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"Please use this greenspace respectfully," says the notice. Plans call for 152 dwellings to be built here, although the Local Plan only stipulates 120.

“Please use this greenspace respectfully,” says the notice. Plans call for 152 dwellings to be built on it, although the Local Plan only stipulates 120.

As Council prepares to sign contract, what’s best for the Bathing Pool site?

The future of the Bathing Pool site is in possible peril, but it’s all (mostly) a secret until the lease is signed — some time soon. How high will this development go? Bernard McGinley takes a look around Seaside Road and a much-loved open space.

The old Bathing Pool site in West St Leonards is among the sunniest places in the whole of Britain. As ‘the last large vacant waterfront site in Hastings’, it deserves special treatment from its owners, Hastings Borough Council (HBC), who are about to hand it on. 

Details of what is proposed are hard to find: the plan appears to be to put 152 housing units there, plus parking, along with some cafés, restaurants and a slipway, while retaining the recreational space and the children’s play area.  

The HBC Constitution is famously high-minded, as its Planning Protocol shows, prattling on about openness, transparency, fairness and many other virtues. Council officers are clear regarding the site that: “Opportunities should be taken where possible to exploit the sea views that the site offers”. So some tall buildings can be expected — but how high? As high as Grosvenor Gardens perhaps, part of a conservation area. West St Leonards station is nearby, adding to its connectivity.  The site’s future is uneasily poised between visitor attraction and luxury housing.  Local people have views too. 

flagstones 350Talking the talk

The Bathing Pool is Site FB3 in the Local Plan. Officers enthuse about

a viable and attractive proposition to transform the West Marina site into a destination point in line with the objectives of the seafront strategy, provide enhanced leisure opportunities . . .  

An agreement is about to be signed with County Gate/Sunley, and only then will consultation with local residents begin. This is odd. County Gate/Sunley are known for executive homes in places such as Kingston-upon-Thames and Wimbledon. The developer’s website shows designs that are bland and safe. Innovation or flair are noticeably lacking, and they have no experience of providing leisure or seafront facilities. So why is the Council signing this site over to them?  

It is also concerning that only the outline of CountyGate/Sunley’s proposal has been revealed, as the Council has claimed copyright matters prevent it from revealing the details. This is a lame excuse, and part of a wider pattern.  

HOT has previously reported on the local campaign here.

HBC Cabinet progress

The planning history can be tracked through several meetings. At the HBC Cabinet meeting of 2 November 2015 (agenda item 10, minutes item 23), it was unanimously agreed to add the site to the Land and Property Disposal Programme and to appoint agents to market the site. A public meeting at the Royal Victoria Hotel soon followed.

At the HBC Cabinet in September 2018 (agenda item 6, minutes item 100), the resulting bids and developers were assessed. County Gate/Sunley became the preferred bidder and Carter Jonas as Council agents were instructed to negotiate further to agree heads of terms for recommendation to Cabinet, for 

a mixed development including 152 residential units (25% affordable) as identified in the local plan. 

But the Local Plan (p102) mentions only 120 units.  

The undertaking that public consultation events 

will take account of local people’s views and the wider needs of the whole community

does not mean that those views will be implemented.

Most of the papers for the meeting were restricted, and the public were excluded from the Council chamber for the main discussion.

The matter was returned to at the Cabinet meeting of 4 February 2019 (agenda item 9, minutes item 144), when it was agreed to move toward disposal (under Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972) which would include a planning forum and public consultation, and Council consideration of any objections received about the loss of land forming part of an open space. (That loss, rather than any development details, is what’s important here.)    

tk maxx 350At the Cabinet meeting of 4 March 2019 (item 6, minutes items 158 and 166), the petition against the scheme was aired by the lead petitioner, citing site density, information scarcity, cost problems, traffic issues, the subterranean difficulties of the site, and the uncertain involvement of neighbouring sites

A senior officer outlined the recommendations to members and said there could be no consultation where there was still no formal scheme. As for the slipway, previously rejected:

experts have since come up with new ideas that they assure us can work.

The recommendations were proposed for approval by Cllr Peter Chowney and seconded by Cllr Andy Batsford. The decision was made by 4-1 to proceed, but the details of heads of terms, financial authorisation, etc. were in the Part 2 report, which was exempt information, discussed behind closed doors.

