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Hastings Country Park on East Hill – peace, beauty and now a Green Flag too

Three green flags for Hastings

Our beaches have rightly earned ‘Blue Flag’ status for their cleanliness and the quality of their facilities, and now three of our parks and open green spaces have each scooped ‘Green Flags’. Toby Sargent took his dog for a walk in one of them to find out what all the fuss was about.

Parks and green spaces in our towns and cities come in all shapes and sizes. All were created with the best of intentions, but sometimes neglect or simply a lack of imagination mean they flip from being places for quiet relaxation and fresh air to litter-strewn and threatening spaces that repel, rather than attract, visitors.

Keep Britain Tidy

So it’s good that there’s a way to mark those places where beauty, open space and good management come together to delight everyone that goes there. The Green Flag Award, run by Keep Britain Tidy, has been going for 20 years and this year has marked more than 1,600 parks and green spaces as worthy of the special recognition it bestows. And three are in Hastings.

Hastings Country Park, Alexandra Park and St Leonards Gardens are our winners and Cllr Warren Davies, Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for environment was quick to welcome the news: “We are absolutely delighted to receive the Green Flag accolade for excellence again this year as a testament to the quality of not one, but three parks in Hastings, a truly exceptional achievement.

“Our green spaces are essential to happy, healthy communities and are fundamental to our quality of life – we are so proud that residents and visitors are benefitting from parks of the very highest quality.”

Green Flag People HOT

Friends of Alexandra Park and The Landscape Group staff together with Murray Davidson the council’s Environment and Natural Resources Manager, Cllr Richard Street, Cllr Warren Davies, David Henry – The Landscape Group

International Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd added: “We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme, especially as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Awards.

“All the flags flying this year are a testament to the efforts of the thousands of men and women, both staff and volunteers, who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

Judging takes place in April and May with the winners announced in late July of each year. Successful parks can fly the flag, (pictured above), for a year but have to re-apply to keep their Green Flag Award status at the end of the year.

Safe and secure, clean and well maintained

Sites for a Green Flag Award are judged against eight key criteria. They need to be: welcoming; healthy, safe and secure; clean and well maintained; and sustainable. They also have to pay due attention to conservation and heritage, community involvement, good management and appropriate marketing.

Posted 09:40 Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 In: Green Times

12 Comments


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  1. Michael Madden

    Just in case anyone is interested or falls upon this article in the next century and wonders how it ended – Toby Sargent never did come for that cuppa.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Thursday, Sep 1, 2016 @ 09:17

  2. Andy Ammo

    The award for St Leonards Gardens is possibly justified in narrow terms but the Flag is a reminder that the green space was designed by the great James Burton as a companion piece to the Archery Ground nearby, just up Quarry Hill.

    The Archery Ground survived until the Council decided to build the College on it in the late 1960s. (There was an outcry.) Forty years later a Council report had the effrontery to say that the College they had built was of no great merit and should be demolished. (Meanwhile when Conservation Areas were being designated, the Burton area was split, for ease of treatment.)

    Following another outcry, the Gladedale proposals for the Archery Ground were – remarkably – thrown out by the Planning Committee. The developers’ appeal was heard by the Planning Inspector who was less than sympathetic to their plans.

    Eventually a compromise was agreed. Then the developers went on a cost-cutting exercise to replace aluminium windows with plastic, remove balconies, etc. (The case ref is HS/FA/15/00175, and the objections are worth reading.). The listed buildings of Archery Villas were treated with contempt, just like those residents who felt that St Leonards deserved better.

    HBC could have defended a site recognised ministerially as ‘of national importance’. Instead it leaned over backwards to help the developers.

    On 27 July the Planning Committee approved this cheap and nasty proposal by 7-3: another lowpoint for the Borough that has so many of them.

    The Council does not deserve a Green Flag Award. The lead member for environment can spout about happy healthy communities and spaces of the highest quality. The record suggests something quite different.

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Thursday, Aug 4, 2016 @ 17:05

  3. barney

    So Toby Sargent considers his article on this Green Flag award is a ‘little piece’ – not to the responsible residents of Hastings old chap – this fiasco and shameful situation is no ‘little piece’ – it is a monstrous injustice and cover-up by this council and as a newcomer Mr. Sargent needs to acquaint himself with the history of this disaster.

    We can all bash out ‘little pieces’ about this town, but when we do, we need to make sure we have got it right….and Mr. Sargent hasn’t only got it ‘all wrong’, he hasn’t bothered to do any research. Had he taken some time to research the history of what has happened to OUR Country Park he would discover that the deplorable situation has been manipulated by this council, aided and abetted by Members. And it certainly does not add up to a ‘little piece’.

