Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Lens on the town

HOT photographer Russell Jacobs has been out and about in Hastings and St Leonards, snapping what comes his way, whether people or buildings in the news or emergencies he comes across. Closure seems to be the theme of the moment – and not necessarily due to lockdown. Text by Nick Terdre.

It’s the end of the line for Debenhams – Hastings traditional department store in the pedestrian precinct at the end of Robertson Street has no future after the company brand, but none of the stores, was acquired by online fashion retailer BooHoo.

Debenhams had been in trouble for some time as the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic further boosted online shopping at the expense of the high street. Its fate was sealed when Arcadia, which provided many of its in-store outlets, itself went into administration.

When the lockdown eases it will open its doors for a last time to liquidate stock, after which the staff lose their jobs. The building itself is reported to have changed hands and is set for a mixed use future.

Fences up around St Leonards church

St Leonards church on the sea front is currently surrounded by areas closed to public access. The graveyard housing the Burton memorial at the top of the cliff has had its entrance in West Hill Road closed off, and the wall at the bottom, which forms one side of Undercliff road, is coned off, following a land slip on the steep slope below the graveyard.

A very rainy January won’t have helped, but the land has been subject to unstability for years. Planning permission was once granted for housing here, but the developer eventually had to face reality and give up. The graveyard and the land below it are owned by the Church but the council is committed to maintain the graveyard, HOT understands. A half-built structure left by the developer is in the care of Crown Estates.

And on the other side of the church, the footpath leading up to West Hill Road has been closed by ESCC as the wall at the end of the garden of no 19 is on the verge of collapsing onto it. The county council, which has responsibility for footpaths, has served notice on the owner to get it fixed, HOT hears.



In the meantime local residents are deprived of a convenient and traffic-free path down to the sea front. Further to the west, Sussex Steps, another pedestrian link between West Hill Road and the sea front, has been closed for years.

Still closed

It was a rare piece of good news when HOT’s Emma Harwood reported in November that the Isabel Blackman Centre in the Old Town had been saved for the community. Completion of the acquisition from ESCC by a consortium of community groups has however been delayed, and lockdown has also intervened – the county council has set a deadline of next August, Emma says, so the centre looks set to remain closed for some time yet, whatever Covid restrictions are in place.

But a pertinent question posed by Hastings Voluntary Action’s Steve Manwaring, quoted in Emma’s piece, remains unanswered: “Whilst we’re pleased to have bought it, the question that needs to be asked is why the community had to buy back a building it was given in the first place.”

Fire in Marine Court

Fire broke out in a basement in Marine Court in the early morning of Wednesday 20 January. Like any good photographer, Russell happened to be in the vicinity. Altogether some 70 firefighters and 14 appliances attended the emergency.

Crews used breathing apparatus and main jets to extinguish the fire, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service reported. No one was hurt, but some residents of the building were temporarily evacuated. The A259 was closed to traffic between the junctions with London Road and Filsham Road until the afternoon.


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Posted 16:43 Thursday, Feb 4, 2021 In: Photography

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