Heathfield's Big Society

Long before David Cameron unveiled his flagship policy, the little Wealden market town of Heathfield was putting his ideas into practice. Report by Jenny Mark-Bell

Seven years ago, in anticipation of Heathfield’s outdoor swimming pool coming to the end of its life, a community campaign  united the town and its surrounding area. Heathfield Area Pool Initiative (HAPI), the brainchild of Don Rigg, conducted preliminary research which revealed that more than 5,000 locals would support and use an indoor swimming pool. Just under half of the petition’s supporters came from rural communities outside of Heathfield and 1,600 pupils from primary schools and Heathfield Community College signed (see table for survey results). The following year HAPI and the Heathfield Partnership joined forces and in 2006 �12,000 was raised for a feasibility study. The study concluded that the only viable site for an indoor swimming pool was Heathfield Community College (HCC). This resulted in the formation of Heathfield Community Swimming Pool Project, a three-pronged organisation consisting of the Heathfield Partnership, HAPI and the college. In 2007, East Sussex County Council agreed for land at HCC to be used for the pool and, crucially, the project became part of the council's Local Development Framework.Since then all member bodies have been working hard to raise the �30,000 required for a full planning submission. At the close of 2009 funds stood at almost �10,000, but the campaign gained momentum last year and a further �6,500 was raised in the first quarter alone.The project was the local Co-operative's Charity of the Year for 2010, meaning it was the recipient of all in-store fundraising events and activities.One of the main sources of funds in 2010 was a raffle for a brand new Vauxhall Agila, supplied by Goldsmith and Allcorn. The car was displayed at Heathfield Show, Heathfield Carnival, and the town's Christmas family fun day and local retailers mucked in by selling tickets. Around 15,000 tickets have been sold since the competition’s launch in April last year. The winning ticket will be drawn by former BBC newsreader Beverley Thompson on 8 January.

For more information visit www.heathfield.net or call Rosemary Mays-Smith on 01435 863094Raising the profile – what The Heathfield Partnership is all about


Since 1995, the Heathfield Partnership has been working on behalf of residents of the town and its surrounding villages to improve the profile of the area, with projects including the installation of public information points, running a community bus scheme and holding a farmers' market on the third Saturday of each month, selling local produce. The partnership consists of representatives from various local organisations such as East Sussex County Council, Wealden District Council and Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council. There are also representatives from Heathfield Chamber of Commerce and Trade, Churches Together in Heathfield, Heathfield Community College, Heathfield Community College Youth Council and Heathfield and Waldron Rotary Club. “The High Street project was a 15 year process,” says Rosemary Mays-Smith, a Trustee of the Partnership and Chairman of its Sport and Leisure Committee. “We planted trees and hanging baskets, installed Christmas lights and resurfaced pavements, as well as improving disabled access.” The farmers’ market also took a while to get off the ground, but is now thriving, with 25-30 stalls each month. 

The Heathfield Partnership:c/o 92 High StreetHeathfieldEast Sussex TN21 8JD

Tel:  01892 610314E: heathfieldpartnership@fsmail.net

Enjoy the taste of the county 

Heathfield Farmers’ Market is held on the third Saturday of every month in the Heathfield Co-Op car park. Stalls sell seasonal fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, pies, game, smoked fish and meat, cheese, cakes, preserves, bread, olives, plants and flowers, as well a wide range of arts and crafts. The market is certified by FARMA, the Farm and Retail Marketing Association, meaning that it has been inspected by the Soil Association and that the stallholders must comply with strict standards

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