    I wonder if he is aware that the latest application to fell yet MORE trees on the Rocklands caravan site was held behind ‘closed doors’ via the Delegated system? Presentation to the Planning Committee refused.

    As a recent arrival in this town he seems to have got his foot in the wrong door.

    Comment by barney — Wednesday, Aug 3, 2016 @ 09:13

  4. Michael Madden

    Hi Toby,

    Great if you come to tea, but before you do I should just point out first that Wikipedia says (correctly) that:

    “The Green Flag Award scheme is owned by the Government through the Department for Communities and Local Government, though it is managed by other agents …” In this case that agent happens to be ‘Keep Britain Tidy’, but it’s still a government award, even if the award giving has been delegated.

    You have said “…my article was intended to be no more than a straight report of an award to Hastings and its people given by an outside organisation.” But Hastings’ people have not been given an award – its councillors have for their stewardship of the Country Park and yet that very stewardship has been woefully inadequate to say the least. You also said “it’s good that there’s a way to mark those places where beauty, open space and good management come together to delight everyone that goes there.”

    Yet there has been no good management – in fact it has been literally unspeakable. If it happened in another country there would be programmes explaining that the country is totally undemocratic.

    I just assumed that you had no idea that there had’nt been, but you plainly state that:”one of the winners was “Cllr Warren Davies: Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for environment.”,
    thereby applauding him. As Chris has said, Cllr Warren Davies merely closed down if SEG members brought up difficult questions.

    So I repeat again that you did insufficient research before publishing your article. I’m sorry but it’s that simple. However, as I said it is hard not to make mistakes when new to a place and I look forward to explaining the issues in more detail over tea should you still feel up to it. I hope you will still be open-minded enough to hear the truth. That is all that the SEG campaign has spent its arduous two years and five months highlighting to no avail.

    Kind regards,

    Comment by Michael Madden — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 20:13

  5. Toby Sargent

    I’m grateful indeed for all the comments posted on this little piece. Firstly because feedback of any description is always welcome (and all the more so when it’s to a website that is proud to style itself as a ‘community newspaper), but also because it has give those with real passion, knowledge and insight into this matter a chance to publicise their feelings.

    HOT has, in fact, reflected community concern on the bunker\Ecclesbourne Glen\Rocklands issue a number of times over the months, most recently the outcome of the planning consent appeal for ‘the bunker.’ We will undoubtedly be returning to the issues arising in the future.

    But my article was intended to be no more than a straight report of an award to Hastings and its people given by an outside organisation. Like the Blue Flag awards for our bathing waters, it seems to me that the equivalent recognition given to our green spaces should be recorded and, yes, applauded.

    It’s true that I only moved down here this year and my enthusiasm for this amazing town and its natural environment may wear off in time. BUT for the time being, at least, my very clear and strong impression is that the East Hill country park – or what I have experienced of it myself – is a beautiful and inspiring place.

    That’s not to say the historical decisions taken by the council and the conduct of particular elected councillors should be forgotten. HOT will continue to call these individuals to account, but it wasn’t them that awarded the Green Flags. That was an independent panel of experts and something of which I think we should be proud.

    And as for the cup of tea and marking-of-card, Mr Madden, I would be very pleased indeed to take you up on it.

    Comment by Toby Sargent — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 18:16

  6. Heritage

    These people who ever they are deciding what gets Green Flags must have been well directed away from Ecclesbourne Glen and the Bunker.

    I am wondering if the author of this article has seen the mess up and around the Glen and Rocklands area himself.

    Good point too there abut Murray Davidson misinforming Natural England Mr Hurrell. He told them ( N.E. ) what to say. ” I need NE to say that he landslip was mainly due to natural weather events.” And goes on to tell N.E…..”We need you to say that natural processes should take their course….and no engineering interventions will be consented. Not only getting HBC off the hook but of course the owners of Rocklands as usual.
    I would suggest this direction to N.E. could be interpreted as fraud as per the Fraud Act 2006

    Comment by Heritage — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 17:34

  7. Andy Ammo

    The award of a Green Flag to Hastings Country Park is a sick joke.

    Against all eight key criteria for this award, the Council fails.
    The managerial failures multiply: the Bunker, the selling off of Little Warren cottage and conniving in its descreening, the endless indulgence of Rocklands caravan park, the persistent neglect of Ecclesbourne Glen (a legal Right of Way).

