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A socially distanced meeting on the old bathing pool site between MP Sally-Ann Hart. left, and local residents Virginia Vilela, Tracey Tiltman and Lucie Mason.

MP reaffirms support for West St Leonards campaign

Local residents opposed to the council’s plan for a large housing development on the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards met last weekend with local MP Sally-Ann Hart, who, they report, supports their campaign. After lengthy delays the council has yet to sign an exclusivity deal with its chosen developer. Bryan Fisher of Save Our Bathing Site (SOBS) provides an update. 

We measure our progress, our lateness, even our endurance against time; so how do you measure progress in terms of time for a developer or a council? On Saturday 12 September a small number from the local community action groups Save Our Bathing Site (SOBS) and West Marina Organisation stood on the Old Bathing Pool site in West St Leonards trying to do just that.

They were noting it was in September 2018 that Hastings Borough Council (HBC) trumpeted that a developer had been selected for the site, but two long years have been and gone since then, and nothing has happened. There have been many utterances from council chambers and Facebook posts indicating ‘imminent happenings’, but we are still in limbo two years on.

Whilst some may regard that lack of decisive action a blessing, and some may even suggest HBC has finally realised the folly of a high-rise, high-density housing scheme on the site, this lack of action is a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over the town. Whilst the local community, or those from other areas in the borough, or even visitors, were asked their opinion on housing on the site they were overwhelmingly against such a plan. However, the passage of time, with the threat of losing this last sea-frontage site forever to housing, continues to be a time-bomb for that vast majority.

A welcome guest at our gathering was Sally-Ann Hart, the local MP, who confirmed her continued support for our campaign to prevent housing on this site. Whilst maintaining a social distance, Sally-Ann Hart received an update and also learnt about Project West Marina, which has been submitted to the Town Deal Board for Hastings.

Project West Marina

Project West Marina is an exciting proposal involving a revamp and revival of West Marina centred upon the bathing pool site, West Marina Gardens, the Bo Peep parade and West St Leonards Station as a fully rounded destination for residents and visitors. The proposal 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 project is accepted in principle by the Town Deal Board then there will be a lot more engagement about the precise detail. A locally based management board and project manager is proposed. There is no representative from the West St Leonards area on the Town Deal Board, but local community action groups are hoping that will not impact negatively upon the progress of their proposal.

From left, Virginia Vilela, Sally-Ann Hart, Lucie Mason, Tracey Tiltman and Cllr Karl Beaney.

If you consider the plans for the Old Bathing Pool site, which has been allowed by HBC to vegetate for over 20 years, there are significant plans to breathe new life into the site (even if only temporarily). SOBS has over 2,000 supporters on Facebook. In addition, a recent petition submitted to HBC against housing on the site attracted 1,867 signatures, whilst sample surveys support the overwhelming opinion in favour of  using this last available sea-front site for leisure purposes, thus regenerating the area, providing employment and generating revenue.

Sally-Ann Hart also heard that the local community activists have repeatedly, by various means, tried to contact the developers; but to date there has been only one acknowledgement and no engagement. The same could be said of HBC for, despite [council leader] Kim Forward’s statement that plans for the development were communicated, the only formal engagement was a five-minute window grudgingly awarded to Virginia Vilela before a final decision to proceed was made at an open council meeting.

An oftquoted public consultation was in fact for a different development scheme by Carter Jonas for the site (124 dwellings instead of the now reported 152), and even then the well-attended meeting was vociferously against housing!

No proper consultation

It is unclear as to why HBC is hiding behind claims that proper consultation has occurred (when it plainly has not). Furthermore, it is equally unclear why, over the last two long years, HBC has opted to not engage in a meaningful way with the local community or its action groups.

One member of SOBS present on Saturday was Graham Wilkins, who said, “It is interesting to note that recent press releases issued to all the political parties received a positive message of support, all that is except the local Labour Party which for some reason has never even acknowledged them.”

In regard to HBC, Graham Wilkins went on to say, “Why are HBC avoiding genuine concerns from a large number of ratepayers? Are they frightened of acknowledging they have made a mistake and that better sites for housing do exist and should be used instead? How does an open government fit into this scenario?”

Meanwhile you have to ask yourself – will another two years pass in limbo and ‘silent dialogue’ from HBC? Perhaps only time will tell . . .

If you want to support SOBS in its aim to stop high-rise, high-density housing on this unique seafront site, and instead develop the area through leisure and tourism, then contact Town Deal Board members to express your support. It is no good saying afterwards you are angry at how HBC has chosen the wrong plan for this site. Use the opportunity given to make your voice heard by the Town Deal Board. As there is nobody on the Board representing West St Leonards then your voice is even more important!

Town Deal opportunity

The Town Deal Board examines proposals submitted to improve the HBC economy. The UK government invited 101 towns to develop proposals for a Town Deal, as part of the £3.6 billion Fund. Hastings is one of those towns eligible to bid for up to £25m from the Town Fund, with the opportunity to bid for more money from other national funding streams. The Town Deal will cover the whole of Hastings borough.

Project West Marina proposes a number of changes, some small and some temporary, but also lays the foundations for greater neighbourhood involvement via funded projects. Broadly, what is being proposed falls into three areas:

  • In the short term, more facilities on the seafront like changing screens, and more signposting, information boards etc. around the area, plus some ‘housekeeping’ support for footway surfaces or for example a ‘lick of paint’ to Bexhill Road shops;
  • ‘Meantime’ activities and facilities on the bathing pool site – e.g. 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
  • Preparing a set of detailed projects for permanent development on the various sites in the area (see attached sketch plan). 

 

Contacting members of the Town Deal board

There is no direct way of contacting the board as a whole but the following individuals are all members.

Jane Hartnell, Managing Director, HBC jhartnell@hastings.gov.uk
Becky Shaw, Chief Executive, ESCC becky.shaw@eastsussex.gov.uk
Graham Peters (Chair, Team East Sussex (put ‘FAO Graham Peters’ in subject line)  economic.development@eastsussex.gov.uk
Liz Gilmore Director, Hastings Contemporary (put ‘FAO Liz Gilmore’ in subject line) info@hastingscontemporary.org
Clive Galbraith, Hastings Chamber of Commerce (put ‘FAO Clive Galbraith’ in subject line) info@hastingschamber.co.uk 

More information on the Town Deal.

Save Our Bathing Site (SOBS)
West Marina Organisation
West St Leonards Forum

 

Posted 10:02 Saturday, Sep 19, 2020 In: Home Ground

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Mr Hippolyte Grigg

    I support SOBS 100%. Add my name to the list.
    In an email to Kim Forward I suggested that another look should be taken to the empty site in Braybrooke Road but I’ve had no reply. Would not this be suitable site for new housing right in the centre of town rather than use the old bathing pool site, I asked. This nosaying is typical of a council hell-bent on being a dictatorship.

    Comment by Mr Hippolyte Grigg — Sunday, Sep 20, 2020 @ 21:29

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