There is a wide range of properties available on the open market in Crowborough, ranging from one-bed flats to 3-4 bedroom houses. There is, however, an imbalance of property sizes and a very small rental sector with 87% of homes in Crowborough being owner occupied. The local housing stock mainly comprises detached and semi-detached homes with smaller numbers of terraced homes and flats being available.
Future developments planned for Crowborough in the near future will be based at Steel Cross (40), Hatherview Farm (80), and Alderbrook (80). These developments will comprise a mixture of detached, semi-detached, terrace and flats and will each include 20% of their numbers as affordable homes. Any plans for further development will be affected by the availability of land for new build and the lack of redundant buildings for renovation.
The generally good condition of all privately owned and rented accommodation also extends to the housing stock where all properties are subject to improvements where they do not meet current standards. The consistently good condition of properties is one of the factors that contribute to high property prices. The average price for detached properties is £405,000, semi-detached £209,000, with flats and terraced between £119,000 and £192,000. This leads to an average price of £225,000, which, when compared with an average income of £13,000 to £20,000 highlights a major issue in relation to the affordability of homes. The increase in house prices that has been seen in prices in Crowborough in recent years reflects the overall trend for the High Weald.
Whilst the figures on direct homelessness remain low, the lack of affordable homes leads to many young people remaining at home with parents both in Crowborough and the surrounding hinterland. When affordable homes are available people who live and work in the district have priority with the target groups being young people and key workers. However, the waiting lists for such properties remain high and it is unlikely that needs will be met. There is sufficient availability of accommodation for the elderly members of the community and it is of a high standard although the issue faced by many elderly members of the community is remaining in their own home.
The figures on second home ownership in Crowborough continue to remain low and as a result there are very few properties vacant or empty. In instances where it has been possible to bring houses into the town centre this is something that has been pursued where appropriate.
Crowborough is well served by health and rescue services. Both East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Sussex Ambulance either meet or come close to meeting their response time targets for the area. An action plan has been put in place by the Police force to ensure that they improve their response time which currently fall 13% below the target. The number of doctors and dentists fall within national targets and average figures for the Primary Care Trust Area and Crowborough is in the position of having two NHS dentists.
The Crowborough Community hospital provides a valuable service to the community. The Acute hospitals in Tunbridge Wells and Haywards Heath are more difficult to access for both patients and visitors who rely on public transport. All hospitals that serve the community are meeting their national targets and figures relating to mortality rates for heart disease, strokes, cancer and suicides fall within national averages, although the figures for fractures resulting from falls are the highest in the district. Wider social and health services are available although their locations are often not as accessible to those who rely on public transport and information relating to what is available may not be as wide spread as it could be. The Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust (PCT) has its local office in Crowborough and its business plan for 2005 –06 is targeting the needs of older people particularly in addressing preventative care issues. It is doing this by appointing health advisors for older people, in modernising and developing the day care services and in supporting community initiatives.
In relation to crime, the offence rates per 1000 people for violence against the person, burglary, vehicle crime and total crime in Crowborough fall below the figures for Wealden are almost half those of Sussex as a whole and well below national figures. There is however a disproportionately high fear of crime because of high profile incidences of antisocial behaviour and vandalism. A recent increase in shoplifting in the town is being addressed between the police and local retailers.
The work of the Police Force, their officers, the Police Community Support Officers, the Safer Wealden Partnership and Local Neighbourhood Watch schemes ensure that there is both a proactive and reactive approach to dealing with any crime related issues. Dedicated Police Community Support Officers, Town Centre CCTV and alternative activities for young people such as SNAP (Say No and Phone) dances and under 18’s dance nights have been introduced to keep the crime rate low. Both the District and Town Councils have operated improvement projects in recent years to overcome incidences of abandoned vehicles, litter and graffiti and prevent further crime.
Although noise and air pollution figures are within national averages, locations such as the Football Club and the Crowborough Community Association Hall do give rise to localised higher than average noise levels at certain times.
Wealden District Council currently have the offices in Crowborough along with certain offices of East Sussex County Council. Information relating to the services provided from local councils is now available at the information point in the Pine Grove offices of the District Council and a similar service relating to County Council services in the area will soon be available. Contact details for councillors from the Town, District and County Councils are also available either through relevant websites or the Town Hall. The Crowborough website, www.crowborough.info, provides a valuable information service for the town.
Attracting and retaining large numbers of local people in community activities is an issue facing Crowborough, along with many other areas. Many of those involved are often members of a number of groups or serve on a number of committees. Despite this there are a wide range of community groups operating catering for the needs of all ages although finding information on them can often be difficult. Of those that are involved with community activities, the largest proportion comes from the older sections of the communities, which reflects the demographic break down of Crowborough.
Efforts to attract and support local people’s involvement are encouraged and supported by both Action in rural Sussex and Wealden Federation of Voluntary Organisations. A Citizens Advice Bureau and a Volunteer Bureau exist although both are under-resourced.
As well as the Town Council, local sports groups, community groups such as the Crowborough Community Association and the Crowborough Partnership have played a variety of roles in expressing local views to development proposals that have affected Crowborough in recent years. In particular, the Crowborough Partnership has worked with Wealden District Council on the production of Supplementary Planning Guidance for the town centre. Local people are also able to feed their views into the work of the Primary Care Trust through the Patient and Public Involvement Forums, which are supported by the Wealden Federation of Voluntary Organisations.
There are a variety of sporting facilities available in Crowborough including a rugby club, a football club and an asphalt running track. Although current facilities are over-subscribed, their condition often falls below what is required and recent research has highlighted an unsatisfied demand for built sport facilities. In 1993 Crowborough had 68% of the National Playing Fields Association standard of open space and has since that time seen a growth in population that has not been matched by provision of outdoor playing space.
The level of facilities currently available means that many individuals and clubs have to travel to areas such as East Grinstead and Lewes for training during winter months or because facilities simply don’t exist. There are however numerous opportunities to pursue additional outdoor informal leisure activities such as walking, horse riding and cycling.
Future facilities that may be required include: an all terrain pitch, tennis and badminton courts, dance studies, A BMX facility and additional football pitches. Although the availability of land affects any future developments the provision for open space has recently been increased in the Local Plan.
Crowborough does not appear to be well served in relation to cultural facilities. Although a library does exist, the nearest cinemas and theatres are in Uckfield, Tunbridge Wells and East Grinstead, which places those without transport at a disadvantage.
Although the community is served by the Crowborough Community Association Park Road , the Womens Institute Ghyll Road centre, the Whitehill Centre and church halls these are inadequate for modern day needs and some are in need of repair and upgrading. There is a need for a modern community centre providing between 250 and 500 seats. The lack of facilities means that several local arts and cultural groups meet in nearby locations such as East Grinstead,
The Town has a Carnival, Summer Fete, Fireworks evening and Christmas Fun Day all of which are organised by the Town Council. These provide opportunities to draw the whole community together and prove popular and valued by residents, although attendance does vary. The local Hospital also holds a regular annual fete that not only brings the community together but also raises funds for the Hospital.
The local newspaper is the Courier, which despite being based in Tunbridge Wells has editorial offices in Crowborough. Radio and television coverage is spilt between the town with both halves receiving different stations.
There are several cultural and historic associations with the area. The famous Winnie the Pooh stories were based in nearby Ashdown Forest, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once lived in the town and Ashdown Forest was the once the centre of iron smelting industry.up