Plans to ‘reduce parking on seafront’ revealed
Hastings Borough Council (HBC) have set out plans that, among other things, could see curbs to car parking on the seafront, and a significant reduction of traffic in the town centre. A consultation paper Heritage Strategy for Hastings has just been published and the public have until 28 April to comment. Toby Sargent reports.
Heritage is a slippery eel of a concept. One man, or woman’s, architectural masterpiece can be another’s ‘monstrous carbuncle,’ to use the phrase memorably coined by Prince Charles back in 1984. So consensus on individual buildings is rare. But most of us can agree that ‘heritage’ in its broadest sense is a good thing, to be preserved, promoted and cherished. And it’s good to see HBC taking a long hard look at the town’s built and natural environment, and trying to find a strategy to do just that.
Thoughtful and clearly written analysis
The Drury McPherson Partnership was commissioned to produce a report last year and the result, just published, makes fascinating reading. It runs to just over 50 pages, making 22 policy recommendations, and providing a thoughtful and clearly written analysis of where we’ve got to in this area, and where we should be going.
HBC’s work so far to bring about ‘heritage-based regeneration’ in the town is praised but, they say, ‘much remains to be done.
‘The town does not benefit nearly as much as it should from its location, or the world-famous ‘brand’ of its name, and there are still high levels of deprivation in some areas.’ The report also shrewdly observes that ‘Hastings should be the centre of 1066 country, whereas at present it is the hole in the doughnut of cultural tourism.’
Heritage – a ‘priceless and irreplaceable asset’
Their recommendations, which will inform HBC’s own policy-making in this area, to be agreed later in the summer, are wide-ranging. Objectives include making heritage a ‘central aspect of regeneration’ and embracing its role as a ‘priceless and irreplaceable asset.’
They make a strong case for directing resources and effort to enhance the castle on West Hill, and doing more to make the town centre more of a focus for visitors. It is, after all, the main point of arrival for most and needs to be better managed for visitors, with clearer links to the Old Town, they suggest.
It’s their thoughts on traffic management that are likely to raise most eyebrows, however. ‘Heavy traffic (particularly lorries and through traffic) is highly detrimental’ they say, ‘and the main roads create significant physical barriers within the most sensitive historic areas of Hastings. Especially problematic is the A259 on the Bourne and Seafront; but the A21 and A2101 are unfriendly to pedestrians and encourage people to drive into the town centre and to park along the seafront.
The Country Park – ‘starkly beautiful’
‘The heritage would benefit significantly from a reduction in through traffic on these roads, and from parking on the sea front being reduced in favour of the town centre.’
The consultants are also clear on the value of the Country Park, an area that has caused a lot of bad feeling from local residents. They describe it as ‘starkly beautiful and ecologically significant’ and recommend that HBC should ‘manage (it) to national Green Flag standards, and seek national and international grant funding to secure its long-term management.’ If adopted, would this ever lead to the reunification of the East Hill with the rest of the country park? Landslips and planning matters around ‘The Bunker’ are not raised in the report.
Cllr Dawn Poole, lead member for culture at the council, is pleased with the report.
“The aim of the heritage strategy is to identify the heritage of the town in the broadest sense, including built, natural, archaeological, material and intangible. It then assesses its significance, and suggests means and priorities for conserving and sustaining it in support of the culture-led regeneration strategy and in the context of the wider economic and cultural regeneration of Hastings.
Cllr Poole – ‘All comments will be considered’
“A lot of work has gone into developing this strategy . . and we are very keen to hear feedback on it. All comments will then be considered and, where appropriate, incorporated into the final strategy, which will be agreed at a cabinet meeting later in the summer.”
What do I think? The analysis and recommendation in the report are, for the most part, bang-on. It will be interesting indeed to see whether the council have the stomach for a fight with the car lobby but, even if they haven’t, there is much herethat is sensible and shrewd.
Hastings is a historical and heritage goldmine, with a vibrant cultural life and an approach to life that is both steadfastly traditional and, at the same time, brilliantly eccentric. So it’s a real shame that it is not perceived as the jewel in the crown, rather than the hole in the doughnut, of 1066 Country.
It’s all about resources and priorities, of course. Many would argue, reasonably enough, that jobs, housing and social services should take priority over heritage protection. But preserving and promoting local heritage, especially when it is as rich as it is in Hastings and St Leonards, can be a real draw for inward investment through tourism, not to mention the feelgood factor and civic pride it brings for all-year-round residents.
The Drury McPherson report suggests a vision for the town: ‘Hastings – a proudly independent, diverse, historic and beautiful maritime town at the heart of 1066 Country.’ And that’s a very worthy aim, I would suggest.
But it’s your opinions that HBC need to hear. How? You can provide your comments by emailing them or in writing to:
Muriel Matters House (formerly Aquila House)
The closing date for comments is Friday 28th April.
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