Wealden District Council say it cannot afford to delay the sale of its former offices in Crowborough any longer.
The building has been on the market with a guide price of £1.7 million, but on Wednesday the deadline passed for tenders to buy the building. The Council is not revealing whether or not any acceptable offers have been made by developers to buy the site.
As previously reported by CrowboroughLife, the Crowborough Community Association want to convert the building into an Enterprise Hub, with a mix of business units, community space and the existing library.
The CCA is currently seeking funding for a full feasibility study and is simultaneously sourcing grant aid and professional partners to deliver its vision for Pine Grove. As well as finding funding to buy the building, it is understood the cost of refurbishing it to create the Hub could cost somewhere between £1 and 2 million.
The CCA however insist they are still the “best option”.
In a survey 98% people responded in favour of their proposal for a Enterprise Hub. Only 2 people, out of 370, came out against the initiative. Their consultation also showed there was strong support for retaining adjacent car park spaces and protecting the Bluebell Wood from development.
But as the consultation was carried-out by them, did not mention any alternatives nor the money required to buy the building, it is debatable how objective the results are.
The initial plan floated when Wealden revealed it was moving to a single headquarters in Hailsham, was for the building to become a Civic Hub with Crowborough Town Council, Sussex Police, and a Council Help Point to utilising the vacated building, as well as the suggestion the library could be enlarged.
These options were explored in a report by Workbase Plus Ltd in 2011.
Wealden District Council now say extensive talks with other public service providers have shown that, in this continuing period of austerity, there is a insufficient appetite for such a project. As a result Wealden Council has been working with GVA to market the site (see previous article).
As well as the former Wealden Council Offices being up for sale, so is Beaconwood, formerly used by Social Services, the old Registration Office, and the adjacent car park. Wealden District Council describe this car park as “temporary”, although it has been in use for well over a decade.
Another factor for consideration by developers is the library. East Sussex County Council has a 999 year lease for it, therefore any developers wanting to buy the site would either have to retained it (like the CCA plan to do) or find an alternative location.
A statement from Wealden District Council reads as follows:
Pine Grove is one of the prime sites in the north of the District and whether it is purchased for a mixed commercial and residential development, social care and residential or pure residential use, it will greatly enhance Crowborough’s economic growth and help to ensure Crowborough’s prominence as the main town in the north of the county. In addition the residential aspect will create much-needed affordable housing in the north of Wealden where the cost of housing is particularly high as well as delivering proceeds for the benefit of Wealden taxpayers as a whole.
Given its important position, what we cannot do is allow further delays in deciding the future of the site, both for the sake of the town the wider district and the Council, which is continuing to meet running costs of over £100k per annum for the site.
Have Your Say:
What do you think should happen to Pine Grove? And where should the money come from to pay for any scheme? You can comment below, or on Twitter using the hashtag #CrowPineGrove.