Filling the space

152 units are proposed for the site, but it’s unknowable what proportion of the units on the site will be second homes. However the ‘affordable homes figure of 25%’ will surely go down significantly, in accordance with local trends and practice.

Designs, parking details, and even the shape of the site are all unknown. The old ‘Stamco’ site and Ministry of Defence site on the west side of Cinque Ports Way might also be included (Site FB6) but it’s unclear. The beach huts (replacements for the Sidney Little chalets demolished in 2006 with national publicity) might also be moved on — to where? The Development Management Plan (para 6.102) blithely talks of “new permanent beach huts” to replace the existing ones. 

Consultation concerns

There are concerns about the consultation:  should it be begun – or terms clarified – before the decision for disposal? Somehow it’s usually too early until it’s too late. Once HBC no longer have meaningful ownership of the site, a key responsibility passes to County Gate/Sunley.  After listening politely to local opinions, they are likely to seek and get Outline Planning Permission, which again moves forward the development while postponing a serious consideration of sensitive or contentious matters, until development, in effect by stealth, has been achieved. 

Preparatory to a long lease (of centuries), possibly there’ll be an initial five-year lease to clarify the issues and bases for consultation. The alternative is that the local campaign successfully works for a Neighbourhood Plan (a way of helping local communities to influence the planning of the area in which they live and work). The campaign is called West Marina, and has a website and social media.

bathing huts 600

Quoting scripture

Cllr Andy Batsford  has been bravely to the fore in endorsing the possibilities of the current scheme (“a vibrant living leisure destination”). As Housing, Leisure and Community Engagement portfolio holder, he has been juggling issues of transparency and confidentiality and accountability, which is not easy.  

Local resident:  If it is so exciting why don’t you share the details before contracts are signed to ensure the people you represent agree with you?

Cllr:  Share what details?

(In that the Carter Jonas MasterPlan avoids words such as ‘luxury’ and ‘infill’, and even ‘bed’ or ‘room’, the councillor has a point. Objectors have a point too.)

Compliance with the Local Plan is deemed obligatory holy writin HBC circles, and yet  Cornwallis Street car park is now being considered for a hotel and not housing as recorded because it suits the Council.

The Bathing Pool site has sea-defence and flooding issues. It is a brownfield site but the proposals indicate a significant loss of open space and a community leisure area.

HBC has policies that appear to offer hope or help, such as Policy EN7: Conservation and Enhancement of Landscape

The Council will protect and enhance the town’s landscape including:

•  the undeveloped coast.

There’s also Policy EN8:  Open Spaces Enhancement, Provision and Protection.

In its Quality Standard for Open Spaces, HBC once boasted:   

The open spaces are a major factor in Hastings residents maintaining their active lifestyles, many of who are now living healthier longer lives. 

Policy FA1 of the Planning Strategy declares:

In Western Area we will also:

i)  protect, manage and enhance the green spaces network . . .  and significant open spaces at . . . Bexhill Recreation Ground and the Seafront.

Do these words and sources mean anything?  Even in revising its Local Development Scheme the Council states that local people’s views will be sought.

Counterweight?

Now a rare open space by the sea, the Bathing Pool was built in 1933 to a design by the great Sidney Little. It was 110 yards long and 30 yards wide. It lasted till 1986 and was demolished in 1993.

There is a consensus that an attractive and viable counterweight to the Old Town is desirable in West St Leonards. Is this it?

[NOTE:  Cllr Batsford was asked to comment but at the time of publication no response had been received. We will be happy to record his views in another article.]

Posted 14:56 Thursday, Nov 7, 2019 In: Home Ground

22 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Chris Lewcock

    West Marina Group are launching a petition to ask the Council and its contractors to consider, as part of redevelopment of the former bathing pool site, rebuilding on it a replacement for the failing swimming pool at Bohemia Road.

    If you wish to support this go to the westmarina.org website.

    Comment by Chris Lewcock — Friday, Nov 15, 2019 @ 20:48

  2. Margo

    This excellent article dated Thursday 7th Nov finishes with an important note:

    [NOTE: Cllr Batsford was asked to comment but at the time of publication no response had been received. We will be happy to record his views in another article.]

