Update: The Minutes of the meeting can be downloaded here (Adobe .pdf file):
Yesterday evening (Thursday) Crowborough Town Council considered the business case of buying Wealden District Council’s former offices in Pine Grove in order to convert them into an Enterprise Centre.
Councillors have agreed to:
- Make an offer to buy Pine Grove from Wealden District Council and car parking (Lot 2 – see diagram) to create an Enterprise Centre
- Carry-out an extensive consultation with residents of Crowborough
- Apply for a loan of £2.65 million towards the purchase price and capital costs of converting the building – the repayments to initially be funded by an increase in Council Tax
- Apply for grant funding towards the costs
- Increase their portion of Council Tax by 18.06% in 2015/16 (16% for Pine Grove and 2% for other work) – equivalent of 6p a day on an average Band D property
Councillor George Moss, Town Councillor for the North Ward, has resigned on principle. On Twitter he explained his reasons:
I have sent in my resignation to Town Council on principle. The tax payers need to decide on 18+% precept increase and not the Town Council
— George Moss (@GMoosse) February 6, 2015
The actual price the Councillors have said they are willing to pay is commercially sensitive, so the public are not permitted to know the figure at this stage. The bid will be submitted to Wealden District Council as soon as possible as time is pressing. If the offer is accepted, the Town Council will arrange a mail-drop to residents to asking them for their opinion on the proposals. The consultation will probably be in a couple of week’s time. Public meetings will also be held so people can ask questions.
Unlike other authorities, Crowborough Town Council is able to increase their portion of Council Tax (precept) above 2% without having to get the approval of the electorate in a referendum.
If the project goes ahead, in the medium-term, the Council might be able to sell other assets (such as the old Hall on Park Road) to raise funds towards the project. Once the units in the Enterprise Centre have been let to businesses, the facility will start to generate a profit. Any surplus from the Enterprise Centre could then be used to pay the interest or replay the capital or to fund other projects in the town.
Click on the following link for the background to this story: Future of Pine Grove.
Next step is to get planning permission – this will be decided at a Planning Committee in Hailsham next Thursday (12th February).