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The old bathing Pool site features prominently in the proposal for a new deal for West St Leonards.

Local groups propose new deal for West Marina

Can government intervention combine with local initiative to revive West St Leonards?  Bernard McGinley reports from Seaside Road, and also took the photos.

Back in the twentieth century, the Borough had three main attractions:  the Old Town, the Pier, and the Bathing Pool in West Marina, well spaced for visitors to enjoy one of the sunniest places in Britain. Now the Borough is lopsided (even the coloured street-lighting was removed from the west end), but there are diverse proposals to change that.

Three community organisations, West St Leonards Forum, Save Our Bathing Site (SOBS) and West Marina Org have made a joint submission to Hastings Borough Council (HBC) regarding the ‘Hastings Town Deal’. 

The proposal is for a revamp and revival of West Marina (centred on the Bathing Pool site, West Marina Gardens, Bo Peep parade and West St Leonards Station) as a fully rounded destination for residents and visitors. It draws on ideas for activities and facilities on the Bathing Pool site made over the years, and also a survey and forums with locals earlier this year.  If the projct is accepted in principle by the Town Deal Board, there will be a lot more engagement about the precise detail.  

Town Deal

Hastings is part of the Town Deal, a government-sponsored initiative, and has its own board to promote regeneration. HBC is eligible to bid for up to £25m from the Town Fund (with the opportunity to bid for more money from other national funding streams). More information on the scheme is here.

The Town Deal Board can be contacted through an Expression of Interest form, or by emailing TownDeal@hastings.gov.uk.

The Board has been meeting since January 2020 with a view to developing, submitting and signing off  the Town Investment Plan by end-January 2021. If government approval is given, the investment money follows.

The Board’s members include the HBC Leader, Deputy Leader and Managing Director, and the East Sussex County Council (ESCC) Chief Executive, members from the local community, businesses, and other partners committed to improving Hastings and St Leonards.

The Board will develop the investment plan. This plan will focus on the three key themes set out by the government for the fund:

  • urban regeneration
  • skills and enterprise
  • connectivity transport (including walking) and digital.

Q&A on the Town Deal is here, and details of its meetings.

Immediate and long-term improvements

The West St Leonards submission has three main areas:

In the short term, more facilities on the seafront: changing screens, and more signposting, information boards etc. around the area, plus some ‘housekeeping’ support for footway surfaces, or a sprucing up of Bexhill Road shops

‘Meantime’ activities and facilities on the Bathing Pool site for instance a ‘pop up’ pool, a ‘pop up’ performance space, and basic planting, plus a series of mini-cultural and sporting events, all aimed at drawing people back to the area as a destination

Preparation of a set of detailed projects for permanent development on the various sites in the area. A sketch plan indicates areas for housing, shopping and guesthouses, a wildlife corridor, studios and workspaces, and leisure and recreation.  

Roles for Homes England, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Sport England, the Arts Council, the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and various others are planned.

Playground on the old Bathing pool site.

A better West St Leonards

Many in West St Leonards do not want to see their open spaces used primarily for second homes for Londoners, which they consider will be the result of the development planned by the council for the Bathing Pool site.

Instead of doing nothing or ‘not offering solutions’, West St Leonards Forum conducted door-to-door surveys and meetings with local residents, and have written to Borough and County councillors. The Forum, SOBS and West Marina Org have put forward ideas for a part of the Borough that feels itself to be neglected.

A prime seafront area (including West St Leonards station, West Hill Road, the Bo Peep area, Cinque Ports Way, Grosvenor Gardens, Caves Road and the Sussex Steps) could be much better than it is. The feeling is widespread that some serious enhancement is overdue.

Wish-list and winnowing

Some of the proposals are apparently against the Council’s Local Plan but that is not necessarily a problem. Divergent aims can be complementary in practice, and West St Leonards is an extensive area.  (Even the Council can change its mind about housing in Cornwallis St and consider having a hotel instead.) 

The Town Deal Board are appointees but that does not prevent them from voting against the Council. ‘Meantime’ uses – such as tidying-up sites or judicious project appraisal development – need not be prejudicial to the permanent development of a site. An incoming developer might well find it helpful to have some such improvised uses. Separately the local-initiative Neighbourhood Plan is also ongoing.

On behalf of West St Leonards Forum (which has a Facebook site), SOBS & West Marina Org, Bryan Fisher said: 

Our joint proposal appears to be the only project related to our end of the borough, an area that has been neglected in so many ways over the years. This exciting proposal clearly demonstrates that the three local community organisations can work together to produce a viable plan that offers significant improvements to our community and beyond. I urge all those interested in regenerating our area to contact members of the Town Deal Board and show your support!

Posted 18:58 Friday, Aug 21, 2020 In: Home Ground

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Bolshie

    Very good informative article Bernard on the current position with this important public involvement to sensibly develop this sensitive site.
    And agree with Mr Davis entirely on overbuilding I fear will happen with HBC’s desires to pack it out with buildings and concrete.

    With this Town Deal Board is involved and apparently can vote against the council, I fear that could be a remote chance with those who are members of what I perceive is a quango. How often do you come across Councillors voting and or disagreeing, publicly that is, with their own council.

    The people have done a sterling job with these ideas. Lets hope for once the council will respect the wishes of the people and not their usual own.

    Comment by Bolshie — Monday, Aug 24, 2020 @ 12:38

  2. ken davis

    It remains bonkers, absolutely bonkers to build any substantial structures on this site because of its future flooding potential. Especially so given the amount of other, higher, land around the town.

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Aug 24, 2020 @ 06:44

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