    Eight days later no response from Cllr Batsford has been printed. Has the lead councillor for housing at Hastings Borough Council no plans to provide HOT with answers to their queries, along with additional thoughts ?

    If Cllr Batsford is unable to respond perhaps HOT should also send these queries to Council Leader Peter Chowney for his comments ?

    Comment by Margo — Friday, Nov 15, 2019 @ 18:17

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    We will be left with only one option here – to take this council to a Judicial Review – this is a costly process but often it it is a last resort people have for checking the abuse of power with Government and public bodies. It certainly is not for the faint hearted. It was applied during the Jerwood Gallery protests and was successfusl but only to a degree and the Jerwood went ahead.
    The council are very well aware that whilst they have unlimited finance for any and every legal eventuality, the residents of this town do not have this facility to use public monies.
    Once again we are literally on a hiding to nothing and it would require a generous benefactor to come to our aid here….This bathing pool fiasco has to be one of the most unjust and underhanded planning issues ever incountered in this town.
    Of course there have been many others but this is shocking. Are the people of Hastings doomed forever to live under this dictatorship which professes to be a democractic council?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Nov 14, 2019 @ 09:31

  4. Kendal

    I ask Mr Chowney to consider how seriously the general public can take the Labour Party if they’re up for these kinds of tricks? is all the talk of community involvement and participatory democracy just the same bluster as BJ saying he’ll get Brexit done. does he really wish to dilute the support for them in the general election? or is this indicative of what Labour will really get up to behind their claims.

    this is not the only project either – where does this fit in with Labour talking up social justice and affordable housing plans, as well as taxing the rich, not selling off the NHS. are the local Labour councillors nothing more than Thatcherites?

    Comment by Kendal — Thursday, Nov 14, 2019 @ 01:15

  5. Ms.Doubtfire

    We have reached a forgone conclusion now – this council will do precisely what they have intended to do all along with this important site – surely they do not seriously think that we believe their promises of consulting with the public AFTER the developer has signed this 100 year lease?
    Only a fool would believe this council’s statements about this site. Does Cllr. Peter Chowney take us all for fools??
    The bottom line is this: No developer is going to sign any significant lease without knowing what he can or cannot do with the site. So any public consultation after this lease is signed will be meaningless…it will be all done and dusted and that will be that..
    Only huge public protests will possibly halt the shocking destruction of this special site. But the developer will have a piece of paper in his hand giving him consent for who knows what…Shame on you Hastings council…

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019 @ 08:51

  6. Bolshie

    Allow me once more to step into the breach on this issue and another notable comment. So far Cllr Batsford ( property expert) for his party has not commented on this article. I sure after reading it he would have found it virtually impossible to convince anyone he is part of a democratic and transparent council having been told they have already signed up a developer. P. okeefe’s observation as of several others demonstrates one thing, there is no respect for we the public on the part of this Labour lot running the show. Rather like this sudden rush to buy commercial property that nobody knew what they were purchasing, how they decided what to buy. Who is behind it all and here we are some £40m later with precarious retail sites.
    And while on the subject the way this bathing pool scenario is being handled, I see a very appropriate reference by Mrs Doubtfire on how the Labour Party and their councillors have claimed success with saving a valuable bio diverse site -ROBSACK MEADOW. This was an achievement between several of people with the campaign run by a Mrs Stephenson. She and we fought this Labour council for SEVEN years. And as stated in the comment it was ultimately saved by the Planning Inspector who listened and believed the campaign not to destroy that meadow. Yet here we are in their Labour manifesto claiming under their list of “Achievements” how they – the very lot who wanted to concrete – now say they saved it. And of course not one councillor like with this site will comment on that. So those who have commentated about this important and lovely site will probably have to just watch what those councillors have in mind for us. Not you!

    Comment by Bolshie — Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019 @ 21:15

  7. Dirk

    Well researched informative article by Mr McGinley, thank you. I was unaware of the many layers to these fast looming proposals. It is horrifying to think the local community will lose this prime seafront green leisure space to developers.