    The pending Visitor Centre at Fairlight was originally promoted as a party venue, in disregard of the interests of wildlife and the Country Park. Then the Council got the costs wrong, ran out of money and are scrambling for more Eurodosh. More incompetence.

    In their defence, some say that Hastings Borough Council are fools rather than knaves.

    The Country Park used to be an unspoilt asset to be enjoyed by all. HBC put paid to that.

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 16:01

  8. Amanda Nicol

    ‘Peace, beauty and now a green flag too.’

    Shame the picture didn’t show the uglier truth just a bit further on, still so upsetting to those of us who have been walking their dogs there for years. How about, ‘Vandalised, denuded but a green flag anyway!’

    Isn’t this just what we have come to expect – greenwash. And I agree, the people fighting this ongoing injustice deserve an award, not those who have disregarded the views of 1400 people in favour of someone who profits from that injured peace and beauty.

    Talk about economy with the truth.

    Comment by Amanda Nicol — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 15:09

  9. Michael Madden

    Dear Toby – if you really want to hear the truth please feel free to knock on my door and I will explain to you what really happened in Ecclesbourne Glen. I’ll be happy to make you a cup of tea and go over this with you. What seems to happen a lot in Hastings is that people who have just moved here (as you have) fail to check their facts or do insufficient research. So you may have innocently believed the words of people whom you have only just met, but who may not be telling the truth.

    You can take the word of 1400 members of the Save Ecclesbourne Glen Campaign Facebook Group that Hastings Borough Council does not always tell the whole story. Maybe you met have some HBC councillors. If so, they may have told you that SEG members are merely “vexatious complainants” – perhaps even bullies – but they are not. They just want their public servants (HBC) to act in a democratic manner. and represent their interests for a change.

    Many, many people know this – that Hasting Council have been accused of corruption by various parties for years but no one has ever been able to prove it. Now they get awards for their democratic failures from a government department that is insanely free-market, pro-development and which actually rewards its officers and councillors for allowing private businesses to vandalise Hastings outstanding SSSIs and AONB. HBC will always maintain that the landslip was an entirely natural phenomenon, and yet Chris and others in the SEG committee have proved that it wasn’t.

    HBC today are still exactly as portrayed in Robert Tressell’s “forty thieves” in his sad tale of Mugsborough (Hastings), written way back in the Edwardian era – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. They are still some of the best paid people in the town and tend to act more in favour of developers than in preserving the beautiful areas of which they are supposed to be the stewards. In this way they often fail the very people who pay their wages in the poorest town on the South Coast.

    So Hastings is still Mugsborough and the terrible thing is that the people of Hastings often look at the surface and do not bother to find out what really goes on – they think HBC is a Labour dominated council so they must be OK. The real truth is that it doesn’t seem to make any difference which councillors are in charge – Labour or Tory. Labour is as Tory as one can get, If they weren’t they would have been honest with SEG from the start and said “The government has tied our hands and there is nothing we can do.” But they didn’t – they led SEG a merry dance for two years and five months and after they became so frustrated they called them “vexatious complainants” and shut down communication channels and are applauded for their Tory awards.

    The truth about SEG is more like this: Chris Hurrell was born and bred here, is the son of a builder and decorator and should get a Green Flag Award for fighting so tirelessly against a tide of lies and deception from this council. Most of the main players in the committee were born working class and were bred here – they are not just posh nimbies and neither do they really want to waste their time battling against the council. But that is what has happened – their time has been wasted, beecause HBC are more arrogant than ever. And this award is the icing on the cake. Under HBC’s “stewardship” so many areas have been lost to make way for literally pointless and unsuccesful schemes. Soon there may be very little natural beauty left.

    It could all have been so different. SEG went cap in hand to Jeremy Birch and offered the hand of partnership to the council to help bring the real villains of the piece (the caravan site owners) to book, only to realise as time went on that HBC seem to be the co-villains.

    I wonder – did you ever see Ecllesbourne Glen before it was ruined? It was absolutey beautiful – a crime has been committed and the villains rewarded. If you learn the truth you will understand why so many people who love the Country Park are devastated. Some of the Park is still beautiful its true as is Alexandra Park, but Ecclesbourne Glen has been ruined for good and its paths are impassable and unsafe.

    So please give me a knock and remember that it is SEG members who really care about the truth and worry for the future of a town in which such lies can actually be rewarded.

