A TOWN could be given a £7 million boost if a funding application proves successful.

The money would be spent on reviving Newhaven in part by helping to turn an underused car park and an old supermarket into creative hubs, with workshops to encourage local entrepreneurs.

Councillors, business leaders and education chiefs gave their support for a funding bid by Lewes District Council.

The approval – at a virtual meeting of the Greater Brighton Economic Board – was for an application to the Government’s Future High Streets fund to help regenerate Newhaven.

The aims include attracting more people to the town centre to boost its flagging economy.

The economic board was told that the district council had spent five years working on its bid for a share of the fund and had made it on to the national shortlist.

The work has included setting up the Newhaven Neighbourhood Plan, the Newhaven Enterprise Zone and the town centre user surveys which were carried out last November and December.

Lewes District Council leader Zoe Nicholson said that the bid for government money was part of a broader strategy as the town had high levels of deprivation and unemployment.

Earlier this year the district council set up the Newhaven Town Board to support regeneration.

The Green councillor said: “It does feel as though we have some impetus, initiative and some of the right people around it to make this happen.”

The recent surveys found that one in five high street shops were empty, with the vacancy rate likely to worsen as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. Fewer than eight per cent of visitors to Newhaven came into the town in the evening.

And the community tended to shop in out-of-town retail parks rather than not in the town centre. Visitors to the high street tended to stay for less than an hour.

Short-term ideas to encourage visitors included plans for creative and community hubs.

One way to bring jobs as well as attract people to the town centre could include converting an old supermarket building into small creative studio spaces.

A multi-storey car park could become the site of a community hub with workshops for entrepreneurs. The economic board agreed to support Lewes District Council’s £7 million bid which it hoped would bring £17 million in benefits.