Call for public debate on sports village proposal
Hastings Borough Council’s first discussion in cabinet of the sports village development proposed by Hastings United Football Club (HUFC) has been postponed to its March meeting. Meanwhile the council has been prompted to hold a public consultation on the project before making any premature commitment to it. Nick Terdre reports.
Previously on the agenda for its meeting on 6 February, the topic has been rescheduled to the cabinet’s meeting on 6 March, a council staff member told HOT. A report for the cabinet, detailing the proposal and suggesting the way forward, is due to be published on the council’s website on 24 February, she said.
Details of the proposed development were released in November by Hastings United, which is acting in partnership with Burney Property Group and property consultant, Sherlock Consultancy, both of which are Hastings United Football Club (HUFC) sponsors, the trustees of Horntye Park sports complex and house builder, Keepmoat Homes.
The scheme foresees a new sports village being built on a site in Combe Valley Countryside Park to the east of Pebsham Lane. The land is owned by HBC, though it falls to Rother District Council to grant planning permission. The football club’s present ground, the Pilot Field in Elphinstone Road and the Horntye Park site would become residential developments. Redevelopment of the sporting facilities on both sites is said to be unviable.
£70 million investment
The project would entail investment of some £70 million, made up of £58 million to build some 400 housing units and £12 million in the sports complex. As well as housing HUFC, the complex would provide facilities for cricket, hockey, rugby, American football, netball, tennis and petanque, as well as housing a sports hall and gym.
The football club aimed to submit planning applications early this year, seeking completion of the scheme in time for the start of the 2018/19 season. The pre-application is expected to be submitted in a couple of weeks, HOT understands. The club has kept both HBC and RDC informed about the progress of its planning.
Chris Lewcock, chairman of the Hastings Urban Design Group, told HOT that his attention had been caught by what he called the “loose” wording of the agenda item for the cabinet meeting: “To seek approval in principle for detailed negotiations to take place regarding the use of Council land and other assets. A further report to be presented with any formal proposals that are brought forward.”
Consequently he had sent an email to the council’s Director of Operational Services, Simon Hubbard, asking for assurances that it was not the intention to seek a decision in principle to support negotiations which could later be taken to mean pre-emption of wider strategic decision-making.
“Are they just talking about the technical aspects of the council’s property ownership or is it going to be a wider discussion, in which case there really should be a proper document which everybody has had a chance to comment on?” he said.
New housing off Bexhill Road
An HBC-run workshop on the project indicated that it also includes new housing by Bexhill Road near the proposed site of the sports complex. Having recently siphoned off some of the Bexhill Road traffic onto the new link road, this part of the project would load more traffic back onto it, Mr Lewcock said.
He also wondered whether it was a good idea to move Horntye, which currently has a really good central location for a sports facility, to a new location rather remote from the eastern side of town, which is not well served by public transport.
There is also the problem of the drainage – how that would be dealt with is not yet known – and the fact that the new sports site would be in the Countryside Park, which if the facility were built, would offer a very different view from the present open landscape.
The siting of the sports facility also needed to be seen within the context of Rother’s policy of maintaining a strategic gap between Bexhill and Hastings.
“There are a whole range of issues here which ought to be part of a wider debate,” Mr Lewcock said.
As this article went to press, Mr Lewcock told HOT he had received a detailed reply from Mr Hubbard, assuring him that consideration of the proposed development by the cabinet in March was only intended to secure its support for more detailed discussions, and that the issues he had raised would best be dealt with in the course of the planning process.
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