Hastings could be the UK's first 'e-city'

Ministers are considering an ambitious regeneration scheme to bridge the digital divide and turn the Sussex town of Hastings into...

Ministers are considering an ambitious regeneration scheme to bridge the digital divide and turn the Sussex town of Hastings into the UK's first "e-city".

Government minister Lord Falconer met with leaders of the Hastings & Rother Task Force to discuss a regeneration package designed to tackle social exclusion and economic decline in the Hastings and Bexhill area.

A wide-ranging five-point plan, drawn up by the South East England Development Agency (Seeda), called for a comprehensive broadband network and an "enterprise hub" to provide technology support for new businesses in the area.

The agency has also called for improvements in the virtual networks used in primary, secondary and further education.

The overall regeneration scheme would be worth between £100m and £120m, but ministers have not given a figure for how much of this would be technology investment. The money would be spent over the next 10 years. Seeda officials said that costs will be finalised in the next few months.

The scheme would combine technology regeneration with more traditional projects such as improved transport links and additional university provision. Regeneration measures for new housing, jobs and the local community are also included.

Anthony Dunnett, chief executive of Seeda and chairman of the task force, said, "These proposals present, for the first time in the UK, a comprehensive solution to deep-seated problems of deprivation using the new communications technology as the catalyst." The package tackles a 19th century problem with 21st century solutions, he added.

Hastings is now being touted as the UK's first "e-city". The regeneration package follows the Government's rejection of plans to build two controversial bypasses in the Hastings area earlier this year.

Although the package is expected to be delivered within the next eight to 10 years, Seeda officials said the initial phases will be implemented within the next 12 months.

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