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Cllr Andy Batsford, right address a local residents' meeting in January, with Virginia Vilela, acting chair of the West Marina residents group, and ward councillor Karl Beaney to his left.

Cllr Andy Batsford, right, addresses a well-attended local residents’ meeting in January, with Virginia Vilela, acting chair of the West Marina residents group, and ward councillor Karl Beaney at his side.

Residents’ voice still ignored as bathing pool site plans advance

Hastings Borough Council is pushing ahead with its plans for a large housing development on the former bathing pool site in West St Leonards, unmoved by the continuing efforts of local residents to have a say in what happens in their neck of the woods. Residents are asked to object to the council’s planned disposal of the site and attend the Cabinet meeting next Monday when their petition will be presented. Nick Terdre reports.

The West Marina residents group is calling for people to oppose the council’s move to dispose of the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards, which it owns. Disposal of the site – to the preferred developer, County Gate/Sunley – will open the way for negotiations with Carter Jonas, HBC’s agent, on heads of terms – an agreement in principle – for a long-term lease and development.

Carter Jonas is itself the developer which drew up a previous plan for the site which was discussed at a public consultation. Only the outline of CountyGate/Sunley’s proposal has been revealed, as the council has claimed copyright matters prevent it from revealing the details.

In a first phase County Gate/Sunley will be given a five-year lease while they familiarise themselves with the site and prepare specific development plans, Virginia Vilela, acting chair of the West Marina group, told HOT, citing information provided by Cllr Andy Batsford, lead member for housing and leisure, at a meeting of the St Leonards Town Team this week.

Eventually this would lead on to a long lease – 250 years or so – during which time the developer would pay the council annual rent of £100,000 plus a share of profits from other commercial activities on the site.

site map OS 350

OS map showing the site outlined in red (Crown Copyright OS 100021328).

Ample support for petition

Meanwhile the West Marina group has gained ample support for an e-petition on the council website which will give Ms Vilela the right to address the Cabinet meeting on Monday 4 March for five minutes on residents’ concerns about the proposed development and the way they consider they are being sidelined from having any say.

This petition received 211 signatures, and a further 137 when posted on the West Marina group website for people having trouble signing the HBC one  – so a total of more than 300 signatures even allowing for some double signings.

Some light was thrown on the County Gate/Sunley plan to turn the old bathing pool site into a “vibrant destination zone”, as the council likes to call  it, by Cllr Batsford at a public meeting convened by the West Marina group in January.

As currently envisaged, the scheme includes 152 dwellings as well as other amenities including glamping huts, artist’s studios and galleries, children’s play areas, a cafe, water sports facilities and a slipway.

The meeting, which was attended by more than 35 local residents and four councillors – West St Leonards ward councillors Karl Beaney and Matthew Beaver, and Cllrs Judy Rogers and Sue Beaney – in addition to Cllr Batsford, was given assurances of on-going consultation – but so far there has been none, Ms Vilela told HOT.

No reply

Nor has there been any reply from council leader Peter Chowney to concerns raised by Ms Vilela in response to a previous email from Cllr Chowney. These included car parking and access, how the Ministry of Defence and StamCo sites which border the west end of the site would be incorporated into the development when they become available, and the developer’s lack of experience in leisure and recreation projects.

Residents have long expressed their anger at having their voice excluded from the preparation of plans for the site. By the time their views are invited – the heads of terms will include a requirement for the developer to liaise with them – they fear too much will already be set in stone, according to Ms Vilela.

Even the terms of consultation are being questioned – in her reply to Cllr Chowney Ms Vilela wrote, “We are concerned [the consulation] could be quite perfunctory. Perhaps you can assure us that there will be (legally enforceable) in-depth engagement – as promised by Andy Batsford?”

The old bathing pool site viewed from the west (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Open space: the old bathing pool site viewed from the west (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Residents are not opposed to development in itself, Ms Vilela stressed, but given the drawbacks of the site, notably ground conditions, including the remains of the former Lido, the age and position of underground services, the presence of Southern Water overspill tanks, and flood risk, they consider the plans as they are known to be unrealistic and over-ambitious.

