2016 has been a year of initiatives at Wealden District Council as it brings forward new projects and opportunities to benefit local residents.
“While 2016 nationally and internationally has heralded a number of momentous changes, the key word at Wealden has been initiative as the Council launched some ground breaking measures while continuing to deliver a high level of service,” said Council Chairman, Chris Hardy.
“As well as our annual community grants scheme, which saw nearly £170,000 go to local sports clubs, organisations and service providers this year, the Wealden Strategic Partnership came forward with its Strong Resilient Communities Fund, providing £115,000 to help strengthen the local economy, and improve health and access to services.
“One of the beneficiaries has been the Wealden Dementia Action Alliance, which is bringing together local groups that provide help for people with dementia. It has already organised a series of dementia–friendly films for screening at Hailsham, and bowling and new age kurling activities at Freedom Leisure are expected to follow. The need to support health in the community is becoming an important part of the Council’s work with partners – together with local GPs we are looking to pilot preventative health measures in local communities.
“In March we provided resources for the Clean for the Queen events which took place in 19 Wealden villages and towns. So popular was it that this community spring clean looks destined to become a regular event.
“We also launched the first Big Wealden Switch, offering residents the chance to enter a collective switching auction to reduce their household energy bills. It generated combined savings of £31,440 for those who took part. It’s another initiative we are looking to repeat again in 2017.
“The lack of suitable housing at affordable prices, both for first time buyers and people looking to rent, is a national issue. Progress on the Wealden Local Plan, to help meet this built-up demand, continues. The Council is also targeting its approach by setting up its own housing company. This will be specifically aimed at the smaller housing opportunities in our towns and villages which larger developers shy away from. It aims to provide new homes for first time buyers, the rental sector and older homeowners looking to downsize but stay in their local communities.
“We have also started a free email news service for residents, My Alerts. Each week it provides information about neighbourhood planning applications, your next waste and recycling collections, and news and events from the Council. We now have over 26,000 subscribers. The sign-up information is on our web site. In this increasingly digital age, we’ve been holding a series of Coffee, Cakes and Computers drop-in events for residents who want help and support getting online. They are run by Council staff and offer simple, friendly advice about the sometimes bewildering world of the worldwide web as well as information about other community services. It is a good example of how the Council supports residents.
“This year we celebrated 25 years of Safety in Action, our innovative learning through experience with the emergency services and partners. More than 16,000 Wealden primary school children have benefitted from Safety in Action over the years. A great achievement. But safety on our roads continues to be a concern and we have been harnessing behavioural science in a poster campaign, helped by the Police and Fire & Rescue Service, to persuade drivers to take care when driving and slow down.
“We had another very popular Wealden Food and Wine Festival at Pevensey Castle and a successful Wealden Works Career Fair for young people at the East Sussex National in Uckfield. High street improvements have now been completed in Uckfield and are well underway in Hailsham, improving our welcome for people who want to shop locally. An invigorating Sussex Coast and Country Walking Festival helped celebrate two famous local anniversaries, the 90th birthday of Winnie the Pooh in Ashdown Forest and the 950th anniversary on the Norman landings at Pevensey.
“In November the Council was awarded White Ribbon status for the stand it is taking against domestic violence in all its forms.
“The importance of democratic decision-making has been to the fore in 2016, and we cannot forget the part played by the Council’s elections staff and all the volunteers who come forward to help make elections happen in the District. The Police and Crime Commissioner election in May was managed by Wealden across the whole Sussex Police area. This was shortly followed by the EU Referendum in June. We had a record turnout of 80%. It meant a lot of hard work for all those involved.
“The Vice-chairman, Councillor Pam Doodes, and I have attended many events across the District during the year and have always been made to feel very welcome. I would like to thank all those we have been able to meet for their kindness and wish everyone in Wealden a prosperous and peaceful 2017.”