    Some interesting comments on here. As for politics no-one is coming out looking good, the conservative councillors of this ward have been quiet on this matter. The Greens should be all over this where are they? It appears it is up to the Hastings & St Leonards On Sea community to make the noise to ensure sympathetic use of this space for future generations. I followed the link in the article to the campaign’s facebook page, lots more info there & a distinct lack of support for the luxury residential proposal :
    St Leonards Sobs Save Our Bathing Site https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaveOurBathingSite/

    Comment by Dirk — Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019 @ 16:11

  8. Ms.Doubtfire

    Slightly concerned with Chris lewcock’s latest comment – is he suggesting we allow this council to hold us to ransom by not protesting too much or they won’t support us and we will find things even more difficult??? Things could not get much worse here as it is….especially planning issues.
    The best way to solve these ongoing problems in this town is to make sure we do not give the Labour team any more power than they already wield here.
    We have already got a very one sided council down here – it will only get worse if we end up with a Labour MP…so vote very carefully this time around..

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019 @ 09:20

  9. A Larkin

    There’s a pressing need for affordable housing in this town. OK. But that can never excuse the trashing of unique assets like the ex bathing site in West St Leonards by smothering it with residential building. Even if the proposal was for 100% affordable housing it would be wrong – because the Council should be custodians of the important features of the town, not just grey suits trying to balance the towns competing requirements.

    But the proposal isn’t for 100% affordable housing. Just a small percentage would be affordable; one can only assume the rest would be for “desirable luxury flats with unparalleled views of the sea”. That’s if the density of housing planned goes ahead, which could only entail building upwards.

    Who know, though? The plans are cloaked in the usual secrecy that is the hallmark of modern day deception.

    All I can suggest is “Think again” before another huge section of the community is alienated from local government.

    Comment by A Larkin — Monday, Nov 11, 2019 @ 21:56

  10. Chris Lewcock

    Only a passing thought. So far the campaigns both at the Bathing Pool Site and Bexhill Road Playing Fields have included folks from all Parties and none. The present General Election atmosphere understandably raises the temperature somewhat but sadly if the campaigns become used as an explicitly party political tool to beat others over the head we will get (and it is possible!!) even less cooperation from the Council.

    Comment by Chris Lewcock — Monday, Nov 11, 2019 @ 14:25

  11. Ms.Doubtfire

    Kendal has made some very pertinent comments here not least of all as how this council how they trade off our backs, whilst ignoring the high level of community input and care.
    A prime example of this can seen in the recent declaration by the Hastings Labour Party where Cllr. Peter Chowney claimed the inclusion of Robsack meadow into the Local Nature Reserve of Robsack and Churchwood Local Nature was one of Hastings Labour partys achievements…. This is a downright untruth – all the council did in this instance was to rubber stamp a decision made by the local Plan inspector Mr. Richard Hollox who categorically told the council that they needed to withdraw this unique habitat from their local plan development sites as no mitigation measures would save this special site from destruction if developoment was to be built on this site.
    Over 200 dedicated campaigners fought for nearly 8 years to save this habitat and at every turn this council did their utmost to prevent them. Cllr. Chowney’s statement claiming this victory as one of their ‘achievements’ is below the belt and has upset many who fought so hard to protect this site. Look at this link –

    https://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/opinion/who-really-saved-robsack-meadow-from-development-the-hastings-labour-party-or-the-local-residents-1-8955892

    this link shows a letter in our local paper by one of the campaigners and it outlines in detail how this should never be claimed to be a council achievement…

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Nov 11, 2019 @ 13:52

  12. Mary Hooper

    Time for mass protest, national enquiry, petition?
    The environmental damage from such a development alone should veto a proposal like this. Tragic. Thankyou for a brilliant report Bernard.

