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Stepping forward into the future

Media Release : 19 December 2018

“Whatever uncertainties await us all in the year ahead, I am pleased to report the close of 2018 sees Wealden in a good position to meet the future.”

Chair Chris Hardy for web

Councillor Chris Hardy, the Chairman of Wealden District Council, looks at the past year and to what lies ahead next year in Wealden.

“The Vice Chairman Councillor Pam Doodes, and myself visit many organisations over the course of the year. We never fail to be impressed by the dedication and effort we see from volunteers from all walks of life helping to make their communities a better place. 

“Their efforts speak for themselves, but I would like to share with everyone else the hope and reassurance it gives me for the future. I also hope that many will have been nominated for a Community Volunteer Award. The winners will be announced in March at my Civic Reception.

“The District Council has made great progress over the past year in our efforts to provide more affordable council housing in the District. New council homes are now occupied at Old Hop Gardens in Hailsham, further new council homes to rent in East Dean and Cross in Hand will be handed over at the end of the year and spring will see the opening of our new retirement living court, Grants Hill Court, Uckfield. We are also looking to begin projects in Polegate, Uckfield and Crowborough. We have also drawn up a 30 year investment plan which will increase our borrowing limit for council housing investment to £95 million.

“A home of one’s own still remains out of reach for many people. Our Draft Local Plan seeks to enable more homes to be built in line with the national Government policy. At the same time it proposes a range of safeguards to protect our outstanding landscape and ecology which, I know so many residents value. Our second open access countryside area, Horsted Green Park is expected to open next year, complementing the success of Walshes Park, which I had the pleasure of officially opening last September with a family fun day. 

 “The Draft Wealden Local Plan will be vital in ensuring development is properly managed. The Examination in Public phase of the Local Plan will take place in 2019, and we will all be watching with keen interest.

“Next year will also see a new service being launched. The District’s own Crematorium. It uses contemporary design, and a combination of stone, glass and water to create a purpose-built crematorium within 30 acres of landscaped countryside. I have been keeping a close eye on its progress and have been greatly impressed by this new facility outside of Horam.

“The Crematorium, and our investment in Vicarage Field Shopping Centre in Hailsham, are part of a commercial strategy which the Council has adopted to make it more self-sufficient in the future. The Council’s wholly owned housing company, Sussex Weald Homes Ltd is building houses for market sale in Jarvis Brook, Crowborough. So while national finances may be stretched, the District will continue to be able to generate income and provide the services which our residents expect.

“As well as providing statutory services such as homelessness provision, licensing and electoral services, Wealden has continued to support a number of community based projects in 2018. Including, Community Grant Schemes, Big Wealden Switch domestic energy switching offer, Street Learning, Fun and Safety, Summer Activity Days, Wealden Works careers fair, and the Great Wealden Spring Clean. These initiatives alongside business networking events continue to add value and improve the opportunities for many in the District. The Wealden Dementia Action Alliance goes from strength to strength, with a memory café and dementia forum now launched in Crowborough and another dementia forum underway in Hailsham. There are already regular forums taking place at Uckfield and Polegate. I have seen first-hand the positive impact these forums have on people caring for, and living with dementia. 

“The last year, like any other, has seen some changes. We have said goodbye to a number of long serving members of staff, including our Chief Executive for the past 16 years, Charles Lant. We have also welcomed new members of staff, such as Averil Price the Director of Community and Customer Services, and seen others promoted, including our new Chief Executive, Trevor Scott.

“Next year will bring more changes, with the District Council elections taking place on 2 May 2019. This will see the number of seats on the Council reduce from 55 to 45. Some of our current elected members will not be returning. I would like to thank each one of them for the enthusiasm and commitment they have shown in representing their communities over the past four years.

“I would particularly like to thank everyone for their support of my two chosen charities, The JPK Project which provides opportunities for people with Learning Disabilities, and Wealden Works, providing opportunities to local young people. Both have continued to impress me throughout the year.

“So as we step forward into the future, on behalf of Wealden District Council, I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a successful and peaceful New Year.”