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The amusement park owner plans to build a new footpath alongside the boating lake.

The amusement park owner plans to build a new footpath along the east side of the boating lake.

Right to pathway being walked all over

The public footpath through the Stade amusement park is under threat. What will the Foreshore Trust do? What does the Council think?  Bernard McGinley takes a stroll down it, while he still can.

Between the boating lake and the funfair on the Hastings seafront is a small path, shortish and straight, from the main road to the miniature railway. It’s been there for decades, certainly since the 1940s. As it is freely used (without permission, secrecy or force), it seems to have the status of a right of way.

Except it doesn’t. The arbitrator of such matters is East Sussex County Council (ESCC): in 2010 they decided that this footpath didn’t need to be a right of way because people could use it ‘by right’.

The problem with this legal situation is that the right only lasts for as long as the footpath does. If the footpath goes, so does the option to use it ‘by right’.

The matter was appealed to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who referred it to the Planning Inspectorate, who upheld the original finding. The reference was NATROW/G1440/529A/10/35, dated 29 March 2011. The Inspector did however emphasise that ownership lay with Hastings Borough Council (HBC):

. . .  a Land Registry Official copy of register of title, dated 26 October 2009, showed the title absolute to lie with the Borough Council . . .                                                                                                                           [para 13]

More fair

Now there is exactly such a proposal to do away with the footpath: planning application HS/FA/17/01056 is for extensions and refurbishments of the Stade Amusement Park, aka Flamingo Park. The plan is to amalgamate the amusement sites, take over the existing footpath and build on it as part of an expansion. There is to be a new pathway by the lake much narrower, and twisty, less safe and with no right of way.

Existing footpath viewed from main road...

Existing footpath viewed from main road…

What of the guardian of such beachy matters, the Foreshore Trust? Although they were notified of this application in 2017, and are ‘a statutory consultee’, the Trust have yet to say anything — despite concerns being repeatedly raised at the Trust’s annual general meeting in September (including its role as statutory consultee), and the Charity Committee in June noting rumours, later scotched, of amusement park footpath purchase (Coastal Users Group minutes, Item 7).

Despite these formal triggers, at the September Planning Committee meeting the Stade case was deferred. In October the same thing happened.

The chair of the Charity Committee wrote a personal opinion in favour of the application, which another member of the Trust has broadened to ‘our personal views’. Their views as Trustees remain unknown, but the letter shows that they’ve been aware of the case for some time.

The Trust is formally advised by the Coastal Users Group, and is required to heed their views. As the minutes of the Trust’s 2015 annual general meeting noted (Section 18, Item 12):

Under the Scheme established on 22 March 2006 by the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, the Trustee has to consult with the Coastal Users Group on the maintenance and management of the assets of the Foreshore Trust, and has to have regard to the recommendations of the Coastal Users Group when reaching its decisions.

The Coastal Users Group have formally and strongly objected to the proposals. In the absence of Trust comment, can it be assumed that the Coastal Users Group speaks for the Foreshore Trust?

1893 and all that

The Foreshore Trust, a vehicle of HBC, nominally owns the foreshore, and has done since an indenture (conveyance) of 8 September 1893 appointed the Council as Trustee. There were amendments under the Hastings Borough Council Act 1988, and a restructuring in 2011. Some of the car parking revenue was put into a grants programme, with visible benefits on the beach.

...and from the south end.

…and from the south end.

The history was summed up by ESCC on 8 June 2010:

11.  HBC own the land in terms of a trust of 1893 when it acquired the land from the Crown. The Council holds the land subject to a Trust ‘for the common use, benefit and enjoyment of all Her Majesty’s subjects and of the public for the time being and forever’.

12.  Prior to this trust the land was private property of the Crown where no right was freely enjoyed by the public. The subsequent trust of 1893 gave this right which is still current and in full effect.

13 . . . The trust is still fully binding on HBC because the trust shall apply ‘to all successors of authority’.

The Trust has a separate formal existence from the Council but its Trustees are HBC councillors. The Council explains that:

decision-making powers for the Foreshore Trust have been delegated to the Charity Committee, which is a Cabinet committee.

Burble

The Charity Committee members are Cllrs Beaney (chair), Batsford and Rogers, who are also the members of the Foreshore Trust. The Trust makes bland declarations such as:

The Trust continues to concentrate efforts on ensuring a secure and viable future for the Trust, especially in terms of maintaining and improving its assets, managing its available resources for the long term benefit of the community . . .

but does not seem to want to move to protect Hastings. The Council similarly states of the Trust:

When making decisions relating to or affecting the Charity, it must act in its best interests.

Given the threatened loss of open space and access, this does not seem to be happening.  

The case was previously discussed in HOT here. The article and its forceful comments did not lead to a response in the vicinity of Muriel Matters House. The footpath is also the subject of another case.

Sketch showing the new footpath, shaded green, planned by the amusement park owner - the existing path, not shown, will be absorbed into the park (diagram from Revised Site Plan).

Sketch showing the planned new footpath, shaded green – the existing path, not shown, will be absorbed into the park (diagram from Revised Site Plan).

What next?

The Hastings foreshore is now at serious risk of:

  •   a much worse pathway than the existing one
  •   the loss of a longstanding de facto right of way
  •   a failure to seek designation of that right of way while that can still be done
  •   bulky new buildings in the funfair, negatively affecting the Old Town
  •   the handover of land to the amusement park (‘enlargement of amusement park to incorporate land where current footpath is located’) to its commercial benefit, apparently without stated terms.

