Recap: Newhaven Enterprise Zone Champions meeting, 19th March 2024

For our first Newhaven Champions meeting of 2024, we were delighted to welcome more than 50 people to the Marine Workshops on Tuesday 19th March for an open discussion about how far we’ve come as a town and what our key missions are, moving forward.

We wanted to explore the changes which have taken place since the co-creation of our Newhaven Story four years ago, and ask whether our ambitions are still the same, given everything that’s happened since 2020.

Our programme director Corinne Day kicked off the meeting with a reminder about how the Newhaven Story came into being – a collaborative effort with input from many people in the room, which reflects and celebrates what makes Newhaven unique.

Corinne posed two questions to the group: what changes have you seen in Newhaven in the last four years, and what changes are needed now to support business growth?

Several positive changes in Newhaven over the past few years were noted. The significant increase in arts and cultural events was said to be changing perceptions and generating a growing interest in our town from Brighton and beyond. One new resident to Newhaven described being impressed by its burgeoning arts scene, calling the town “deeply unpretentious”.  We were thrilled to see some new faces and hear from new residents, all of whom were positive about their move.

Community spaces like the Hillcrest Centre and the community arts and wellbeing organisation Hospitable Environment – now in its third year of growth – were praised for providing an inclusive platform to bring residents together, strengthening community ties and boosting pride in Newhaven. Initiatives like Haven Young Creatives and the new Youth Centre on Denton Island were also celebrated. But youth engagement remains a challenge, with a need for more spaces and things for young people to do in Newhaven.

It was remarked that more and more businesses have been moving here and continue to do so. Boutique Modern was mentioned as a prime example of a successful growing business in Newhaven, while businesses were said to have “tremendous resilience and determination” and an unusually fierce loyalty, with many wanting to remain here as they expand. The business rates relief provided by the Enterprise Zone was also highlighted in supporting growth.

The transformation of the Marine Workshops, where our discussion took place, was praised, with the introduction of new marine and creative production courses for East Sussex College students. It was remarked that more could be done to make the most of the whole building, however, with some spaces still unused.

A lack of social space was flagged as a challenge by many people in the room. There is a huge appetite for more coffee shops, bars and places where people can meet and socialise – which would make Newhaven a more attractive place to live and to visit, and mean businesses in the town could take their teams out locally, rather than having to go to Lewes, Brighton or elsewhere.

On a related note, it was reported that although there is a strong perception Newhaven has a lot to offer for certain types of business (and an opportunity to take business from places like Brighton, as Newhaven has more affordable space for expansion) – there is still a challenge in getting staff to relocate, partly as rental costs are still high. All agreed that an improved town centre with more social spaces would help encourage people to relocate from places like Brighton.

Recruiting locally was raised as an issue by several people, and it was suggested that a Newhaven specific platform could help in matching jobseekers, including young people, with growing businesses in the town and communicating local opportunities, as well as careers fairs to promote local jobs.

Our key takeaways from the meeting on ideas to support growth, moving forward, were:

  • We need to find ways to incentivise more businesses to come to Newhaven and open social spaces (which would benefit everyone)
  • Explore new ways to connect businesses with jobseekers and young people and build effective partnerships
  • Continue to bring in arts organisations to the town to boost its cultural offering – and it was noted that young people were inspired and engaged by last year’s Ravilious art trail
  • Continue to grow the marine sector in Newhaven and make better use of the river and seaside setting – suggestions were made for boat festivals and other events on the water.

Corinne closed the meeting by reminding everyone that we should feel proud of our achievements so far and not lose sight of where we’ve come from – and that we need to keep the conversation going.

After a hearty discussion – which was all captured live by illustrator Martin Janes – we tucked into a delicious feast from Mamoosh Bakery and sweets from Jeavons Toffee.

If there’s anything you’d like to add in response to the questions we posed at the meeting, please email us at:

Don’t forget funding is available via the Enterprise Zone to support business growth, including our Sites and Empty Property Fund and Low Carbon Investment Fund.

Find out more about all our funding here.

Meet Zoe Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council
Groups benefit from £26,000 of funding from Newhaven Enterprise Zone