Wealden District Council
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UK Shared Prosperity Fund

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The fund, managed by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is the government’s domestic replacement for the European Structural and Investment Programme. UKSPF aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK, by investing in three investment priorities: communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit UK Shared Prosperity Fund Prospectus.

In April 2022, the UK Government announced Wealden District Council had been awarded an indicative allocation of £1.17million for the period of April 2022 – March 2025. The allocation has been unequally split across the three years; with the majority of the fund due in the final year. The council submitted an investment plan in July 2022, outlining how this funding allocation would be spent in line with the three investment priorities outlined by DLUHC. Year 1 activity focused on the Communities and Place investment priority and years 2 and 3 will deliver against all three priorities; communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. In January 2023, the council received approval of the investment plan and the year 1 funding amount.

There were some delays with the funding from DLUHC, however we were able to begin delivery of the projects in year 1, these included:

  • Five greatly successful “Streets of Wealden” theatre events in Wealden’s key town centres. The events drew in thousands of people to the highstreets to see the performers, each date received a fantastic response from residents. View our YouTube video from these events.
  • A varied wellness programme of activities including outreach work with retirement living courts, centre-based sessions for those with long term health issues and walk in health check days, among others.
  • Development of a Cuckoo Trail Masterplan, which continued into year 2. We procured landscape architects to undertake research, engagement activities and produce an overarching strategy for improving the Cuckoo Trail. The plan recommends a number of projects to be delivered within the remaining UKSPF period and a number of aspirational projects that we hope will be delivered in the future when funding permits. To request a copy of the final Masterplan, email economicdevelopment@wealden.gov.uk   
  • New benches and bike maintenance stations were purchased for installation along the cuckoo trail to improve user experience and replace damaged.

Year 2, April 2023 – March 2024, progress to date:

  • The Journey’s Festival of Dance event was successfully delivered in Hailsham on Saturday 23 September. The day was filled with Tango performances, workshops and live music, followed by a spectacular evening show which combined tango, fire and theatre in Vicarage Lane car park, Hailsham. Over 1,200 people engaged with theatricals, music, dance and family-filled fun throughout the day. Wealden fully funded the Hailsham date of the three-day touring dance festival, to ensure the event was free and accessible to residents.
  • Eastwell Bridge Arts project was successfully completed in partnership with Hailsham Festival of Arts. £7,200 of Shared Prosperity funding was provided by Wealden District Council to support this project and improve the bridge which had suffered from graffiti for many years. Over 250 local artists submitted artwork to be included on the Eastwell Place Bridge, 77 pieces were selected and installed on the inner faces of the bridge. Over 150 people attended the unveiling.
  • Working in partnership with East Sussex County Council and other Districts and Boroughs in the County we are delivering a programme of business support to help start-ups maximise chances for success and existing businesses to scale.  
  • A People and skills programme, also in partnership with ESCC and other Districts and Boroughs in the County commenced in year 2, the programme helps those furthest from the labour market access mentoring, employability and job seeking support to secure and retain suitable employment.

In Year 3 we are looking to deliver the following projects between April 2024 – March 2025:

  • A further programme of town centre events following the success of the Streets of Wealden and Journey’s Festival of Dance events in years 1 & 2.
  • ESCC Business Support project continues.
  • ESCC People and Skills project continues.
  • A Net Zero business support programme, more information to come in due course.
  • A number of Cuckoo Trail related projects, all of which arose from the Masterplan. Many have begun delivery and will continue to deliver until 31st March 2025. Below provides an update on each:
  • Horam Station Hub: Horam is an ideal location along the Cuckoo Trail to have a ‘hub’ or meeting place. It is a large piece of land that offers the opportunity to meet friends and family, take a break after a long walk or cycle, and stroll around the remnants of the old Horam train station. The Council is currently working with industry experts to develop plans for the site. These may include a refreshment kiosk, landscaping improvements and enhancements to the existing historical features including the old railway platform and signs. Draft designs will be received in spring 2024. Once these are confirmed, the site improvements will commence and be completed by spring 2025.
  • Signage and Wayfinding: Signage and wayfinding are so important when navigating along the Trail, exploring heritage and history of the local area, and finding out about the amenities and attractions close by. A Signage and Wayfinding Strategy is currently being developed. This strategy will review the existing signage, provide design templates and principles to ensure consistency of signage along the length of the trail, improve accessibility of information and better reflect the history of the trail. promoting the many fantastic amenities located nearby. Once the strategy is finalised, a timeline will be developed and the strategy delivered in 2024 and beyond, if required.
  • Heathfield Picnic Area: Site plans are being developed to improve the accessibility and layout of the Heathfield picnic area. Improvements will include widening of both of the access paths, resurfacing sections to further improve accessibility and the installation of new furniture, including a wheelchair friendly picnic table. The works at this location aim to be complete by summer 2024.
  • Summerhill Linear Trail: To encourage people to move more and take full advantage of the many health and mental wellbeing benefits of being outdoors, the Summerhill Lane Linear Trail project looks to utilise the wide verges on the Hailsham to Polegate stretch of the trail. This stretch is ideal for many people as it is within easy walking distance of Hailsham and Polegate and provides an ideal location for an outdoor gym. The plans for this site include installing eleven pieces of outdoor gym equipment such as a balance beam, overhead ladder and sit up bench, along the 1.5km stretch between Summerhill Lane and Sayerland Lane. The body-weight equipment will comprise of metal frames and allow people to exercise, free of charge, in the great outdoors. The equipment will be painted green to be in keeping with the look and feel of the trail and include instructions on how to use the equipment safely. The installation will take place in spring 2024.
  • Cuckoo Trail Arts and Heritage Programme: The Council, with several partners, will be developing and delivering a Cuckoo Trail Arts and Heritage Programme with the aim of improving pride of place and a sense of ownership of the Trail. The activities will focus on engaging local residents, of all ages and abilities, along the trail. Locations to be confirmed but delivery will be focused where most need is identified. This programme will deliver a range of activities over the next twelve months and looks to include a celebratory event in March 2025 to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the formal opening of the Heathfield to Hailsham stretch of the Cuckoo line.
  • Vegetation enhancement and management: Opportunities for improving the biodiversity of the trail are currently being explored. Interventions to support wildlife and vegetation will mainly be delivered through the current Cuckoo Trail maintenance contract, however, where feasible, improvements to the biodiversity will be considered in the remaining SPF Cuckoo Trail projects and beyond.
  • Polegate Intersection: Improvements to this section of the trail will be developed from the Signage and Wayfinding Strategy. This may involve condensing the existing signage, installing wayfinding consistent with the rest of the Cuckoo Trail and ensuring the look and feel of the signage, where permitted, reflects the railway history of the trail.
  • Wellness and Volunteering: The Council are looking to deliver a green gym and series of health walks along the Cuckoo Trail, commencing by summer 2024 and continuing until March 2025. It will be available, free of charge, for residents to take part in and will be a great way to meet new people, develop new skills and learn more about the local area. This programme aims to improve pride of place, sense of community ownership of the trail whilst helping to protect and enhance the sustainability of the trail.

We are interested in hearing your views. Whether you are a walker, runner, cyclist or horse rider that uses the Trail, we welcome your feedback on our exciting improvement plans. Head over to our Let Talk Wealden page to submit your ideas.

In September 2022, the UK government also announced a top-up to UKSPF specifically for rural areas, the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF). A sperate pot to provide capital grants to community groups and businesses in rural areas between April 2023 and April 2025. Check out our REPF page to keep up to date.

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