Residents have proposed setting up a neighbourhood plan which would allow them to cooperate with the council on a holistic approach to the development of the area, but although they held a meeting to discuss this proposal with Cllr Kim Forward and a planning officer last August, the council now claims to know nothing about it, Ms Vilela said.

Council motives

The council is driven by two strong motives: income generation and the need to improve its housebuilding record. The proposal to the Cabinet meeting comes from Peter Grace, chief finance officer, and recommends, “having taken account of the objections received,” that the Cabinet “enter into a long lease with County Gate/Sunley…”

Discussion of the matter by the Cabinet – whose eight members include Cllrs Batsford, Sue Beaney and Rogers – will be in two parts: the public will be excluded from the second which will consider financial and other confidential information.

In a previous briefing paper officers made clear that they consider that the potential benefits of the proposed development far outweight any drawbacks. “Seaside Road [which runs to the north of the site] is one of the few remaining significant re-development sites on the Hastings/St Leonards seafront,” it says.

“It presents an opportunity to create a high quality development which can help regenerate the area and act as a destination in its own right…The site is capable of accommodating both apartments and family housing. The site, given its size and location, will be expected to support a varied housing mix and affordable housing.”

It is also “suitable for leisure and recreational uses, particularly those associated with the water. The site could also accommodate small scale kiosk style retail uses normally found at the seaside, a cafeteria and a public house/restaurant.”

Unpopularity growing

As attested to by the number of signatories to the petition, the scheme is proving ever more unpopular among local people. Following the discussion between Ms Vilela and Cllr Batsford at the St Leonards Town Team meeting, the Town Team emailed all its members asking them to oppose the scheme.

The message has been taken to other forums, including the Hastings and St Leonards Society, and a dedicated Facebook page – Save Our Bathing Site – has been set up  by a local resident.

“There is a huge amount of opposition now,” said Ms Vilela. “We hope the contractors will take notice of that and the many problems associated with the site.”

 

 

Disposal notice Anyone wishing to register an objection should send an email to the chief legal officer Christine Barkshire-Jones under the reference HM/001082, to arrive no later than noon on Friday 1 March. The council points out that objections must “relate to the loss of open space rather than any specific development proposals which may subsequently be forthcoming.”

Cabinet meeting Muriel Matters House, Breeds Place, Hastings TN34 3UY, 6pm, Monday 4 March. ‘Site at West Marina’ is currently agenda item 6, but when many members of the public have come to hear the discussion on a particular item, it is sometimes moved up the agenda. Members of the public may not address the meeting but can display placards to express their views.

Posted 09:45 Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 In: Home Ground

10 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    The council has also ignored the plethora of objections against the recent planning application submitted by Mr. Gulzar for the pier. On Wednesday the planning committee approved everything he asked for.
    Now what is going on here in Hastings? is nobody listening to us? Surely these undemocratic processes cannot continue?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Mar 8, 2019 @ 09:03

  2. Mr.Hippolyte Grigg

    Mrs. Doubtfire,
    One solution to this dilemma is not to vote for a council which runs roughshod over its residents.
    H Grigg

    Comment by Mr.Hippolyte Grigg — Sunday, Mar 3, 2019 @ 22:06

  3. Bolshie

    Seeing Cllr Batsford’s name and involvement here is interesting. He is also a Trustee of the Foreshore Trust along with Cllr Beany also mentioned. Does this trust have something to say about this folly of a development for this site. It really seems to me every open square foot must be built on. Regardless of the impact to the environment and that of the area.
    On the issue of the public being ignored. come on now that is pretty much a normal trait with HBC. Look at Archery Road. The Bunker at Rocklands, the Stade application with the footpath issue. The Azur restaurant. Closing and rapidly demolishing the downtown public toilets. Just a few examples for you of how much HBC listens to us public.
    And the mention of Councillor(s) not replying to emails how many of us have experienced that.
    On the suggestion to file a complaint to the LGO by Bryan Fisher here. Have you ever done one Mr Fisher. Do you know they can often take up to a year to resolve and do you know what the general rate of success is for the public with these – I would give a rough guess of around ten per cent. Very hard work and loaded in favour of the councils.
    Now Judicial Review is one to consider but who of course has the finances to fund that – only the rich

