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Despite calls from Tory councillors, the tennis courts in Alexandra Park remain closed for the time being.

Tories and HBC at odds over relaxing restrictions

While local Tories call for restrictions to be relaxed, and toilets and tennis courts to be reopened, the Labour-dominated council says such facilities will stay shut for the time being and urge visitors to stay away. On 1 June the government is partially easing the lockdown. Nick Terdre reports.

Tory councillors have welcomed the allocation of £82,000 to Hastings Borough Council from a government fund intended to facilitate the reopening of town centres and shopping areas, which they said was “very useful” and “timely”. Government advice makes it clear that the funding is not to help any businesses in distress but to pay for signage, barriers and a local campaign explaining how to stay safe while shopping.

Councillor Rob Lee, the leader of HBC’s Conservative group, is also calling for public toilets and other amenities to be opened up in the borough as they have been in other places.

“The public tennis courts in Bexhill are now open and the ones in Alexandra Park should now be open as well. Council owned sports facilities such as this play an important part in people’s physical and mental wellbeing and they should be open for residents to use,” he said.

“The opening of public toilets in the borough must also happen without delay as they have elsewhere, they are an important amenity in the town and not to open them is damaging to public health. Social distancing and regular hand washing are a must but there is little excuse not to start to reopen the town.”

The fine weather has drawn many people to the town’s beaches and parks. Who knows if they are residents or visitors?

Town closed to tourists

However the council repeated its message from the bank holiday weekend that the town remained closed to tourists and residents were urged to stay home. It was important  to stop the town’s open spaces becoming overcrowded, making social distancing impossible, and to deter visitors to the town bringing with them potential risk of infection.

With last night’s government announcement of further easing of lockdown measures, it would be repeating its messaging for the coming weekend, it said: the council’s priority is to keep residents safe.

“We know a large number of people support our position, and the town remained quiet for much of the bank holiday weekend; though Monday was busier than we would have liked,” council leader Kim Forward said.

Closed toilets under the promenade near the Azur restaurant.

“Thank you to those people who are taking their own safety seriously,  and also  being considerate to the safety of others.  You are helping keep Hastings safe. ”

Deputy leader Colin Fitzgerald added: “ “It has been well documented that Hastings has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country. This will only remain the case if we are careful and responsible. We have had reports over the weekend of people defecating and urinating in the town’s open spaces because the toilets are closed.

“ This isn’t acceptable at any time, but it especially not during a global pandemic.  Our toilets being closed is not justification for this  behaviour. We a re all accountable for our actions.

“We’re clear: we are still not ready to welcome tourists to our town.  We know this is not ideal but again we believe this is the right thing to do to safeguard residents.  Opening the toilets would also mean drawing away our limited cleansing resource from essential services like the crematorium and street cleansing operation towards cleansing public toilets.”

Not consulted

“Like other councils, we were not consulted about this, nor previous, easings of the lockdown measures announced by government and the impact on our town,” Cllr Forward said.

“We have been clear that we will review this position weekly as events move on. Our decision may change depending on the success of the government and NHS’s track and trace system which is launched today, and the development of a county wide plan to manage further outbreaks.

“We will be working with Public Health and the County to develop the local outbreak control plan – as it is the government’s intention that future lockdowns will be managed locally. We will be closely  monitoring the progress and effectiveness of these new systems and will keep a close eye on the ‘R’ rate.

“Our position is driven by resident’s safety first.  I’ve said this before and I will say it again:  at the end of all of this it will be impossible to know if we overreacted, if we were too cautious. But it will be obvious if we weren’t cautious enough.”

Lockdown eased

In his statement to the nation on Thursday, prime minister Boris Johnson said that in the government’s view the five tests for easing the lockdown were being met and that as from Monday there would be a relaxing of restrictions in England.

Outdoor retail operations such as car showrooms and street markets will be allowed to reopen, where, according to the PM, social distancing is easier than in indoor situations. Nurseries and primary schools will be allowed to reopen, the latter initially only for reception classes and years 1 and 6. Many school authorities have said they will not be reopening on 1 June as they consider it premature.

Gatherings of up to six people will be permitted in gardens and other private outdoor spaces – meetings in public spaces like parks are already allowed.

“I must stress that to control the virus, everyone needs to stay alert, act responsibly, strictly observe social distancing rules, and stay two metres apart from those who you do not live with,” the PM stressed.

“This package has been carefully designed so that we can ease the burdens of lockdown while expecting to keep that R below one,” he added. R – the rate of transmission – stood at 0.7-0.9 that day.

Various experts have however expressed disagreement with the government position.

Posted 18:37 Saturday, May 30, 2020 In: Covid-19

2 Comments

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  1. Penny

    Apart from the obvious health hazards created by the closure of public toilets, this lack of consideration for residents affects the local economy, too.
    We all have to “go” when we need to. That’s biology.
    For many, not knowing when or where there will be the chance, means avoiding going out to shop, exercise or work in Hastings & St. Leonard’s.
    Pregnant women, menstruating women, men with prostate problems, people with irritable bowel syndrome and any other medical condition involving bladder or bowel malfunctions, people with children, all think twice before they would chance going out with no conveniences available.
    Please think again and open up the loos. It’s better than the alternative of having to clear up the inevitable consequences of not doing so.

    Comment by Penny — Thursday, Jun 4, 2020 @ 08:17

  2. Patrick Burton

    Many local residents may disagree with Councillor Forward’s action in not opening up our excellent local public toilets, as well as our tennis courts.

    Many locals are not privileged to live near the beach or local parks, or even have outside space, or depend on irregular buses. Lack of ‘facilities’ mean that people with children or disabilities may find it difficult when they need to use the toilet and therefore have to go home.

    And will lack of toilet facilities put off visitors? ‘Oh, lets not go to Hastings, we’ve heard they have no public toilets, so we’d better go to Bexhill instead’. And would they know about our closed loos it before they actually need to use the toilet?

    Is the subject of public loos in Hastings a party political issue? Do no Labour councillors think that it might be better for the toilets to be opened, rather than the desperate of bladder having to ‘urinate and defecate’ wherever they can find a discreet spot?

    Could not the toilets be opened and provided with soap and disinfectant, with a sign for people to use them. And seriously, will people catch Covid-19 playing tennis? You don’t have to be a Tory to want to make life less difficult than it is.

    Comment by Patrick Burton — Monday, Jun 1, 2020 @ 13:39

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