Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
How a remade White Rock might look at night.

How a redeveloped White Rock might look at night.

Radical make-over of White Rock proposed

Hard on the heels of the Rock-a-Nore Harbour plan comes another ambitious proposal for redeveloping an area of Hastings – the White Rock Action Masterplan. Nick Terdre made a careful reading of the document to try to establish precisely what it proposes.

Dated July 2017, the document is entitled White Rock Park and Bohemia: A Strategy for the Future of the White Rock Area, Hastings. It amounts to a vision for the comprehensive redevelopment of the area, an initiative set in motion by Hastings Borough Council.

The council explained what it wanted in the document inviting bids for the work which was issued in April 2016: “…to deliver a programme of creative engagement and opportunity development in the White Rock area of Hastings, creating a dynamic and deliverable masterplan for the area.

“White Rock is a large area of land, around 35 acres between Hastings Town Centre and St Leonards, stretching along over a mile of seafront and taking in a large area of land used for a variety of recreational purposes. It occupies a strategic position on the seafront and adjoining the town centre, and is the last big site to be developed in the centre of town. It has massive potential for development, which could have a transformational impact on the town’s cultural, leisure and visitor economy.”

Aerial view of White Rock and Bohemia.

Aerial view of White Rock and Bohemia as they are now.

The contract was awarded in June 2016 to a consortium of designers and architects led by White Arkitekter. In late 2016 a workshop was held with various stakeholders – delivery partners, HBC tenants and civic groups, as well as councillors and council officers, and a myriad individual consultations also took place with cultural leaders and other relevant parties – though all these events appear to have gone under the radar as far as most local residents are concerned.

Extensive consultation

“There was extensive consultation whilst the masterplan was being developed, including a very well supported workshop in November 2016,” council spokesman Kevin Boorman told HOT. “The masterplan as it stands is now complete, any comments received on it will be considered as part of the ‘Area Action Plan’ being developed for the area, which we hope to publish next Spring.”

White Rock is a special place, the authors say in the introduction, “rich with traces of the layered histories of Hastings alongside a mix of contemporary community uses and formal provision. The green of White Rock contains secret gardens, open spaces and historic parkland. White Rock is a site of leisure, pleasure and entertainment.”

How a made-over White Rock and Bohemia may look.

How a made-over White Rock and Bohemia might look.

Hastings has a “do-it-yourself attitude and a bohemian heart,” they continue. They would like to harness this history, this energy and this attitude to their project. “Our Masterplan is predicated on the ability of the community and partnerships of Hastings to deliver change.”

The area covered by the masterplan runs from the seafront over White Rock Gardens and the site of the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus to Bohemia Road and across it to the museum, Summerfields leisure centre and Summerfields Woods.

In line with the council’s planning strategy, the redevelopment will be culture-led, with three cultural hubs at its heart: one focused on performance and entertainment based around the pier and theatre, a second focused on arts and education based around the convent and the third focused on cultural heritage and local history based on the museum.

Among the benefits of redevelopment, the authors cite attracting more visitors to the area, generating more viable facilities and businesses, generating employment opportunities, generating greater patronage across the town and providing greater levels of satisfaction and improved health and wellbeing.

The authors have divided White Rock and Bohemia into six areas, each further divided into sub-areas, and drawn up specific proposals for each of them, as follows.

Area 1: Pier, theatre, promenade and seafront

New attractions are needed on the pier, along with a programme of events designed to bring in visitors all the year round. Improvements should be made to the promenade including traffic calming and enhancement of the pedestrian environment. “The key objective will be the creation of an active frontage to the seafront through the re-use of existing commercial space and public realm improvements.”

The theatre, which the authors say is too small for large and complex works and fails to meet the requirements of performers or theatre-goers, should have its future secured as a sustainable, multi-functional arts centre, a function which will require extension of the existing building.

Schwerte Road and White Rock Road will be closed, thus allowing the creation of a new “civic space” between White Rock and the seafront and theatre.

The six sub-areas for which the masterplan puts forward specific proposals.

The six areas and sub-divisions for which the masterplan puts forward specific proposals.

Area 2: White Rock Pleasure Grounds, Falaise Hall, gym

The pleasure grounds are to become part of a “network of parks,” with a range of new attractions creating a “series of public/semi-public landscapes: (pleasure) gardens, farmland, food-growing, parkland and sports field.

Falaise Hall will be converted to a “restaurant, cafe, gallery, and events space,” while the Clambers indoor play facilities “are in need of enhancement and integration with the park.”

The authors also envisage a new, “bespoke,” hotel on White Rock Road.

Area 3: White Rock Sports Park

The sports park will be the “core of White Rock Park…a series of terraces and rooms with provision for different sports – bowls, multi-use games area, upgraded skateboard/BMX facilities, and miniature golf.”

There will also be a sizeable sports centre “providing multi-functional spaces for a variety of sports and community uses including extended swimming facilities, sports courts, indoor bowls, bookable rooms, outdoor terraces and cafe/restaurant served by decked parking.”

Alongside the sports centre there will be housing, an “area of high quality apartments.” The woodland to the north of the site could become the location for an urban farm or orchard.

Area 4: The Cultural Campus

This will be located on the convent site where the listed buildings will be restored “for cultural uses to include potential arts college, music studios, performance space, workspace and live-work space.”

The extensive parkland can be opened up for public use, becoming “part of the network of White Rock Parks.”

Around St Mary’s church on Magdalen Road, a “high quality residential development” is proposed on the former playing fields, “characterised by tree-lined streets and lush pocket parks.”

