County news: £90m fund for coastal communities unveiled

Mark Francois on the pier with the Hastings Pier Charity chief executive Simon Opie. Photo by Sid Saunders

Mark Francois on the pier with the Hastings Pier Charity chief executive Simon Opie. Photo by Sid Saunders

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An extra £90m to support seaside communities was unveiled as the minister responsible visited Sussex yesterday (Monday, May 23).

Communities minister Mark Francois was shown around the redeveloped Hastings Pier and new multi-million pound skate park, both of which have benefitted from the coastal communities fund.

The Source Park co-founder Richard Moore in the skate park shop with communities minister Mark Francois. Photo by Sid Saunders

The Source Park co-founder Richard Moore in the skate park shop with communities minister Mark Francois. Photo by Sid Saunders

Grants between £50,000 and £4m are available from today to a range of organisations all over the UK.

Mr Francois said the pier looked ‘fantastic’ and its re-opening has given the town’s morale a real boost which he hoped would translate into economic growth.

“I think the really good thing is the government found £120m in difficult economic times for the initial rounds of coastal communities funding, and because we’ve seen the good work it can do, including down here in Hastings, we decided to commit a further £90m over the next four years going forward,” he said.

“So the fund has done good work, we’re continuing to fund it, and I hope that coastal communities around the country, not least including Hastings, will be able to benefit from it in the future.”

Mark Francois, Simon Opie and Hastings Borough Council deputy leader Kim Forward check out the newly-opened Memories Room. Photo by Sid Saunders

Mark Francois, Simon Opie and Hastings Borough Council deputy leader Kim Forward check out the newly-opened Memories Room. Photo by Sid Saunders

Since 2012, the government has invested £120m in seaside towns and cities including £1.25m on the refurbished pier restaurant, The Pavilion.

As well as £500,000 for Hastings Borough Council to improve the seafront, visitor attractions and amenities in Hastings, including bikes to hire, better signage, information walks and trails and landscaping creating 260 jobs.

Deputy council leader Kim Forward said the grants have been vital to the regeneration of Hastings and will be even more so as budgets tighten.

“I think it [the coastal community fund] is absolutely essential because without funding like that a town like ours which, without wishing to talk about the deprivation, we all know that although we have a vibrant economy now, we can’t possible generate all the money that we need at the moment to work on making sure that we narrow the gap between the people living in the most deprived areas so they have the same opportunities as other people,” she said.

Mark Francois having a go with the pier telescopes.  Photo by Sid Saunders

Mark Francois having a go with the pier telescopes. Photo by Sid Saunders

“So funds like this are essential. Of course part of what they [the government] are doing is meeting that shortfall between the funding that was previously available for local boroughs and districts, which is actually quite sad, but we in Hastings are really good at knowing how to access the funding and having our priorities that actually fit with the criteria for funds like this.”

Cllr Forward added improving White Rock and West Marina are two places where funding could be sought as well as working with Sussex Coast College Hastings.

Mr Francois had lunch at the pier restaurant before being given a tour of the visitor centre and The Deck and then headed to the world’s largest underground skate park.

The Source co-founder Richard Moore said the minister was ‘blown away’ by the park and it was good to show him how the government’s money has made a real difference to Hastings.

Minister Mark Francois with Richard Moore in The Source Park. Photo by Sid Saunders. SUS-160524-081001001

Minister Mark Francois with Richard Moore in The Source Park. Photo by Sid Saunders. SUS-160524-081001001

“I think that all government ministers or people in positions of power generally are sitting there controlling millions, sometimes billions of pounds, and it’s good for them to actually see what effect it has.

“He’s gone in there {The Source Park] and seen people who’ve got jobs who didn’t have jobs before and he’s seen people walking around Hastings who wouldn’t have visited if the pier or we hadn’t opened.

“So for him to connect money that gets dished out to actual, tangible benefits to people is good and I think there’s probably a lot of money that gets spent by government that has little or no benefit you can see, but Hastings is really good at spending money and making it work for the town.”

Mr Moore hoped bids would be made to further improve the promenade saying Hastings needs ‘all the money it can get’.

The latest round closes on June 30.

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