Government officials visited Eastbourne last week as final preparations were made to a business case that could unlock the £2million pledged to the town by the Prime Minister in the wake of the pier fire.
Following David Cameron’s visit back in August, Eastbourne Borough Council set up a Pier Advisory Panel comprising members from across the political parties, to oversee the development of the business case.
The money was pledged by the Prime Minister to support the town’s tourism and economy following the blaze that devastated one of the town’s main attractions. The business case must outline how the £2million would be best spent to benefit the town and local businesses.
The Pier Advisory Panel also sit on the Pier Action Committee, which has representatives from local businesses and community groups, supported by key council officers. Both groups have been considering the best options to put forward on how the funds are spent.
These projects comprise short, medium and long term plans to boost the profile of the town’s tourism offer.
The business case is a condition to secure the windfall and will be submitted to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) by Christmas. Officials from DCLG visited Eastbourne on Tuesday, December 16 to meet members of the Pier Action Committee.
On their arrival, they were shown the key sites relating to the projects in the business case and then headed to the Hardwick Suite in the International Lawn Tennis Centre at Devonshire Park to discuss the business case in more detail.
A final decision from the government is expected by the end of March 2015.
A Benevolent Fund was set up by The Chamber of Commerce as an urgent action to help those suffering financial hardship as a result of the fire.
While the community has so far raised more than £12,500 for the fund, Eastbourne Borough Council also contributed £75,000 from its reserves to the Pier Benevolent Fund. It is envisaged this sum will be repaid from the government grant.
David Cameron and George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, came to Eastbourne on Friday, August 1 – two days after the devastating fire that destroyed a third of the iconic Victorian pier.
The Prime Minister visited the pier before heading to the lifeboat station and the East Sussex Fire and Rescue station in Whitley Road to praise the lifeboat volunteers and firefighters for their efforts in controlling the flames.
Mr Cameron said, “I know that the loss of one of Eastbourne’s most prominent and well-loved landmarks will have hit the town hard and I am determined to do all I can to help local businesses recover.”
Since his visit, Mr Cameron has requested regular progress reports on what is being done to help those affected by the fire. Eastbourne Borough Council has been compiling the regular reports and updates.