Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Rocks at Rock A Nore Photo Paul Stanley

Rocks at Rock A Nore Photo Paul Stanley

Hastings Harbour proposal: Anne Scott and Peter Chowney offer differing views

Anne Scott, Chair of Old Hastings Preservation Society, gives HOT’s Chandra Masoliver her views on the Hastings Harbour proposal, raising important questions about local democracy and the relationship between the local council, the county council, the developers and ourselves, the electorate. Following this, Chandra continues her ongoing dialogue with Peter Chowney, leader of the council, about the harbour development.

Anne Scott

Anne Scott Photo Chandra Masoliver

“I think it’s appalling”, says Anne Scott, “the destruction of a beautiful bit of countryside. The views from Rock-A-Nore should be sacrosanct. That part of the beach has a spiritual quality that we mess with at our peril. People feel physically ill at the thought of the development.

“We could have the harbour without the 1,300 houses – this is about money. To pick holes in it, where would you start? The size of the podium would not take 1,000 plus dwellings, let alone the public realm and shops. The traffic is an obvious problem – two years to construct the road access (wherever that might be) would be enough to destroy the Old Town economy.

“An interesting point: it was said that Eastbourne and Brighton marinas were full. How much of that is traffic bringing visitors in, and how much are boats that never leave the harbour? How many visitors to harbours ever leave the harbour area to spend money in the town?

Hastings History House

Hastings History House, home to Old Hastings Preservation Society Photo Chandra Masoliver

“The cost to the local ecology and geology would be unacceptable; it is a declared Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), and a designated area of archaeological interest. Not to mention what lies under the waters.

“I am surprised that Hastings Borough Council (HBC) accepted such a flawed outline of a business case. I hope that all the caveats given by Peter Chowney at the Cabinet meeting are accepted by the developers. There are aspects of this whole process which leave me wondering about local democracy.

“In many ways I am shocked that the County Council are encouraging this scheme with apparently no reference to our local Councillors – that the decision-making process may lie with regional government.”

Peter Chowney

Peter Chowney

Chandra Masoliver continues her conversation with Peter Chowney, leader of HBC and Labour’s parliamentary candidate, regarding the anticipated crisis in local council funding, ways of addressing it, the harbour plan and the ‘democratic deficit’.

CM: Congratulations on being selected as our Labour candidate, Peter. With central funding drying up for councils, you seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place, is it difficult to keep your composure?

PC: I have to assume we’ll get through it in the end. HBC generates about £10 million in annual income from fees, rents and commercial property investments. We would have to generate two and a half million pounds more to break even, given the scale of government cuts. We’ve generated an additional £2.2 million income over the past two years, but it will still be hard to achieve.

CM: There is quite a contrast between grand proposals like the harbour development and the White Rock scheme, and having to close and sell off public lavatories and increase allotment rates by 30% two years running. What will happen if all the public assets are sold off and there is nothing more to sell?

PC: The Harold Place toilets have not been sold! We are not selling off land or buildings, we use these to generate our income.

CM: Is it legal to sell off the people’s public assets?

PC: Yes. All councils buy and sell land and buildings all the time.

CM: Do you think selling them off leads to privatisation, then price increases, with ordinary people being charged more?

PC: It depends on what’s sold – but then we’re not selling assets anyway – rather we’re acquiring new ones..

CM: You talk of Entrepreneurial Socialism: in what way does it differ from Capitalist Entrepreneuralism?

PC: We generate an income to provide public services for the people, rather than for private profit.

The draft plan for the harbour development

The draft plan for the harbour development

CM: Regarding the harbour proposal, what I want to get at is where and when do the people, Labour members and non Labour members, have any influence on decision-making? It sounds like the public will not be consulted until it is too late to stop the proposal. Then they will be informed, not consulted.

You have said you couldn’t stop the developers bringing the proposal forward. If the feasibility study does take place, and the plans were proved feasible, could you, HBC, stop the development happening?

