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We spoke to Heart of Sidley Big Local about their involvement in a successful Levelling Up Fund bid and the importance of investing in their local park, Sidley Rec.

At the start of 2023, Heart of Sidley (HOS) Big Local in Bexhill, East Sussex, received some great news. They found out that a bid to the Levelling Up Fund, which they had developed with their local authority, Rother District Council, was successful.

HOS’s plans centre on a local park, Sidley Rec, where they want to redevelop a changing room and toilet block into a community hub and café.

Their plans were adapted by the council to become part of a larger Levelling Up Fund bid, which will support the refurbishment of the seafront De La Warr Pavilion.

Group photo at Sidley Rec and skate park open day

Celebrating the opening of the skate park at Sidley Rec. Photo: Heart of Sidley

The successful bid also included provision for another part of Sidley Rec to be developed into an all-weather pitch, creating a year-round rental income for the leaseholder. Lease of the building and pitch will be offered to HOS’s legacy organisation, Heart of Sidley Community Association (HOSCA).

Before the Levelling Up Fund bid, HOS had already invested in Sidley Rec, contributing funding to re-open the BMX track, as well as helping to fund the opening of a skate park.

Here Linda Seddon, one of HOS’s partners and a HOSCA trustee, reflects on the success of the bid, her advice for other Big Local areas seeking funding, and the partnership’s hopes for the future.

Could you tell us a bit more about Sidley Rec and why it’s such an important space for the community?  

Sidley Rec is the only large green space in Sidley used by all ages, from babies and toddlers to older people. 

What do you think made HOS’s plans for the rec stand out in the Levelling Up Fund bid?  

The lack of funding in this deprived ward over the last few years. Also, there is a lack of public accessible toilets in this area and spaces for the local community to use. 

What advice would you give to other Big Local areas developing a funding bid?  

Make sure you tell them what you want and how many people it will benefit. Make sure it is a viable project. 

What are your hopes for your Big Local legacy and how will HOSCA continue your work? 

We hope that HOSCA will carry on the good work HOS has done over the last eight/nine years, if they are able to access the appropriate funding. 

People using the BMX track at Sidley Rec

The BMX track at Sidley Rec. Photo: Heart of Sidley

Get funding for assets through the Community Ownership Fund

The government will open the third round of its Community Ownership Fund, designed to help communities rescue and take control of treasured local assets, on 30 August 2023. From this window, they will be increasing the amount of funding that all new applicants can bid for from £1million to £2million.
Find out more about the Community Ownership Fund

Find and access funding: A community action plan

If your partnership is looking for future funding, our action plan can help! Developed with Stir to Action, it’s full of practical tips and features examples of Big Local and other community groups who have successfully accessed funding to deliver lasting change in their communities.
Download your community action plan