    Comment by Mary Hooper — Monday, Nov 11, 2019 @ 09:21

  13. Kendal

    this is a prime example of how local council and councillors treat their community with disdain. this community has so many very passionate and active forward thinking people who all contribute to its community and creatively, generating its attractions and kudos – this is NOT done by the local council and they trade off our backs, whilst ignoring a high level of community input and care.

    if our local council was subject to the approval of a people’s assembly, this resort could be transformed into a green, ecologically advanced community in very little time. the Commons Treasury meeting at St Mary in the Castle recently revealed this. Peter Chowney attended for a short time. one wonders if they really want to be in the know to see what’s on offer or what threatenes their current plans.

    when it comes to voting – with this kind of treatment of the community, it really discredits all the spouted aims of the Labour Party to have participatory democracy – if it ends up ther votes are diluted by support for the Green Party or others. they know very well why and whom to blame

    Comment by Kendal — Monday, Nov 11, 2019 @ 09:03

  14. Penny

    Here we go again.
    Has it not occurred to our secretive politicians who seem to think that important decisions cannot be trusted to the populous, that these sites have not been built on in the past for both aesthetic and practical reasons?
    How dare they keep selling off our family silver, then telling us it’s for our own good after the event?
    Those of us who have considerable local knowledge going back generations, including the engineer, Sidney Little, realise that building on flood plains is a very bad idea.
    The unique character of the town is what attracts people to visit, thus boosting our main industry of tourism. Bog standard back-room business deals are endangering the loss of our wonderful heritage.
    I will be casting my vote for a more open and transparent form of government, where people are consulted before contractors. The balance sheet involves a great deal more than immediate financial gain for Hastings Borough Council. Our town is worth far more than that to us.

    Comment by Penny — Monday, Nov 11, 2019 @ 08:16

  15. Ms.Doubtfire

    Chris Lewcock has summed it all up very well – and it’s a real pity that this excellent online journal does not reach every corner of this town…maybe we need a few flyers outlining the way this council is so very adept at distorting their Policies and Promises to suit…the Consitution is nothing more than a lengthy parable of what this council promises and then fails to honour.
    They really have been very lucky to date…in fact they have been very lucky over decades – fooling the people all of the time.
    Remember all this when you decide where to put your cross on 12 December. Here is the opportunity to put a stop to the contemptible treatment the residents of this town have suffered for far too long.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Sunday, Nov 10, 2019 @ 15:56

  16. Chris Lewcock

    Excellent article by Bernard.

    He draws attention to the Council referring to their Local Plan Policies only when it suits. Indeed and again indeed. See also the proposals for 16 houses off Bexhill Road and 192 on the Bexhill Road Playing Fields, both sites which aren’t even identified in the Local Plan – hardly surprising since both are on the highest risk flood zone! But of course the Council owns the land – which gives it carte blanche to spend vast sums on consultancy fees to help them wish away likely flood problems!!

    Interesting to note in this context that the Financial Rules contained in the Council Constitution state that:

    “15. The policy of Hastings Borough Council is to ensure that all works, goods and services: a. Are obtained honestly and openly. b. Are appropriate for the purpose for which they are obtained. c. Offer the most advantageous balance of quality and price. d. Are consistent with the policies of the Council.”

    15d seems to go out the window when it comes to the possibility of the Council exploiting its own property portfolio. The Council allows itself gross leeway in this which it would never tolerate from an independent private developer. The property management tail is very clearly wagging the policy dog.

    Comment by Chris Lewcock — Sunday, Nov 10, 2019 @ 13:06

  17. Bolshie

    Reading Bernard’s excellent informative article on this scenario, it is a repetitive example of how the council/councillors will ignore the residents of the borough particularly in the planning and development sector. While consultations are generally grudging exercise for them, this particular one if they actually go ahead with it has to be a classic exercise of absurdity.
    Why would you sign a contract with a developer to develop this site and then say to the public lets all sit around and talk about what we should do wit this site. And of course telling a developer you will have to wait for us ( HBC) to tell you what you can build. You could not make this one up.
    Time and time again the public have been ignored with similar situations. Remember Archery Road, Robsack meadow, Queensway-Gateway Road, various SeaChange & SeaSpace developments as just a few where the public were ignored. The only recent success being the saving of Robsack meadow thanks to the final voice from a Planning Inspectorate who said NO to destroying it.
    Transparency with HBC does not exist. And here of course is a prime example of it. And where is the Conservative party in all of this? They have two councillors for this Ward why aren’t they supporting the general feeling that the intended development is just not suitable for this site. Where is their leader Cllr Lee on this issue too.
    I expect similar will happen with this plan to use ten acres of the Country Park for a solar panel farm. We can see there the councillors are not listening to the residents and telling us of the virtues in this location.
    With the impending elections on the horizon one must think who you want as your MP. If it goes the way I suspect it will you will find the borough under total labour control and things like this issue will be even harder up hill struggle to fight and beat.