PC: No. Only through the planning route, and since the plans are on such a large scale, we may not determine the planning. Whether they would go ahead without HBC permission is another question. They probably would not.

CM: In 2006, the Hastings Democratic Alliance (HDA) challenged HBC on their interpretation of democracy regarding regeneration schemes in Hastings and St Leonards. It seems to me that the harbour scheme raises a similar issue, as does the latest White Rock scheme.

In the same vein, John McDonnell, shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, is talking about democratising the Labour party – and he has come out strongly with strategies to engage people. There is quite a lot of apathy and anger around in Hastings at the moment, with people feeling they don’t have any say in things.

Are you planning to have similar strategies to democratise our council, so that people feel more engaged?


Tony Benn on democracy

PC: I have already given you my definition of democracy: you elect people to make decisions. The harbour proposal is not our project. In the Cabinet meeting we voted to support further investigation, which would be useful anyway. It would be up to the developers to undertake consultation when they had an actual proposal, but I assume they’d want to do that.

CM: There was a proposal, and people were not consulted on it. I still think you have a democratic obligation to tell us what is happening around the harbour project. Have you any news about the feasibility study? What departments and government bodies are currently involved in the feasibility study? Have you had any contact with the developers?

PC: There was a meeting with council officers, government officials and the developers last week, no commitments were made to any funding yet – they’ll want further discussions about the project.

CM: When I asked Kevin Boorman, the council spokesman, about a previous meeting with HBC, the developers and the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), he could not tell me, because “it’s not a council proposal, but a private sector one”.

Can you tell me a bit about this latest meeting? People are eager to know what is going on.

PC: Government wanted to pursue the idea further with the developers before government committed to funding the feasibility study. I presume that would include, for example, making sure the developers had the necessary financial backing.

CM: The County Council will be involved in the road scheme. Have you and they contacted each other about this?

PC: Money for a traffic survey has been approved by the Local Enterprise Project (LEP).

CM: When I asked you if HBC would be able to veto the harbour proposal you said “No, they can just go ahead with a planning application whether or not the council supports it – none of it involves council owned land. This is a private development on land not owned by the council – the council can’t stop the developers bringing proposals forward”.

You say none of the scheme involves council owned land. Is it owned by the Foreshore Trust (FT)? HBC is the Sole Trustee of the FT, and it operates with a committee of three councillors. It is noted that there could be a conflict of interest. Can you be sure there isn’t? They are wearing two hats.

PC: The Foreshore Trust is owned by the council, but it has to have a separate committee (the Charity Committee) looking after it, which is in effect a sub-committee of the Cabinet, and has its own constitution. If there were any conflicts of interest between the trust and the council, the members of the Charity Committee would declare that at the relevant cabinet meeting.

Rock a Nore Image Derrick Moss

Rock a Nore Image Derrick Moss

CM: I believe the fishermen have ‘unchallengeable’ use of their part of FT land. What say do the fishermen actually have?

PC: If any of their part of the Foreshore Trust land were needed for the development they would want to be compensated, as would the Foreshore Trust. I wouldn’t be prepared to support any scheme that damaged the fishery, or made it harder for the fishermen to operate.

CM: I understand there are two planning applications: one to declare the boating lake area part of the ‘enclosed’ amusement park and the other to develop some of the area. This apparently could threaten the right, dating back to 1893, the public has to use the footpaths across and around the site.

The History House has a petition against these planning applications, which can be signed online. There is also a Hastings Green Party petition here.

PC: I think the Boating Lake has applied for a Certificate of Lawfulness, rather than a planning application.

 CM: Ah, a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC), which I understand you can apply for if you want to be certain that your proposal does not require planning permission.

What would Robert Tressell, author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, say about the Council’s way of operating?

PC: Robert Tressell would be very pleased with us, we are protecting public services at times of massive cuts.

Chandra Masoliver has written a number of articles about the harbour proposal. To read them, please search for ‘Hastings harbour proposal’ or ‘Chandra Masoliver’.