    Best wishes

    Comment by Michael Madden — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 14:27

  10. Runner

    The Green Flag site says “awards recognise well managed parks and open spaces”. When it come to the Hastings Country Park Nature reserve this is a joke, the award is not worth the paper it is written on.

    There are no dedicated Rangers and no reparation work to the Saxon Shore Way. HBC made the Nature Reserve Officer redundant, stopped the National Dormouse Survey Scheme participation, stopped the biodiversity surveys, stopped the bumblebee surveys, is the only Southern authority to not upload data to the Biodiversity Action Reporting System, failed to action or update the Hastings Country Park Management Plan since 2008, e.g. failed to Produce the Annual report on wild bird populations, failed to action or update the Hastings Local Biodiversity Action Plan since 2006, etc. etc.

    The custodians of our Country Park should certainly hang their heads in shame. High time custodianship was handed over to a responsible body such as the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

    Comment by Runner — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 12:43

  11. chris hurrell

    This award is a joke and should never have been given for the country Park.

    Has Mr Sargent tried to take his dog for a walk into Ecclesbourne Glen? If he has he must be aware of a hideous bunker that scars the views and the fact that the Glen lies ruined by unauthorised developments, unauthorised tree clearances and a landslip that has shut the glen for good.

    I have to ask whether Mr Sargent has visited Ecclesbourne Glen and has any understanding of the damage inflicted on over the last 5 years by greedy owners and our negligent indifferent council?

    It seems that Mr Sargent is completely unaware of the history of the Glen and the large number of local residents who are very unhappy with its neglect and loss. There seems to be complete disconnect between the contents of this article and the facts of the matter on the (ever slipping) ground.

    I am afraid that Mr Sargent seems to be just repeating the same spin churned out by HBC that characterises this disaster.

    Commenting on this surreal award Councillor Warren Davies the lead member for Leisure and Amenities says:

    “Our green spaces are essential to happy, healthy communities and are fundamental to our quality of life – we are so proud that residents and visitors are benefiting from parks of the very highest quality.”

    HBC are very proud? HBC should be ashamed of the state of Ecclesbourne Glen. HBC have not lifted a finger to investigate or resolve the landslip and are complicit in the destruction of the glen.

    Clearly some green spaces are more important and fundamental to our quality of life than others. HBC has made no effort to protect Ecclesbourne Glen. The footpaths have now been closed for 3 years and are unlikely to ever open again.

    The photograph features some of the key players that have helped in the destruction of Ecclesbourne Glen. This is the same Warren Davies who has consistently refused to discuss or answer any correspondence on Ecclesbourne Glen.

    The Leisure and Amenities department have claimed from day one that they did not notice any of the unauthorised developments at Rocklands that have exposed the caravan site to view and contributed to the landslip.

    Mr Davidson the HBC Natural Resources Manager has claimed from day one that the landslip is a natural phenomena and that nothing can be done. He has ignored the HBC geotechnical reports which state that Rocklands developments have contributed to the landslip.

    Mr Davidson has knowingly misinformed Natural England (NE) about the cause of the landslip and has misrepresented the views of Natural England to both public and councillors. He claims that NE have said no remedial action can be taken when in fact NE have never said this.

    Mr Davidson has also refused a replanting scheme on HBC land to help screen the Country Park from the caravan site. Mr Davidson claims that any such planting scheme would have a negative visual impact on the Country Park. He ignores the visual impact that the loss of 50 plus trees has caused

    HBC are very happy to praise themselves about the green flag award for the Country Park whilst happily ignoring the destruction of the glen and their complicity in its destruction. The hubris and hypocrisy continues apace.

    Comment by chris hurrell — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 12:08

  12. barney

    Hmm – safe and secure, clean and well maintained? Really? This surely cannot be a reference to the Country Park where we have witnessed the devastation to the once beautiful and historic Eccelsbourne Glen, devastated by a massive landslip and now closed to the public. The cause of this landslip shrouded in mystery and denial and secret reports by this council unavailable to the public.

    There is no doubt that the proprietors of the Rocklands caravan park have carried out major works to the site – trees felled and continue to be felled, the ‘bunker’ remains in situ, ground works to create new roadways, the Scheduled Ancient Monument is at risk and the land continues to slide down the hill.

    Clearly the business affairs of the Rocklands caravan park proprietors take precedence over the safeguarding of OUR Country Park. How much more of their unauthorised works will go ahead without question or censure?

    The custodians of our Country Park should hang their heads in shame.

    Comment by barney — Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016 @ 12:04

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