The ESCC decision noted carefully (at para 59 c):

The public have used the land for many years . . . This has been as a result of the Trust of 1893 which shall continue to protect their enjoyment of this part of the Seafront.

Unless the Foreshore Trust bestir themselves, however, this footpath will be permanently lost, and the enjoyment that goes with it.

The Planning Committee report for this case in September and October carried the planning officers’ formal recommendation:

Grant Full Planning Permission

and scarcely mentions the question of existing access or the role of Foreshore Trust.  

At paragraph 4 of Section 3 (‘Revised landscaped pedestrian footpath from A249 to the beach’) it states:

Amusement park would be increased by virtue of reduced path width and would contain one new ride, a swinging pirate ship. As shown hatched on the block plan. The extended area measures approx. 1,200sqm.   [1200 square metres is nearly 40 yards square.]

The planning case file is here, and comments can still be made to the Planning Committee until 7 November. Its next meetings are on 7 November and 12 December.

If it wanted to, the Council could seek to make the pathway available ‘as of right’ (a stronger claim) instead of ‘by right’, and enshrine free permanent access for the people of Hastings.  It has not explained its point of view. The Inspector noted that

. . . the Trust is expressly revocable and this provides evidence that the landowner intended that the public could be stopped from using the land at any time he chose . . .                                                             [para 19]

The present situation has some of the features of a mutually convenient standoff, whereby – if they do anything at all – each side can point to or blame the other.

The Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Charitable Trust is Reg No 1105649 with the Charity Commission. The Trust’s persistent neglect of its duties is causing concern.  So too is the Council’s silence on an important question of access.

Posted 09:28 Saturday, Oct 20, 2018 In: Home Ground

7 Comments


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  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    It is time to contact the Charity Commissioners office because something is radically wrong with this Foreshore Trust/Charity set up. It appears this Charity is having all its strings pulled by Hastings Borough Council. As Colin Foy points out so succinctly, the Trust IS the Council. And therefore will never be able to act indepdently as it should.
    Whosoever is acting as Trustee it is incumbent upon them to ensure that they must act in the Charity’s best interests.
    To allow this Amusement park organisation to ride rough shod over this important part of our Old Town is scandalous.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Oct 26, 2018 @ 11:27

  2. Eye on the ball

    The root of the problem seems to be with the same people wearing all these hats! This needs to be stopped immediately or we have no overseeing or consultation (yet again). If this can’t be done, can the Foreshore Trust and/or its members be sued personally for not protecting the public’s interests?

    Comment by Eye on the ball — Thursday, Oct 25, 2018 @ 19:37

  3. J B KNIGHT

    It will be done, it will be extended, there will continue to be a footpath and access round the back. At moment it is a bit bare derelict and shabby.

    Needs something doing to it.

    Not a kneejerk OTT reaction.

    And you will get as far as you did opposing the Jerwood site.

    Can’t react everytime one has a coughing fit over each new proposal

    Comment by J B KNIGHT — Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018 @ 16:03

  4. Penny

    Meanwhile, the legal departments, paid for by the ratepayers, are outwitted yet again by the apparently superior legal advisors to the Stade Amusement Park, assuming there is nothing conspiratorial going on, of course.
    It’s obvious that the members of the Foreshore Trust are ignorant of the history and implications of these applications.

    Comment by Penny — Monday, Oct 22, 2018 @ 09:46

  5. colin foy

    The Foreshore Trust is the Council, and Council are the Foreshore Trust. Thus it has always been, and once you have moved their masks, they are instantly recognisable.

    Comment by colin foy — Monday, Oct 22, 2018 @ 05:57

  6. Bolshie

    The more I read about this planning fiasco and this Trust run by three Labour councillors, none it would appear to me to have any experience of being a Trustee of anything; the more I see utter mismanagement of this charitable set up.
    While supposedly acting as “Guardians” of the foreshore, this Trust is not only turning its back on this issue but did so with the recent pier issue and the sale of it.
    What I further find of concern is while this Trust operated by councillors, the Coastal Users Group (CUG), whom are supposed to be consulted on such matters, is another group dominated by councillors and council officers. So effectively there is no such thing as an Independent trust or group.
    And concerning this group I note Kevin Boorman HBC’s marketing expert is on this CUG committee who have now stated their objection to this application. However, I see on reading the various comments on the application this Mr Boorman gives it his full “Approval.” It looks like he wears “two hats” here. All the more reason why both the Trust and this group should not have any council influence at all.

    Comment by Bolshie — Sunday, Oct 21, 2018 @ 16:22

  7. Ms.Doubtfire

    So the Trust declares it “contnues to concentrate efforts in ensuring a secure and viable future for the Trust…especially in terms of maintaining and improving its assets, managing its available resources for the long term benefit of the community”…..Who would have guessed this from their recent activities?

    Is this the same Trust whose Chair proffered her personal support of this planning application despite no official comments forthcoming from the Trustees? Can Trustees submit ‘personal views’ on this issue? Surely any comments must come via an official declaration from the Foreshore Trust Trustees?

    The Chair of the Foreshore Trust appears to be wearing two hats here and this is surely not permissible. This application must receive official comment from the Trustees.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Sunday, Oct 21, 2018 @ 15:17

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