East Sussex has scooped more than £3 million of Government cash to rebuild a home for the elderly.

The £3.2 million grant will be spent on replacing Downlands Day Centre in Peacehaven with 41 flats and a treatment and activity centre.

Care minister Ivan Lewis said: "We know that people want to live in their own communities and at home as long as possible, because that is what they tell us.

"These new schemes will set a new standard for helping older people to lead independent lives in their own homes with the reassurance of specialist care and support close at hand."

Carers and pensioners in the area were outraged when the centre was planned for closure last summer to save money for other services. It was used by about 70 local residents for everything from respite for carers to providing baths and laundry services.

News that the council has won the funding was greeted with cheers all round yesterday.

East Sussex county councillor Bill Bentley said: "We are going 'whoopee' because this is what we hoped for.

"This will have primary benefits for the elderly and the community. The details are to be ironed out but now for the first time we can visualise something in three dimensions. It's the first of a number of developments we'll be rolling out across the county."

Coun Bentley said the 41 apartments would have a residential warden and the centre would probably offer a range of therapies which could include treatments such as chiropody and physiotherapy.

But he stressed any proposals would be agreed after consulting with local people about their needs.

County councillor Phil Howson, who represents Peacehaven and fought to save the old centre with fellow councillor John Livings, said: "We're absolutely over the moon for the people of Peacehaven and those carers who have had a really bad deal in the last few years.

"The extra 41 beds will help and everybody I've spoken to is absolutely ecstatic. At last Peacehaven has got some reward for the hardwork we're putting in after being dumped on with sewer works and having our infrastructure eroded.

"This gives a little back."

The council will add £400,000 of its own money to the pot. It is to work in partnership with East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Horsham-based housing association, Saxon Weald, to draw up designs, subject to planning consent.

A spokeswoman for the PCT said they welcomed the news and looked forward to working up proposals to make the most of the funding opportunity.

Director of older people's services at Saxon Weald, Clive Parker, said: "This is fantastic news and we canít wait to start working on the project. The scheme will be a really valuable resource for the Peacehaven area."

East Sussex's cash - to build new homes or refurbish existing ones - is part of this year's £40 million extra care housing fund. The county council is one of 14 local authorities to win money.

Nationally, it is hoped the money will pay for the building or refurbishment of 900 homes.