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Posted 06:54 Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 In: Home Ground


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  1. Cyril Gould

    Well written, and well interviewed, Chandra! You are asking all the questions that need to be asked. I have never met Cllr. Chowney, but I can feel his unease under your unremitting interrogation. For me, unable at my great age to take in all the facts you have marshalled, I have a gut feeling, that a lot of time and ratepayers’ cash is being used up in the pursuit of a scheme that if completed will change the Old Town forever. Why? And for what? To close more public toilets?

    Comment by Cyril Gould — Thursday, Mar 8, 2018 @ 17:04

  2. Bolshie

    While I am not the brightest dude on the block but am I alone in laughing at this “Entrepreneurial Socialism” Cllr Pete is claiming. Does the purchase of the old Focus building up near Sainsbury’s at over £7m fall into that category while public toilets get closed down.
    On the public consultation issue. I am sure HBC and the Foreshore Trust will do their best to avoid that kind of thing.

    And by the way, Cllr Pete’s belief that Robert Tressell would be please they way HBC is doing, surely he is kidding himself. has he really read the book. I kind of doubt it. Or is he just bluffing himself.

    Comment by Bolshie — Sunday, Mar 4, 2018 @ 17:46

  3. Eye on the ball

    Peter Chowney has stated that this proposal is not a council scheme so it is up to the developers to consult. However, HBC support a viability study into the proposals and accompanied Hastings Harbour Quarter to a meeting with the Treasury to seek funding for the study.

    If the Treasury do decide to fund this, then it is the parameters of that study that are of vital importance. They should include:

    Identifying the best location for a marina serving the Hastings and St Leonards area (and not just focussing on Rock a Nore). Especially taking into account ease of access; potential for damage to the shoreline through cliff erosion;

    Impact on the local economy (including the fishing industry and the current tourist trade);

    Practicality of achieving the project’s housing goals;

    Justification of economic benefits to the community claimed in the pre-feasibility study;

    Protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation.

    In addition, the study should be carried out by an independent company with no connections to the developers and who are technically competent to advise on these issues.

    If there is a feasibility study and it only focusses on what was outlined in the pre-study (which many knowledgeable readers have stated are not viable) then opportunities for regeneration that could bring benefit to the whole area would be sadly missed.

    Comment by Eye on the ball — Sunday, Mar 4, 2018 @ 16:15

  4. Ms.Doubtfire

    ‘You elect people to make decisions’! Thus quotes Councillor Peter Chowney…yes, we do, but usually we elect these people on the promises and affirmations made during their election ‘broadcasts’.
    It seems we have elected those who have now decided that the electorate shall have nothing to say, will not be consulted and if they do speak, they will be ignored.
    This pattern is being repeated far too often in this town now and it is time for this to cease. This council should be placed under Special Measures before it is able to create more damage and financial hardships on this town.
    Hastings and St. Leonards are exceptional and unique towns – slowly being destroyed by a council who neither cares about Heritage or people’s opinion. Ms. Masoliver has written an excellent article which should stand as a warning to all who love this town. Once again promises made by this council on the Harbour proposals appear to have disappeared into the ether. Act now before it is too late.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Mar 2, 2018 @ 12:00

  5. Bronwen Griffiths

    People often don’t like to see change – there was a lot of opposition to the Jerwood but it was built and I think it’s generally been a success. However I do have issues with the harbour development. I agree with Anne Scott that it would fundamentally alter the whole feel of the area. I don’t believe this is the right place for a marina. I don’t feel either that there has been enough consultation. Some years ago I worked at Rock-a-Nore on an education project with Sea-Space. Back then I felt that there were (some – not all) people parachuted in from outside the area who had no idea what might be good for Hastings – being paid large sums of money for ‘consultancy.’ I did not feel that there was enough transparency then and I don’t feel there is enough now. HBC need to pressure the Foreshore Trust and the scheme sponsors to ensure transparency and real public consultation.

    Comment by Bronwen Griffiths — Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 @ 13:49

  6. chris hurrell

    Another excellent article from Chandra Masoliver.

