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Reopening the High Streets Safely Fund and Welcome Back Fund in Lewes district

The following update was given to members of Lewes District Council informal Cabinet on Thursday 26 May 2022 on the projects and Initiatives delivered via the Reopening the High Streets Safely Fund and the Welcome Back Fund and the total spend.

Welcome Back Fund

On 20th March 2021, Government announced that the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund (RHSSF) had been expanded and would begin a new phase of delivery as the Welcome Back Fund (WBF).

This funding built on the £50 million RHSSF announced in May 2020, increasing the fund by £56 million to further support high streets and visitor economies. Local authorities saw their original RHSSF allocation double with an additional £6m allocated to coastal authorities to help them address the unique challenges those areas were facing. 

The delivery period was extended to March 2022 and the scope of eligible activities increased significantly to better support the reopening of local economies. 

The Welcome Back Fund continued to support the 4 main types of existing RHSSF activities as outlined in the original guidance including:   

  • Support to develop an action plan for the safe reopening of local economies 
  • Communications and public information
  • Business-facing awareness raising activities and 
  • Temporary public realm changes to ensure that reopening of local economies could be managed successfully and safely.   

In addition, the Welcome Back Fund could be used to:   

  • Support and promote a safe public environment for a local area's visitor economy and   
  • Allow local areas to develop plans for responding to the medium-term impact of Covid-19 including trialling new ideas particularly where these relate to the High Street.

Eligible activity under these two new strands could include:

  • Publicity campaigns and marketing activity for street food markets to support local businesses
  • Improving green spaces and seating areas to encourage people back to towns centres and
  • Beautification of areas to support the visitor economy.

The funding could also be used to help local areas overcome the long-term impact of Covid-19, including trialling exciting new ideas such as 'virtual high streets' and research projects to futureproof our local economies and communities. Any activities to be funded under the new strands of activity needed to be linked to a local strategy for reopening in response to the impact of Covid-19. 

Lewes District Council received an allocation of £91,677 from the Reopening the High Street Safely Fund and an allocation of £156,678 from the Welcome Back Fund, giving a total allocation of £248,355.

The table below details the Projects and Initiatives funded via the RHSSF and the WBF and confirms the total spend at the end of March 2022. These costs are all exclusive of VAT.

Project and amount claimed

  • Reopening the High Streets Safely Fund - safe distancing signage on lamp posts - £811
  • VisitLewes Postal Campaign - a 16-page booklet was sent to every postcode in the District in mid-March, promoting Visit Lewes events and the best aspects of the area to local people - for example, food and drink, walks and countryside and independent shopping - £8,850
  • Planting at the top of Newhaven High Street/Ring Road - £4,274.50
  • Parklets (5 No.) provided at Newhaven Square; Newhaven Fort; Western Road, Lewes; Fairlight Avenue Car Park, Telscombe and Piddinghoe Avenue Car Park, Peacehaven - £49,750
  • Seaford Gateway Signage Project - design, print and install new gateway signage linking Seaford Beach to Town Centre - £3,201.81
  • Community Events Venue - Telscombe Cliffs - various items of equipment - Silver 'A Frame'; Marquee; Storage container; 15No. deckchairs; 4No. Eco planters; Banners and flags - £3,438.38
  • Peacehaven Event - various items of equipment - 2No. marquees; 8No. benches; Display panels; Tables and chairs; Banners and flags; 10No. Planters; Signs - lockable notice board and A1 frame board; Project management costs - £7,520.22
  • Lewes Late Night Christmas Shopping - funded additional free attractions at the annual shopping event on 3rd December, including tuk-tuk rides, a light show, dog show, storytelling, live music and children's activities, plus security and stewarding. Over 17,000 people passed through Lewes Town Centre on the evening - £10,000
  • Gin and Fizzmas - a free Christmas festival and shopping event tying in with Lewes Late Night Shopping, celebrating and promoting locally made drinks at Lewes Market Tower. 16 drinks producers and 723 visitors attended - £17,349.67
  • Seaford Sculpture Project - funded the initial stages of the Beacon Show, a community arts project organised by SCIP and taking place along Seaford beach this year. This included a youth engagement programme, photography, design, free art workshops and guided tours - £20,000
  • Audio Trails - funded the print and installation of QR code plaques linking to audio stories about local heritage. Participants were encouraged to collect a map from the Tourist Information Centres and follow a trail around Lewes and beyond - £4,000
  • District-wide Walking Festival - 'Walk This Way' - A free walking festival taking place over the last two weekends of March, featuring over 40 themed guided walks around the District. 14 local experts were paid to provide free walks of varying intensity and on a number of subjects to over 700 participants - £12,115.49
  • Pop-up Pub - a free, temporary beer and wine festival event in Southover Grange Gardens, Lewes on the weekend beginning Friday 17th September 2021 - £10,000
  • Newhaven Skate Jam Event - £1,500
  • VisitLewes Website - a data capture and research platform that allows us to use pre-existing tangible data from users' mobile phones. Completely GDPR compliant, it will provide us with backdated information as to who has visited us, where they have visited from, how long they stayed, their interests and more. We are currently identifying 50 'hot spots' throughout the district as 'geofence' locations within which to capture data - £12,450
  • E-Commerce Platform - provision of a click and collect/delivery e-commerce solution for local independent traders in the District - £20,000
  • Fusball Stars Event - a free football tournament took place on Convent Field, Lewes, over the weekend of 19th - 20th March. Over 400 children and young people took part - £6,000
  • Peacehaven Coast Road Signage - 2No. new temporary signs in both the Steyning Avenue Car Park and Piddinghoe Avenue Car Park in Peacehaven to promote the shops and businesses along the South Coast Road - £1,103
  • Seaford Christmas Event - funded children's activities and entertainment at Seaford's annual Christmas event - £5,000
  • Shop Independent - a Christmas shopping promotion designed to incentivise participants to use local independent shops in the run up to Christmas. 169 shops in Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven signed up, with over 1500 shoppers taking part. We estimate that over £19,000 was spent in local shops as a direct result of the scheme - £6,300
  • Tide Mills Project - funded security and stewarding at this large-scale community arts project, organised by LYT Productions. It attracted widespread media coverage and brought over 23,000 people to Tide Mills during the Heritage Celebration Week and screening costs for Tide Mills documentary in Newhaven, Seaford and Lewes - £6,223.33
  • Tide Mills Screening - A community screening of the Tide Mills Project Documentary in Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford - £450

Total Spend: £210,337.40

It is acknowledged that not all of the allocation was spent (£38,017.60) and this was due to the following:

  • Some of the initiatives that were suggested weren't eligible for funding
  • Some of the projects identified in the original Welcome Back Fund Activity Form that was approved by Government didn't go ahead for various reasons. However, where possible Project Change Requests were submitted to re-allocate the funding and finally,
  • Some of the allocations identified in the Activity Form weren't spent in full.

Nevertheless, the Fund allowed a package of interventions to be delivered across the District which supported and enhanced our high streets and boosted our visitor economies.