Projects totalling £1.2m across Wealden have now been endorsed and an investment plan will now be submitted to the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund by 1 August.

The projects have been approved by Wealden District Council’s Cabinet committee this week as part of an investment plan to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to draw down on the £1.172,127 in funding for the district, which has been allocated over a three-year period.

Key areas of investment include communities and place, people and skills and supporting local businesses.

Under the communities and place category, the council aims to connect communities through a ‘Regeneration Masterplan’ along the Cuckoo Trail, which will maintain and improve the infrastructure, provide opportunities for communities and encourage residents and visitors to the trail.

To meet the criteria laid down for supporting local businesses – and with less than 50% convenience expenditure being retained locally – the council will continue to support local town and village centres to make them thrive and encourage people to shop local.

The authority plans to achieve that by continuing the work started through the Re-opening of the High Streets initiative and ‘Welcome Back Funding’.

Part of the Shared Prosperity Fund cash will go towards business support interventions, providing support to new start-up businesses and meeting the needs of those more established and mature businesses.

It will also help support the employability and skills agenda as without investment, there is a danger there will be a gap in the provision of some of the softer skills for those individuals that are hardest to teach and some of the grass roots organisations delivering this support will struggle to survive.

East Sussex County Council has put forward proposals to district and borough councils to respond to the gap in provision and identify how collectively they can continue to support the lower skilled and those who are unemployed into work and training, as well as trying to support the specialist delivery organisations who serve them.

Addressing climate change across Wealden’s rural communities is also part of the investment plan to progress the council’s net zero commitments by ensuring the district’s employment space and industrial developments are connected to their location, and support journeys by walking, cycling and public transport for workers is key to ensuring they are attracting employees.

The Cuckoo Trail project and High Street support packages will be used as catalysts for climate change conversations and change across the district. Funding will be allocated to assisting with access to employment sites from the Cuckoo Trail and to work with new housing communities to promote active travel opportunities.

Councillor Philip Lunn, the council’s portfolio holder for Economic Development, said, “The funding we are looking to receive will of course very welcome. We have some excellent proposals for projects over the next three-year period, and without that funding, it would have been far more difficult to consider progressing these. We are looking forward to the positive changes these projects will bring to communities and the people who live in them.”