‘Once in a generation’ plan to transform Hailsham town centre

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Hailsham town centre could be set to undergo a major regeneration project, in plans to be discussed by Wealden council leaders next week.

Next Wednesday (January 30), Wealden District Council cabinet members are set to discuss plans for a major redevelopment in the area surrounding the Vicarage Field Shopping Centre, in what the council describes as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’.

The proposals include: a new and improved shopping centre with up to 20,000sq ft of additional retail floor space; a multi-storey car park; new council offices; and up to 280 apartments and townhouses aimed at younger buyers.   

A council spokesman said: “It will be a big project. We are possibly looking at a £100m scheme taking five years to complete.

“So we want to be sure the mix of retail, leisure, office and residential space we propose will enable the town to evolve and adapt to what people want today and in the years to come.”

The development is proposed for both the Vicarage Field Shopping Centre – which the council bought for £12.35m in 2017 – and land on the opposite side of Vicarage Lane, including the current council offices and leisure centre.

A large part of the proposed development also includes several of Hailsham’s free car parks, although it is expected the spaces lost would be consolidated into a single multi-storey car park. The council says it is too early to say whether charges will be introduced.

The final proposals would also include new facilities for the Freedom Leisure Centre, Hailsham Club and Charles Hunt Centre, which all fall within the development area.

New civic offices would also be built to replace the council offices in Vicarage Lane. These could potentially act as offices for a range of public sector bodies, including emergency services and both the town council and district council.

The civic offices could also include a library, according to council documents.

Electric car charging points and green energy generation are also intended to be part of the proposals.

The proposals are set for discussion at a cabinet meeting cabinet next Wednesday (January 30), where council leaders will consider whether to move ahead to a second phase of the project.

If approved, the council is expected to begin early public consultation on the plans, meet with the site’s other landowners and carry out more detailed studies into how the development could move forward.

Details of how much the project could cost are currently confidential, although council documents show the authority plans to bid for a share of the Government’s £675m Future High Streets Fund for the early stages of the project.

It is understood that the council is considering three options for the wider development: selling off the site to a developer; moving ahead as part of a joint venture; or funding the full project itself.

A council spokesman said:“This is a once in a generation opportunity to redevelop and regenerate Hailsham. Wealden District Council bought the Vicarage Field shopping centre as part of a long term plan to regenerate the town.

“By including all of its landholdings in this project, the council owns a large portion of this 18 acre site in the heart of the town.

“By joining together with other landowners, including Hailsham Town Council, it can help shape the destiny on the town.

“So far we have only had a first look at what the future may hold. We now want to explore this further with the people of Hailsham and the district as well as other organisations and possible business partners.”