In 2018, Rother District Council (RDC) purchased the freehold on six industrial units comprising 1,599 sqm at Beeching Road Industrial Estate in Bexhill. Grant funding was secured from the Local Growth Fund (LGF) through the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) to refurbish and re-purpose the buildings in order to provide managed workspaces to accommodate and develop creative sector businesses. An informal steering group was formed, comprising RDC, studios operators, education establishments, cultural organisations and artists.
This project followed on from a number of local creative sector initiatives. In 2018 RDC commissioned creative consultants Always Possible to undertake an Economic Impact and Feasibility Assessment for creative workspace in Bexhill underpinning RDC’s drive to support local regeneration through the development of the creative sector in Bexhill. This was followed in 2019 by a Creative Workspace Business Plan by Counterculture in partnership with Assemble, which laid out option as to how this resource could best support Bexhill’s creative industries.
Bexhill is also one of two local hubs delivering SECCADS, a two-year European funded business development and grant programme designed to support creative, cultural and digital businesses. Finally, the SELEP culture sub group’s work SECEN is delivering sector support funded projects which, along with England’s Creative Coast and Catalyst for Culture, is working on the development of a workspace strategy to look at addressing the gap in suitable workspace for the creative, cultural and digital sector.
(Counter Culture, 2020)
History of Beeching Road
Beeching Road as a location: “The name is a railway joke, as Beeching Road is named after Dr Richard Beeching (1913-1985) famous for the “Beeching Axe” which destroyed the country’s railway infrastructure in 1964 in favour of the car – something we are still suffering from. The joke only works when you discover that Beeching Road is where the old Bexhill West Branch Line used to be – one of many Dr Beeching closed in 1964.
The Bexhill West, or Crowhurst Branch Line, went up through Sidley to Crowhurst where it joined the main line to London, this was opened in 1902 and was our fast connection to the capital. When we had it Bexhill was effectively half an hour closer to London.”
District Curator, Bexhill Museum.
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) is to allocate £960,000 of Local Growth Fund investment, matched by £800,000 from Rother District Council (RDC), to the Bexhill Creative Workspace project. The aim is to create new employment opportunities, low cost creative workspace and strengthen ties with the De La Warr Pavilion.
The site on Beeching Road industrial estate was used by Premier Foods for the production of its Sharwood’s range until 2004 when it closed with the loss of 250 jobs. The funding was allocated after RDC put a case to SELEP, which is responsible for supporting the economies of East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock.
The decision was welcomed by Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, who said: “This is a really exciting project. I’m delighted to see RDC, with the help of SELEP, has seized this great opportunity to create a hub for the creative industries in Bexhill.
I know, from my work for our local jobs fair, there’s a huge amount of creative talent in and around Bexhill. It’s essential we create the right environment and workspace to help this innovative industry to thrive and grow.”
(The Newsroom, Bexhill-on-Sea, Observer, 2019)