The Chairman of Wealden District Council, Councillor Chris Hardy, review of what has been happening in 2017:
This year the Council has begun to deliver some of its major infrastructure projects for the benefit of people living in the District. Our first open access countryside area, or SANGS, is now open in Crowborough and landscaping work is well underway at our second just outside Uckfield. Leap Close, an eye-catching new council housing scheme in Hailsham, has now been completed and let, and other schemes in East Dean, Uckfield and Hailsham are expected to be completed in 2018.
The Council’s separate housing development company, Sussex Weald Homes, is also embarking on its first project, building a range of 34 apartments and houses on the former Jarvis Brook depot site in Crowborough. We have also begun work on a crematorium to serve the District which will be at Horam and is expected to open next year. And we ended the year with the purchase of the Vicarage Fields shopping centre in Hailsham.
The Council’s wider activities in supporting health needs of our residents are coming to the fore. Alongside GP surgeries, Connecting4You and East Sussex Better Together, we have been seeing how we, too, can play a part in reducing instances of avoidable ill health. Trials involving a health coach for local surgeries with links to our Freedom Leisure centres have been taking place to encourage exercise and social activities. The Wealden Dementia Action Alliance, launched over a year ago, continues to bring together different groups across the District who support people living with dementia, and offers dementia training for local organisations and businesses as well as a range activities like Movies Make Memories to engage and entertain. It has been shortlisted for a national prize for its partnership work in the community. Vitality Villages is another initiative the Council has been involved in, helping community groups list activities which can reduce social isolation and encourage positive health choices.
Our Community Grant Schemes, the Big Wealden Switch drive to reduce domestic energy bills, Street Learning, Fun and Safety, Summer Activity Days, Wealden Works careers fair, Business Breakfasts and tourism promotions continue to help and support residents and businesses. I f you haven’t yet seen our birds-eye view of what this beautiful District has to offer do spend a few minutes this Christmas to look at the Journey through Wealden video on the Tourism pages of our website.
Achieving the right balance between protecting the environment and providing the necessary economic growth for the District is a constant theme running through our Local Plan. Court judgements this year have seen the importance of not only Ashdown Forest, but Pevensey Levels and the Lewes Downs all add to the significance of our decisions. We will be making further progress with the Local Plan in the New Year and we are well aware that our decisions will be keenly awaited not just in the District but further afield.
Through our Drive to Digital, we are making it much easier to access our services when you want them and where you want them. The Council’s weekly MyAlerts email newsletter keeps you better informed of what the Council is doing and other public initiatives in the District.
I had the honour to attend the staff awards presentation at the Council just before Christmas. I was struck not only by the level of commitment and enthusiasm of the staff but also the level of expertise. Four officers, all from different areas of expertise, have been recognised at a national level for the work they have been doing. It is reassuring that we are able to go forward into the New Year well-served and well-prepared.
The Vice-chairman, Councillor Pam Doodes, and I have attended many events across the District during the year and have always been made to feel very welcome. We’ve enjoyed meeting you all and hearing what you have to say I would like to wish everyone in Wealden a very merry Christmas and a successful and peaceful new year.