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The amusement park owner wants to build a new path along the east side of the boating lake, a move that is backed by the Foreshore Trust.

The amusement park owner wants to build a new path along the east side of the boating lake, a move that is backed by the Foreshore Trust.

The clarity the Foreshore Trust owes the public is missing

The Foreshore Trust continues to say nothing about the future of foreshore assets, as the Stade pathway application continues. The proposal seeks to reroute the footpath and give land to the amusement park. Bernard McGinley takes another look at a case lacking in defenders.

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) have still to resolve the case of the threatened footpath and transfer. The case was recently revised, though the application is still for works including the ‘enlargement of amusement park to incorporate land where current footpath is located’.

The planning reference for the new application is HS/FA/18/01009 (formerly HS/FA/17/01056). The proposed developments at the Stade have previously been  discussed in HOT here and (indirectly) here.

Since 1893, the foreshore has been controlled by the Foreshore Trust, whose three members now are all councillors and make up the entire HBC Charity Committee. Do they therefore represent the council? No, according to the Foreshore Trust’s constitutional ‘Protector’, who in October 2018 explained that:

The Foreshore Trust is legally quite separate from the Council as a local government entity, despite the fact that HBC is its sole Trustee.  This means that the three Councillors that constitute the Charity Committee of HBC (ie the individuals who actually exercise the powers of the sole Trustee) need to be formally advised on an individual basis by Planning of any request for permission affecting Foreshore Trust land.

The existing footpath

The existing footpath, available to the public ‘by right.’

Since the first application from the amusement park owner in December 2017, the three trustees have said very little to explain their views, despite their involvement as ‘statutory consultees’ or ‘individuals’ (or both).

The Chair has said ‘from my personal perspective’ that she was in favour of the new pathway. Then eventually, in December 2018, she said formally that all three trustees were. Regarding the proposed transfer of Foreshore Trust land – equivalent to nearly 40 yards square – from the present pathway to the amusement park, they stated:

In principal [sic] we have no objections to the expansion of the Amusement Park . . .

But how this attitude is consistent with ‘long-term community benefit’ and the requirement to act in the trust’s ‘best interests’ has not been explained or defended in the course of these applications. To many this seems to be a failure of duty by the trustees. Even the HBC estates manager commented in January 2019 that:

under the terms of the lease of the site the Trust’s consent as Landlord is required to any alterations.  

Cabinet connexions

By a strange coincidence the three councillors who are the Foreshore Trust trustees are all also members of the HBC Cabinet (where many key decisions are made).  As there are only six Labour members (from 24 altogether) of the HBC Cabinet, the chances of this are slim. Given that the leader and deputy leader automatically sit on the Cabinet, that leaves room for only four more Labour councillors – and remarkably, three of these are the Charity Committee/Foreshore Trust members.

The Council Constitution (Part 3) states grandly that:

It is intended that Cabinet delegates its functions to the Charity Committee to make trustee decisions and to avoid any breach of trust or perception or apprehension of breach of trust by reason of a conflict of interest between the Charity and the Council and its executive.

How this works in practice is not explained. Nor does national guidance by the Charity Commissioners illuminate the matter. The Cabinet has all the Foreshore trustees and all the HBC Charity Committee. All the Trustees are Cabinet members.

Consultation

The Coastal Users Group (CUG) expressed its opposition to the Stade proposals. (See item 9 of the Charity Committee agenda of 24 September 2018 (page 81), which records their ‘strong disappointment and disgust . . . at the lack of notification and consultation with CUG on the Stade Family Amusement Park planning application’.)  The Foreshore Trust is obliged to take notice of  – ‘have regard to the recommendations of’ –  such views, but has not given an opinion.

Other than as above, the trustees have not commented on the proposed loss of Foreshore land (the wide footpath). If they are minded to endorse the application, there is an obligation to explain why the proposals are acceptable, and what the proposed leasehold terms are.

Their purpose, after all, is

to hold and maintain the charity’s land…for the common use, benefit and enjoyment of all Her Majesty’s subjects and of the public for the time being for ever.