    Cllr Chowney’s curt response to questions about consultation and accountability tells you everything you need to know.

    ” I have already given you my definition of democracy: you elect people to make decisions.”

    So we get 5 minutes of democracy every 4 years? We then leave it to our betters to make decisions. No accountability no consultations.

    This is hardly the definition of bottom up democracy that inspired so many to rejoin the labour party when Corbyn was elected.

    Cllr Chowney has shown despite his Momentum pledge that he has no interest in a new form of politics. Just a run of the mill opportunist who flows with the tide. This statement epitomises all that is wrong in this rotten borough.

    In the same article he reneges on commitments to consultation approved by cabinet. Cabinet approved public consultations by HBC and the foreshore trust. He now says it is exclusively up to the developer to consult.

    Is bending over backwards to private commercial interest part of the “socialist entrepreneurship” he often talks of?

    Comment by chris hurrell — Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 @ 11:00

  7. DAR

    It might be informative to voters to hear the views of prospective election candidates/representatives of all other political parties on this issue. Good article.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 @ 10:55

  8. Val Hunnisett

    Why the unremittingly nasty attitude to Peter Chowney? No point interviewing him if you are going to take this tone. I have no opinion concerning the ‘harbour’ scheme and no axe to grind but I read HOT to get information not party propaganda.

    Comment by Val Hunnisett — Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 @ 10:30

  9. Penny

    Plus ca change.
    We, the people of Hastings, are still the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at the mercy of the town’s elite, whatever label they sport or banner they wave.

    Comment by Penny — Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 @ 08:55

  10. Nick Perry

    As usual I agree with Anne Scott. This is appalling. With a dash of bizarre, and a twist of unnecessary.

    Comment by Nick Perry — Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 @ 23:23

  11. Michael Madden

    Either Peter Chowney does not understand the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists or he only speed-read it. Because the reason why Robert Tressell would be deeply unhappy about this council can be summed in two statements made by him in this excellent article. Mr Chowney says that the council “are protecting public services” and yet what his statements show is that a Labour council is not resisting the slide towards privatisation. He says that the Foreshore Trust is council owned and yet also says that “this is a private development on land not owned by the council.” How can it therefore be a private proposal? It is a conflict of interest situation that Tressell was well aware of in his time. Mr Chowney goes on to say that “If there were any conflicts of interest between the trust and the council, the members of the Charity Committee would declare that at the relevant cabinet meeting.” But he knows that it will be a miracle if that happens because the Charity Commission are as toothless as most public bodies today. What Tressell would hate to see more than anything is that such a conflict of interest situation is happening under a Labour controlled council rather than a Tory controlled one, as it was in his day. Things are worse today than in Tressell’s day in one sense, because today such things are happening under the banner of Mr Chowney’s imaginary “entrepreneurial socialism”. As this article asks, what is the difference between entrepreneurial socialism and entrepreneurial capitalism? Mr Chowney’s reply is wrong yet again – The real answer is NOTHING. This is backdoor privatisation.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 @ 12:45

  12. Chris Lewcock

    A “private sector scheme”? Really? So far very limited private sector monies have been committed. However, a great deal of public sector officers’ time has been committed, we are old a travel assessment is to be funded by the Local Enterprise Partnership and central government is being pressed to commit to further studies. Tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of pounds worth of studies – just in case the information might be “useful anyway”?! Remember how much public money was poured into the non-existent Thames Garden Bridge before Boris Johnson’s absurd scheme was dropped. Peter Chowney seems to be in line for this year’s Boris Johnson Order of the White Elephant.

    Comment by Chris Lewcock — Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 @ 12:13

  13. Russell Hall

    Cllr Chowney says “It would be up to the developers to undertake consultation when they had an actual proposal” but Hastings Borough Council Cabinet agreed in September that “The council, Foreshore Trust, and scheme sponsors should develop a programme of community consultation and engagement” so is our council now reneging on this commitment and walking away from any public consultation on the marina?

    Comment by Russell Hall — Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 @ 10:55

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