Plans to build a new sports hub on the outskirts of Hailsham will proceed, after gaining the backing of Wealden council leaders.
On Wednesday (7th September), Wealden District Council cabinet members gave the go ahead to the next stage of a project to build a community sports hub on part of the Knights Farm site in Lower Dicker.
As a result, the Council will begin to draw up detailed designs in hopes of submitting a full planning application for the scheme early next year.
Cllr Phillip Lunn, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Leisure, described the plans as a ‘flagship project’, which he hoped would benefit the whole district. He said:
This is going to be a big site and when it’s finished it will fill a gap in the much-needed sporting facilities across the district. This is not something just for Hailsham.
Because of the scale of it we will [not just] see the delivery of top-end sporting and recreational facilities for the benefits of our residents, but [it will] also act as a draw to tourists, visitors and sports teams from neighbouring areas.
The project will deliver an outstanding facility for residents and the wider district and one that will drive forward investment in sports for our community.Cllr Phillip Lunn
While the plans are currently at a relatively early stage, Council papers show the new facility would be expected to include changing facilities built to a Football Association (FA) standard together with a number of outdoor football, tennis and netball pitches.
Cllr Lunn said one of the football pitches would also be built out to a National Division standard, which could attract teams from outside the area to play there.
There is also the potential for a skate park, BMX track, children’s play area, outdoor gym equipment and a community cafe building to be included in the final design of the site. This will likely be subject to the Council securing sufficient funding, however.
The Council has already set aside £8m for the project in its Medium-Term Financial Plan (MTFP). Due to inflation, however, the final cost of the project is now expected to be between £12 to £15m.
As a result, the Council is looking into finding outside funding from the Football Foundation and is considering additional borrowing to make up the shortfall. If successful in its funding application, the council could receive up to £4m from the Football Foundation.
If full funding cannot be found then the scheme may be reduced in scale or brought forward in separate phases, Council papers say.
A planning application is expected to be submitted in February 2023. If a design is given the go-ahead early next year, construction would be expected to begin in Summer 2023 and a full opening in Summer 2024.
More information is contained in the reports that went to Wealden District Council’s Cabinet meeting on 7th September 2022.