    Comment by Bolshie — Friday, Mar 1, 2019 @ 16:20

  4. Bryan Fisher

    To assist Mrs Doubtfire: If there is any doubt that the HBC ruling party has not followed due legal process, or acted in an undemocratic way, then redress can (and should) be made via the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman. Many local residents believe that decisions are being made without proper consultation with those living in the area. The ruling party seems to believe that the overwhelming opposition to this development can be ignored until the planning process forces them to do so!
    In regard to the article, the Old Bathing Pool is clearly a greenfield site (not brownfield), so the proposed density of housing is not permitted; but the important point is that housing on this site will NOT regenerate West Marina – rather it will remove forever a unique piece of open space that should be developed for LEISURE! Creating a leisure-first approach to the OBP site will provide regeneration, whilst far better sites can be used for housing.

    Comment by Bryan Fisher — Friday, Mar 1, 2019 @ 09:33

  5. Ms.Doubtfire

    There is a suggestion that this proposed developoment may adversley affect the numerous beach huts (both privately owned and council owned) which are adjacent to the site. Councillor Andy Batsford appears to have close involvement in these proposals and on his Register of Interests as a local councillor he states his partner owns one of these huts. Surely councillor Batsford should not take part in any decision making process with these proposals? Could his involvement amount to a conflict of interest?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Mar 1, 2019 @ 09:28

  6. Yvonne Fisher

    Andy Batsford purports to be consulting with residents. Why then has he already made the decision to build 152 housing units on the Old bathing Pool Site? (The previous Carter Jonas plan for 120 housing units was widely condemned as being far too dense! ) The residents want leisure and recreational facilities at this picturesque location, not high density of housing!

    Comment by Yvonne Fisher — Friday, Mar 1, 2019 @ 09:10

  7. Lucie Mason

    I created the St Leonards SOBS Facebook Page 11 days ago, to date and over 420 people have joined. The posts show how desperate the community is to be involved and the feelings of despair that this site, which could be something incredibly special and should be the catalyst for further investment and development is instead, at risk of being hawked off like the family silver. Developing housing here will do little to alleviate the housing shortage for local families but will provide tidy investments for 2nd homeowners. This is an ‘instant gratification’ proposal which lacks any vision for what this site could be. HBC, please listen, If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.

    Comment by Lucie Mason — Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 @ 20:42

  8. Graham Wilkins

    So Councilor Batsford has a taste of HBC’s own medicine, he said: “…it would have been nice to have been asked to comment…” That, Cllr is exactly how residents feel, you should have consulted with us.

    Comment by Graham Wilkins — Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 @ 18:04

  9. Cllr Andy batsford

    Not a bad summery of the situation except it would have been nice to have been asked to comment rather than just quote me third hand.

    I stand by what were promising a wide and creative consultation process with local residents, business, users of the space, the wider town and those who don’ t currently but may be persuaded.
    This will happen and be led by the developers if they get the contract
    .
    I’ve always described as a wanting a”vibrant living lesiure destination ”
    Which is so important to the success of the development and long term sustainability.
    I will continue to be available to listen and talk to residents as I feel it’s really important to do so and take their voices into the discussions with the developers.

    Comment by Cllr Andy batsford — Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 @ 13:53

  10. Ms. Doubtfire

    Matters not whether the council consults with residents or not – this council has been shown to do precisely as it desires and objections and protests are of little value here.
    The time has come to highlight the shameful lack of transparency within this council – it surely cannot continue. Just take a look at recent planning applications and it is obvious that whilst we may have a right to object these objections are ignored. For example – the Rocklands caravan commercial site – many objections and queries about the continued felling of trees and the erection of a totally unsuitable building in the Country Park – outcome? The commercial enterprise gets what they want…another example is the Stade Amusement park – plethora of objections on their application to expand this area – outcome – recommended for approval. The (OUR) pier – outrageous application totally unsuitable for this iconic structure – outcome – recommendations to approve the application. So where do the good people of Hastings go for some justice in these planning decisions and processes?Anyone have any answers?

    Comment by Ms. Doubtfire — Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 @ 11:56

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