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Tilekiln Fields in Hollington – a green space which should be protected, the council has decided.

Council’s call to protect green spaces meets scepticism

Hastings Borough Council has scrapped plans to sell Tilekiln Fields in Hollington to Hastings United Football Club for redevelopment as its new football stadium. Its justification of the move – that green spaces need to be protected – was met with scepticism in some quarters. Nick Terdre reports.

The proposed sale of Tilekiln Fields in Hollington – also known as the Helipad – for redevelopment as a new football stadium and sports complex by Hastings United Football Club has been dropped, Hastings Borough Council has announced.

Since the proposal was put forward by the football club in 2018, the council has declared a climate emergency and had to face up to the effects of two years of the Covid pandemic, it said. “As a result, it has been decided that protecting our green spaces for open and free community access is vital, and that the needs of the local community in Hollington who currently use the fields year round for recreation, dog walking and sports is paramount.”

The news came as a shock to Hastings United, whose chairman Billy Wood commented, “Sadly, there seems to have been a change in mindset from the council on the project which disappointingly has led to the club wasting the last two years of planning at considerable cost.”

Since the proposal was put forward in 2018, the two sides had spent a lot of time considering how the plan, which also included a housing development on the football club’s current home, the Pilot Field, might work, and the club had submitted planning applications for both schemes in 2020.

Hastings United’s new stadium and sports facilities as envisaged at Tilekiln Fields (image: Visual 1 from HS/FA/20/00669 casefile).

Now the council says it will look at ways it can support the club in remaining at Pilot Field, which it owns, while hoping to secure investment for the three football pitches at Tilekiln through a new partnership with the Football Foundation [see below].

The club, currently 16 points clear at the top of the Isthmian League South East division, has long argued that it has outgrown the rundown facilities at Pilot field and needs a new purpose-built stadium.

Policy U-turn?

However, Cllr Paul Barnett, deputy leader of the Council, signalled what appears to be a U-turn in council policy, when he said: “The world has moved on since we started talking about this four years ago, and our priority now has to be to protect and invest in our green spaces, and wherever possible reuse existing buildings rather than build new ones. This means ensuring that Tilekiln, a well-used and popular community facility, is preserved for the people of Hollington.”

The green space of Bulverhythe Rec has also been saved from housing development, but in this case by the Environment Agency’s refusal to accept flood mitigation measures worked up with the backing of a Homes England grant.

Elsewhere green spaces which local residents have campaigned to keep as such are still set to disappear under housing developments, including Harrow Lane playing fields, where the construction of 140 dwellings was approved at last week’s planning committee meeting, the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards and the Oval on Bohemia Road.

Cllr Andy Patmore, leader of the HBC Conservative group, told HOT that the Labour council’s “housing policy was in tatters.”

With regard to to Bulverhythe Rec, he said, “This entire debacle has been a scandalous exercise in obstinance and hubris by the Labour led council from the beginning. The site was the centrepiece of the council’s ‘500 affordable homes’ policy. This much lauded target has now been blown out of the water.

“The staggering consequence of all that wasted time is the council blew £1.9m trying to get over the Environment Agency’s objection which said categorically the development should not be permitted.’”

“Hypocritical”

“Now we hear plans at Pilot Field and Tilekiln have also been shelved. The Labour run council’s housing policy is in tatters and completely hypocritical.”

He suggested that the statement about protecting green spaces involved a site in Hollington came from Cllr Barnett rather than housing lead Cllr Andy Batsford because Barnett was standing for re-election in Hollington in May.

“The Conservative group on Hastings Borough Council have been vocal in trying to protect our green, recreational spaces. We totally agree with Cllr Barnett that our green spaces and recreational spaces are vital, especially since the pandemic,” Patmore said.

“If Cllr Barnett’s statement is true, then why is the council still so intent on building over the playing fields in Harrow Lane (which the Labour group voted for at the Planning meeting on 23 March) or building on the last green space on the seafront, the Old Bathing Pool site? Utter hypocrisy.”

Sympathy for the club

Green Party councillor Julia Hilton expressed sympathy for Hastings United. “I imagine  the football club is pretty shocked…I gather they have spent a lot of money on their planning application so far, so while I welcome the council’s rather selective decision to protect green spaces, I feel sympathy for the football club being left in the lurch with their plans.”

She welcomed the council’s intention to reuse existing buildings but questioned other decisions on the housing front. “As a general principle re-using existing buildings is a good one and aligns with reducing the embodied carbon involved in new builds, but not one the council is applying at Harold Place where they are planning to build a restaurant without a fully accessible first floor for a chain restaurant where all the profits will leave the town (thankfully chucked out by the Planning Committee).

“They also seem to be going against their own plans to build as much housing as possible, having ignored their own local plan and pushed through a five-storey hotel on the Cornwallis car park site despite it being allocated for housing. Also, this principle doesn’t seem to be being applied to the Harrow Lane recreation ground or the old bathing pool site, both due to be built on.”

Hastings in Football Foundation pilot

The Football Foundation, a charity set up by the Premier League, the Football Association and government, has recently announced that Hastings Borough council is among a number of local authorities to be selected as part of its new grass pitch pilot programme.

