development plans will be announced in February.
Pictured (top) is a preliminary representation of how the scheme could look.
The Cabinet report on Vicarage Field can be found here: http://council.wealden.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=292&MId=4376&Ver=4
Information about the Government’s Future High Street Fund can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-high-streets-fund