    Comment by Bolshie — Sunday, Nov 10, 2019 @ 09:44

  18. Ms.Doubtfire

    As said by a commentator here this council should be working closely with the community but when has this council ever worked with the community?? Just tell me when??
    The Leader of our council and his elected members have slowly but surely endeavoured to destroy the very essence of what is Hastings and St. Leonards. Enough is enough..time to really make a protest loud and clear and the forthcoming general election is a prime time to show our feelings…
    December 12th is when we should be showing that we have no confidence in this council – the Leader is lacking in any credentials which show his suitability to be our next MP.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 @ 11:43

  19. Margo

    As a previous Labour voter I find the lack of consultation demonstrated here shocking & shameful. This plan impacts on the whole town, on all residents & visitors who enjoy the seafront: as well as being mortifying & life changing for the neighbouring residents fearful of their homes being cast into the shadows. This is not some neglected disused back street plot of land. This development will change West St Leonards seafront FOREVER. This is a site for the community & future generations to enjoy, it is a leisure destination. It is unbelievable that a Labour council consider this whole process best practice. What are they thinking flogging off prime seafront green spaces to London commuter home developers? In 2017 the Post Office ran a Community consultation for changes to the London Road, St Leonards Post Office. The community described the process as a time wasting sham & a done deal, just paying lip service as the PO pushed through their plans. The council leader & councillors were also highly critical of this consultation & the bigger picture of privatisation. A Labour council should be working closely with the community & leading by example with best practice for consultation, protecting & nurturing our seafront. If they cannot muster up any civic pride, any real vision for heritage they should at very least muster up some self awareness of the knock on effect alienating their community will have to two elections fast looming December general & 2020 May council – Since when did ‘For the few not the many’ become the new slogan ?

    Comment by Margo — Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 @ 10:31

  20. Graham Wilkins

    On March 8, 2019 Andrew Batsford said:

    “The most important thing for us as a council is that those processes are as transparent as possible. There’s no point in sticking something up there that nobody wants or likes…”

    Guess what, there are 577 members of the St Leonards SOBS (Save Our Bathing Site) Facebook group and 242 subscribers to the West Marina group webpage news feed. That is a lot of people who don’t want or like…

    Comment by Graham Wilkins — Friday, Nov 8, 2019 @ 22:34

  21. P.okeefe

    I as are soooo many local residents here totally disgusted with h.b.c.as for Andy Batsford he said it’s no good putting something on that site that people don’t want.how many times have we told him we do not want housing on this site.we want some kind of leasure.this site is the only green directly by the sea.it is used constantly by people of all ages.everyone enjoys this site.its used for sports ,picnics,relaxing.why do they want to take away this and put 5 lots of high rise flats which will only be affordable to people with money.most will become holiday homes or rented out on air b& b.its quite insane.this council are going to demolish summer fields and put in new pools and leasure on that site.why can’t they put pools and leasure on the old bathing pool site and put houses etc.on summer fields site.that makes more sense.people nearer town for shopping etc.shame on this labour council.

    Comment by P.okeefe — Friday, Nov 8, 2019 @ 20:41

  22. Ms.Doubtfire

    Another example of this councils duplicity – promising to have a full public consultation and then doing precisely the opposite. But isn’t this par for the course for the poor people of Hastings and St. Leonards?
    Why are councillors so reluctant to let the public know what they are up to? They even excluded us from the recent public meeting regarding the future of this site.
    This looks like a done deal and for anyone with an ounce of common sense it is patently clear that only AFTER this 100 year lease has been signed by the developer that we will know what has been agreed. Our input will count for nothing.
    And despite the Local Plan and all the promises made within this hefty document this council blithely ignores Policies and promises when it suits. You really could not make this up. For how much longer can this council get away with this – it’s insulting and residents have had enough of it.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Nov 8, 2019 @ 09:33

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