It will work with the council and other local partners to come up with a delivery plan and explore funding opportunities to improve well-used pitches, the council told HOT. This initiative aims to support the improvement of grass pitches in Hastings over the next 10 years.

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 29 March 2022.

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Posted 15:08 Monday, Mar 28, 2022 In: Home Ground

5 Comments

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  1. DAR

    The rejection of plans to build houses on the green spaces mentioned is, I would say, a cynical local election ploy which doesn’t extend to Harrow Lane Playing Field because there aren’t enough Labour votes in Ashdown ward.

    This development is just as crass as the others because of other massive housing developments adjacent to the Harrow Lane Playing Field (e.g. see Ashdown House site) and never mind the infrastructure inadequacies and traffic congestion at The Ridge/Harrow Lane. And I wonder how “green” the houses are going to be. Solar panels – or gas, for example?

    The Harrow Lane Playing Field is the last open green space in the area and our experience with Covid should be a great incentive to preserve what green spaces we’ve got. Even Labour’s frontbench Emily Thornberry has said we shouldn’t build on green space, but Labour’s cabinet at HBC have ignored this policy pronouncement with regard to the Harrow Lane Playing Field. And I say this as someone who has voted Labour in the past.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, Apr 4, 2022 @ 13:27

  2. ken davis

    Fire fighting rather than forward thinking has been a characteristic of the Council for many years now. Of course, dealing with individual sites as they come up and changing local plan policies on the run can be done but it is a sign of poor leadership and above all a lack of vision and creativity. There remains no long term vision for Hastings which identifies the town’s threats and great opportunities. Very expensive reports from outside consultants are commissioned only to sit on shelves and hard drives. Consultation with the public is cursory or non-existent rather than the participatory and collaborative working together that is needed. Not least, the Council needs local people, be they Councillors or officers who have the expertise and experience to assist the different communities in the town through the vision making process.

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Apr 4, 2022 @ 08:10

  3. Bryan Fisher

    I am sure nobody (including those in power within HBC’s ruling body) know what the housing policy is now. This article cites only a few examples of poor choices reversed too late. Examples out there include Bulverhythe Rec’s flood plain (when common sense should have prevailed) , York Place which spent taxpayers money improving it which will never be recovered, and Cornwallis Car Park, a strategic offering in the Local Plan for housing was reversed to allow permission for a hotel. How can residents and businesses support council decisions during this unacceptable level of real planning? HBC’s rulers need to get their act together quickly and produce a workable plan that DOES protect all open green spaces (before they are lost forever), and not (as a cynic might think) be pandering to the Hollington voters as the May elections beckon….

    Comment by Bryan Fisher — Wednesday, Mar 30, 2022 @ 19:21

  4. Keith Piggott

    Hastings Observer (18 and 25 March) reports without any condemnations the several planning hiatuses, where public funds egregiously were wasted, misused, or diverted to third-parties, all predictably to no public purpose.

    Namely;
    Rother gives up seat on Sea Change board;
    Major development of 192 homes on recreation ground withdrawn;
    Residents’ safety fears over badly potholed road;
    Architect’s crowdfunding bid to fight ‘discriminatory’ decision;
    Council will not sell playing fields for football stadium; and
    Council refuses its own restaurant plans for former toilet block site.

    Influential community voices, the HOT community too, long campaigned against schemes posited or opposed by planning officers strenously fighting causes against our community’s interests, without empathy for our unique historic conurbation enen de-nuding the much vaunted ‘Green Ribbon’.

    This 80 year old, kept three hours to present a petition, had a ringside seat to planning officers’ agressively hostile ‘cross-examinations’ of Chris Daly and architect Elsie Owusu. I say good luck with their crowdfunding!

    My turn came, speaking for local petitioners against an estopped unlawful incomplete Trojan Horse application also positing a false boundary already estopped by parties agreements and publication on the planning website. I too was faced by officers who withheld from Committee screens our petition also our documentary evidence. I too faced an equally hostile Vice-Chair who repeatedly stopped petition, insisting I revert to irrelevant ‘cellar floor’. Afterwards, I asked twice, was she ignorant of petition terms withheld from the screens, or was she following orders? No reply!

    No surprise to read planners had the Vice Chair’s support for the non-viable also unlawful ‘toilet block’ restaurant. Members holding predetermined bias more often favours planning officers than their own community petitioners. I suggest such members should consider their position, or the borough’s intelligent electorate should replace them at the local elections,

    I realise the political overtones, but my underlying point is how has this marvelous borough recruited (been saddled with) outsourced planners who seem not to care for Hastings and St.Leonards?

    Comment by Keith Piggott — Wednesday, Mar 30, 2022 @ 13:46

  5. Vitruvius

    Does this change of heart also apply to saving the green space at White Rock? HBC commissioned a masterplan for this area, also well before the Covid crisis, which if implemented would see a most of the area covered in tarmac and concrete. Perhaps it is also time to abandon these outdated proposals?

    Comment by Vitruvius — Wednesday, Mar 30, 2022 @ 10:58

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