Charity Commission guidance  is clear about how the trustees of a charity should act in any proposed transactions (including disposals of assets), as part of their legal duty of care. Public consultation is recommended wherever disposal is being proposed, and the taking of legal advice. A professional surveyor’s report is also required, which should then be publicised.

Whether legal advice has been taken, and a surveyor’s report commissioned, we do not know. No such report has been made public, nor has there been a consultation, though in view of the high level of interest from local residents, there is an overwhelming case for holding one.

New application form still incorrect

The first application form filed with the revised application in November has been withdrawn (and is no longer on the online case file, instead of being marked ‘superseded’, as, say, drawings often are.)

The replacement application form is somewhat disingenuous. Section 8 wrongly answers No to the question:

Do the proposals require diversions/extinguishments and/or creation of rights of way?

(The right answer is Yes, as the existing footpath is a ‘by right’ right of way, though this article does not address this issue.)

Section 20 asks about the type of machinery to be installed, commercial activities and processes, and details of plant, ventilation or air conditioning. Despite the increased height sought for buildings (in a conservation area) and the proposals for new fairground attractions and equipment, the response given is ‘NA’ (Not Applicable). This is inaccurate.

Section 24, Certificate of Ownership Certificate B, gives the Name of Owner as:

Hastings Borough Council as trustee of the Hastings & St Leonards Charitable Foreshore Trust

Section 25, Certificate of Ownership Certificate B, gives the Name of Owner as

Foreshore Charitable Trust

Which is it? Some clarifications are desperately needed  from the trustees (including their acceptance or not of the Coastal Users’ Group’s views) as trustees or individuals or councillors, from the applicants, from the council’s planners in their pending Planning Committee report.  (Both the September and October committee meetings had the report recommendation ‘Grant Full Planning Permission’ for the Stade case.)

Consideration by the Planning Committee of the original application was deferred last September (‘as it was not clear to members of the public what was being proposed i.e. enlargement of the amusement park area’) and again in October (‘because the application form had not been filled in correctly by the applicant’), thus leading to the new application. A decision will be made by the Planning Committee at the earliest on 6 March.

Clarity still needed

It is still not clear what is being proposed. What of the legal and financial terms of the land transfer, for instance? How are these proposals ‘maintaining and improving’ Foreshore Trust assets? More broadly, it is proposed to unify the boating lake with the funfair to make ‘one site’. The footpath would be lost diverted and narrowed and the foreshore land it occupies would go to the funfair. How the new footpath is to cross the miniature railway track is not explained.

The new application does not have the full documentation of the previous one.  The HBC conservation officer’s findings have not been transferred to the later case, despite findings of incompleteness such as:

The agent should clarify the degree of demolition that will be required to implement the proposals. Information provided should include floor plans and elevations hatched in red to identify those buildings/parts of existing buildings that will be demolished.

If Permitted Development Rights (PDR) are also gained, new massing and new buildings would very likely follow, as protection for the Old Town site would be greatly lessened. The revised application shows a new fence along part of the edge of the boating lake. The Old Hastings Preservation Society has objected to this new proposed enclosure.

The new deadline for comment is Friday 8 February.

Posted 20:05 Sunday, Feb 3, 2019 In: Home Ground

9 Comments


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  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    Has anyone contacted the Charity Commissioners office about any of this? The Charity Commissioners office should be the first point of contact over what appears to be a malfunction in the role of the Trustees. This must be addressed and without delay. These trustees (HBC councillors) are there to protect the Foreshore and where is the evidence of this? All we can see is a very clear conflict of interest. Independent of HBC? Not in a million years and this must be addressed pdq.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Feb 14, 2019 @ 10:55

  2. Chris Hurrell

    A very clear and informative article. It is clear that the trustees have no independence from HBC and that trustees are beholden to the advice of HBC officers. The Foreshore Trust is managed for and in the interests of HBC – this was never the intentions of the founders of the trusts and its purpose has been subverted by HBC. The stade amusements application clearly shows that the Foreshore Trust is failing in its responsibilities.

