The protected period giving Crowborough Community Association time to put together a bid for the former council offices expired on Wednesday (7th May).
Developers now have until the 28th May to submit a tender to buy the Pine Grove site which has a guide price of £6.7 million.
In November, the Crowborough Community Association used powers in the Localism Act to get Wealden District Council to register their former headquarters in Crowborough, the adjacent car parks and the Bluebell Wood as ‘assets of community value’. Once a building or land are registered, community groups have six months to prepare a bid to buy it.
Now the sixth month’s moratorium expired on 7th May, developers have until the 28th May to submit tenders to buy the site.
The Pine Grove site is being marketed by the Council’s agents GVA for a guide price of £6.7 million. The sale brochure explains the site is being sold in two lots: Lot 1 (£5 million, marked green on the map below) is the Beaconwood building, which used to be the home of Social Services, and until recently the Registration Office in Crowborough, before it moved to Hookstead on Goldsmiths Avenue.
Lot 2 (£1.7 million, marked red on the map below) is the former council office, which is being sold subject to a suitable alternative location being found for Crowborough Library, which is now the sole occupant of the building. East Sussex County Council have a 999 year lease to use the 1st Floor, south wing of the building for the Library at a peppercorn rent.
Roger Bishop spokesperson for the CCA, said the Crowborough Community Association bid still looks like the “best game in town”.
But it is understood by CrowboroughLife that Wealden District Council are anticipating interest will be shown by developers in buying both the former council offices, as well as Beaconwood and the adjacent car park.
The CCA has set up a Community Interest Company to try and establish the enterprise hub, which can be used by both established and start-up companies, while retaining the library and providing significant community areas. See previous article for more detail.
The CCA is currently seeking funding for a full feasibility study, working with SIB Group through the Locality network of community led organisations. Simultaneously, they are looking at sources for grant aid, loans and potential partnerships.
The CCA claim up to 150 jobs will be secured if the enterprise hub goes ahead. Councillor David Larkin, a director of the Crowborough Community Association said:
The prospect of bringing jobs to Crowborough and creating new employment opportunities for young people within the town is exciting. Combine this with the potential of the Pine Grove building to create a mixture of business and community activities within the same building, each feeding off each other, then the future of Pine Grove looks very compelling indeed.
The Pine Grove site is one of three main areas identified in the Wealden Local Plan for new development in Crowborough. The Plan allows for about 90 one or two bedroom properties to be built on the site (marked green on the map above), 45% will have to be affordable homes. Developers will be required to keep some of the woodland around the site for screening, and be obliged to provide play facilities for children, as well as better access for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
Developers will also be required to provide a Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space near Crowborough in order to reduce recreational visitor pressure on the Ashdown Forest.
As there is “temporary” long stay car parking for 79 cars at Beaconwood, any development of the site will result in the loss of parking to the public. Although the Council’s Sustainability Appraisal Report says “existing parking taking place can be accommodated elsewhere within the Town Centre”. There was mention at the Town Conference in April, of taking a small area of land from the Bluebell Wood and incorporating it into the existing car park, to create more spaces.
Let CrowboroughLife know what you think:
Should the former council offices be turned into a enterprise hub along the lines proposed by the CCA, with the rest of the site (Beaconwood and adjacent car park) sold to developers for provide 1 and 2 bedroom housing?