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Anthony Slack with Kate Ashbrook (Chair of the Ramblers Association), and Mayor Judy Scott

Hastings Old Town walks away with the prize

Hastings Old Town was presented with the first ever Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award on Wednesday 16 May after winning a public vote to find the very best urban area for going about everyday life on foot. Erica Smith put on her walking boots and strode over to find out more.

Hastings Old Town was one of ten areas to make the shortlist for Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award and over the last two weeks the public have been voting for their favourite. More than 12,000 votes were cast, with Hastings Old Town taking 21% of the vote. You can check out the competition on the Ramblers Association website.

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Anthony Slack with the Award plaque

Anthony Slack, long-time Hastings Old Town resident, nominated his neighbourhood for the award. He said: “Whether it’s simply to visit local shops and restaurants, to go to the doctors’ surgery or to the local cinema or theatre, or just to admire our historic buildings, walking is usually the best way to do it in Hastings Old Town.

“The well maintained green spaces, the sea views, and the pleasant places to stop for a rest and to socialise, all combine to make Hastings Old Town a fantastic, walkable community. We’re delighted that the Old Town has been crowned as Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood.”

The streets of Hastings Old Town really were made for walking and several factors contribute to its win. Developed before the advent of the car, it’s well designed for making short journeys on foot. The quaint streets are crisscrossed by narrow “twittens”, passages developed in Victorian times that today form charming pedestrian routes between the main street.

New measures have also been implemented in efforts to prioritise pedestrians, including vehicle restrictions on some streets during certain times, installing and improving paving and widening footways, making the town even easier to navigate on foot.

The awards sparked residents’ pride in the area, with many sharing their love for walking in the town. Resident Dean Parker said: “I’ve walked in Snowdonia, the lakes, the Scottish Highlands and almost everywhere in between, hankering for these places daily. Yet since living in the Old Town I have no desire to leave. It doesn’t have the drama of the mountains, or the beauty of the northern countryside, but with the sea, the sharp steep steps up into the country park and the wonderful views I have all I need to fulfil my days.”

Cllr Kim Forward, deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council and lead member for marketing, said: “I am delighted that we’ve won this award! All credit to Anthony Slack and all those who voted for our wonderful Old Town. We have won a number of awards over the years, and every one is special; just like Hastings.”

The Ramblers launched the award to celebrate areas that put pedestrians first. The walking charity hopes the awards will encourage more local authorities to think about how they could make small changes in design to improve walkability, to help improve the health and wellbeing of residents.

Whilst the Old Town is great for able-bodied walkers, the narrow pavements, steep inclines and steps make it a challenging environment for wheelchair users and those with visual impairments. Theresa Hodge from Disability Inclusion and Kev Towner, a wheelchair user and member of Hastings Access to Venues and Events are both aware that more can be done to improve accessibility both in the streets of Hastings and by providing ramps and lifts to make it easier to access shops, pubs and venues.

Walking is the flavour of the month – read our Beat the Streets article to find out how to team up and encourage exercise over the summer months. You can read more about the Ramblers Association campaign to put pedestrians at the heart of town planning here.

Posted 19:41 Wednesday, May 16, 2018 In: Green Times


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