    Comment by Chris Hurrell — Friday, Feb 8, 2019 @ 14:07

  3. Bolshie

    You really could not make it up where this “Protector” (what a title) is trying to convince us how the Foreshore Trust is separate from HBC. Here we have 3 Labour Councillors of a Labour controlled council controlling this Trust. The Chairman Cllr Beaney is recorded as getting financial payment for her services. Then you have this Coastal Users Group that has a majority of Labour councillors and HBC paid officers sitting on it. Neither are independent of this council. The council influence is enormous.
    Reading the notations concerning the incorrect application form details. Where is the Trust or this CUG lot who should be raising this, let alone the planning department of course. However, as those use to reading these forms know this is a very common occurrence.
    And no doubt when this does finally get to the committee the fears of an “Appeal” will be mentioned and it will just get rubber stamped.

    Comment by Bolshie — Tuesday, Feb 5, 2019 @ 11:34

  4. DAR

    It’s all a bit Kafkaesque. How can these groups largely consist of councillors and NOT be subject to conflicts of interest re: HBC and its planners when such matters arise? And, as usual, not much in the way of transparency.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, Feb 4, 2019 @ 15:26

  5. JJ waller

    I have been reading stories like these for over a decade. I have come to the conclusion that out of loyalty to a wider political ‘stance’ there is a stifled resistance by many people to a perspective that might undermine the Labour position in Hastings & St Leonards. What a disappointment that a a Council with a Labour leader at the helm lacks true vision creativity and transparency to carry the town forward. It just makes sense that the trustees of the Foresore Trust should be independent of any party political allegiance.

    Comment by JJ waller — Monday, Feb 4, 2019 @ 13:53

  6. Ms.Doubtfire

    The Coastal Users Group has its hands tied by the very fact that this ‘Group/Commttee’ has Cllr. Kim Forward (Deputy lead of the council) as Vice Chair plus a further 6 or 7 councillors as members. The Foreshore Trust is neither independent of this council or shows any support for Foreshore Trust land. The Foreshore Trust is to all intents and purposes Hastings Borough Council. And this is where the problem lies. It surely is time for an approach to the Charity Commissioners offices to ask them if they are satisfied about the impartiality of this ‘Trust’. Many would say this so called Trust is not fit for purpose.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Feb 4, 2019 @ 10:08

  7. Ms.Doubtfire

    This is entirely unsatisfactory and as the planning officers are so reluctant to address the inaccuracies and downright misinterpretation of the Turstees role here, it is absolutely imperative that representations are made to the legal department in this council before it is too late.
    Once again we have planning applications which are incorrectly filled in, which are a complete mish mash of facts and figures and this simply cannot be acceptable. There is a plethora of planning applications which are either being heard behind close doors via the delegated route, or, alternatively, incorrectly applied for. What recourse does the man in the street have against these issues in this town? When is the planning department going to be brought to heel and forced to implement planning decisions in accordance with planning and statutory laws?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Feb 4, 2019 @ 09:39

  8. Penny

    I suspect that the legal advisers to the Stade Amusement are much brighter than the naive HBC members on the Foreshore Trust.
    We have seen all this before.
    If HBC is gullible enough to allow this through, the Amusements will become an enclosed area, and then they can do / build whatever they like.
    HBC members have a conflict of interest serving on the Foreshore Trust, therefore it could be construed as corruption, and history repeating itself.

    Comment by Penny — Monday, Feb 4, 2019 @ 08:35

  9. Philip Oakley

    An interesting feature showing that the Foreshore Trust is anything but independent from the Council.
    This organisation has an income of over £2m a year but not many people know anything about it and how it is run. It requires much more independent scrutiny and in my opinion should not have trustees who are politically aligned. Try asking these people a question and the process will take anything up to 6 months! I tried and gave up after being frustrated at every stage.
    Last year the Foreshore Trust stayed silent over the Pier when it was a sensible organisation to take on the freehold and at least engage with the Administrators. On the other hand it allowed the Council to encourage people to develop the Marina project on Trust land. More recently it is being asked to contribute to Council projects for a fountain, an arts project and a bike hire business.
    The Coastal Users Group seems a far more sensible, free thinking and democratic organisation that should have more power than Councillors who are appearing to be simply towing the party line.

    Comment by Philip Oakley — Sunday, Feb 3, 2019 @ 22:23

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