Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

STAG chairman Martin Bloomfield reflects on the planning and regeneration process

Cllr Jeremy Birch has called for “Cultural change” in the town hall. What does that mean I wonder? Well, apparently it means throwing more light on the council’s work and to stop the impression that too many decisions are taken behind closed doors.

Cllr Birch is quoted as saying that even councillors are sometimes in the dark. A frightening scenario if our elected representatives feel they might have lost control in some areas, whatever your political persuasion.

I have heard all sorts of stuff during the course of our campaign to save the Archery Ground. Scandal after scandal was being suggested to me regarding the Archery Road site and Gladedale.

Bottom line is that the planning processes and procedures are complex, new rules on consultation are poor or poorly implemented and the end result is complete disenfranchisement of the average person in the street.

But it’s not corrupt. There is a lack of accountability and a feeling of helplessness, the game is played by someone else’s rules and they don’t always seem fair or reasonable. Gladedale paid lip service to the consultation process and showed contempt for the St Leonards community and HBC. It is absolutely the job, indeed the obligation, of every councillor and every council officer to make sure that the community is not disenfranchised and does feel that the decision making process is open and visible.

That’s a huge challenge and like all good intentions or new year resolutions, I guess some will disappoint. But if the intent is good, councillors and council officers will get the support they will have earned. You can’t please all the people all the time, but you can have a damn good try!

What our campaign has done is to get me thinking much more broadly about regeneration and what that means for St Leonard’s. There are good things happening and they’re happening because people do things. They start businesses, they paint up and renovate houses, they join community groups, art groups and take part in all sorts of things. It’s an interesting place with real community and huge potential.

And regeneration of Kings Road doesn’t do any harm, grants of £10,000 for first time buyers to renovate houses in central St Leonards are well intentioned as opposed to corrupt. It would be nice to strike the perfect balance, but it’s an imperfect world. What we can all do — community, councillors, council officers — is to have a really good go at getting it right and that starts with effective dialogue and open, transparent decision making

I remember trudging up the hill to the college as a student in the early 1970’s. I wasn’t a very good student, nevertheless, I remember a more vibrant St Leonard’s back then. Regeneration can make all the difference here, but what is done will be here for decades to come. Let’s make sure Gladedale and HBC get it right on the Archery Road site and let’s make sure it makes a positive contribution towards the regeneration of St Leonard’s for the benefit of those already here and for those yet to come. And keep it clean.

Martin Bloomfield
Chairman Save The Archery Ground (STAG)
8c The Mount, St Leonards On Sea TN38 0HR
01424 424044

Posted 15:39 Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 In: Home Ground

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