A direct route from St Leonards to Hastings town centre is proposed to pass through this area, apparently making use of St John’s Road and Edward Road, while a new public square could be built between St Mary’s and the convent.

Area 5: Bohemia Lands

The document doesn’t seem to say so in so many words, but it looks as if the Summerfields Leisure Centre will go, to be replaced by a housing estate with allotments, orchards and community greenhouses. Assuming the sports facilities at Horntye Park are relocated as part of the proposed sports village development at Bulverhythe, this area will also become available for residential development.

The civic quarter – this seems to mean the ambulance and fire stations, courts and police station – will remain, though it is suggested the ambulance station could be transferred onto the fire station site so as to free up land for later development.

Area 6: Heritage Quarter

The museum, which is “currently hidden from view” and “needs to be more prominent,” will “be expanded to include interpretation of the history of Bohemia and Summerfields Wood in an enhanced courtyard setting with outdoor display areas, cafe and workshops to create a living history destination which celebrates the local culture of Hastings.”

Summerfields Wood will be opened up to transform it from a “dormant asset to a destination for all of Hastings and visitors to the town.” New elements may include a woodland school, jogging tracks and a tree-top walk.

Areas identified for housing development.

Areas identified for housing development.

New housing

Although the vision is culture-led, the authors clearly see the redevelopment as an opportunity to build a significant quantity of new houses, “to help meet the unmet housing need in the Borough.”

Four blocks of land are identified as suitable for housing. Two of these are council-owned: a 4.3-hectare block north of Bohemia Road and another 2.2-ha block south of Bohemia Road, including the Oval, which have a combined potential of up to 330 dwellings.

There are also two privately owned blocks – Horntye Park, an area of 4.7 ha, and another 2.1 ha in the north of the convent site – which together have the potential for up to 340 dwellings.

Sustainability and health benefits are also incorporated in the masterplan, the authors say. Green spaces promote health benefits, while practical sustainable goals include rainwater and storm water collection, water storage under greenhouses for irrigation and toilets; an average of 15 square metres  of solar panels per dwelling, and at least 50% of total annual energy demand to be met by on-site renewables or low carbon heat source.

When, how and with what financing?

According to the authors, the timescale for delivery of the projects will be influenced by a number of factors, including the ownership and availability of sites, financial viability and funding availability. The initial emphasis should be on a number of “key catalytic projects which will act as drivers for further projects and wider economic benefits.” The focus in the short term should be on the seafront, theatre and pier, says the document.

HBC should take the lead in implementation – it has a “critical role as landowner, decision maker and facilitator of change.” It is recommended that a White Rock Area Partnership be established with representatives of the public and private sectors and the local community, and that a White Rock champion or project manager should be appointed.

“Active engagement of the local community has started and will be critical in taking forward the proposals for the White Rock Area,” the document says. “…The role of young people will also be critical in bringing life and animation to the area. It is proposed that the existing Youth Council and local schools and colleges should be fully involved in the development of proposals.”

How much is it all going to cost? There is no estimate in the document that I could find – in fact there was just one mention of a concrete figure – £20-30 million for the sports centre. But overall we are clearly talking of several hundred million pounds.

Some funding could be raised through the sale of council-owned land, but the document warns that before it can be expected to secure private sector funding, “White Rock first needs to develop its reputation and brand” in order to improve its attractiveness to the private sector.

Key funding opportunities are identified as land disposals, prudential borrowing, Lottery funding, the Coastal Communities Fund, One Public Estate and the Local Growth Fund.

Over to you

This precis of the White Rock Area Masterplan no doubt fails to do justice to the full vision of the authors – this you can see by downloading it here.

But it’s time for the public to have its say – as the authors say, the local community must be fully involved. HOT has already been contacted by several readers keen to comment on aspects of it. We welcome all contributions.

And comments should also be sent to HBC – according to the council spokesman, “…any comments received on it will be considered as part of the ‘Area Action Plan’.


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Posted 17:31 Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017 In: Home Ground


  1. Amanda Jobson

    I’m astonished that HBC has any funds for building a master plan TheWhite RockTheatre is chaotic and outdatedWe need a functional clean space where theatre and art, literature merge. Where plays,music, performance, concerts on a national and international can take place influencing young and old Inspire the next generation and inspire all our imaginations creating commerce between cities and other countries to visit and exchange too. We do need a cultural hub also for artists to collaborate exchange a meeting place studios and gallery with the community. Growth is possible and spaces are so limited for college leavers and established artists. At the end of this affordable studios homes are always important people need homes to enable them to seek work and employment opportunities. There are lots of elements to consider for all

    Comment by Amanda Jobson — Friday, Mar 23, 2018 @ 20:53

  2. Heather Grief

    How much did this report cost?
    Whoever wrote it is ignorant of the area’s long history and importance as an open space next to very crowded areas of housing.
    The Oval is protected as a public open space in perpetuity – this is why funfairs etc cannot charge an entry fee. The Grade II listed Ice House is not in Summerfields Woods LNR, nor in the Heritage Asset boundary, which should include the whole Bohemia estate inside the sandstone wall (much of it pre-1795) – it is just inside Horntye Park and is the responsibility of the cricket trustees – no-one seems to have considered its future.
    Why does this plan suggest gentrifying the area via lots of posh blocks of flats, presumably aimed at incomers with money – surely what is needed are 2- and 3- bedroom houses for families currently badly housed in blocks of flats / converted big old houses in central St. Leonards.
    Why put a hotel on the small part of White Rock Gardens east of Falaise Rd, the only part listed as a Heritage Asset, and next to old housing which will be overshadowed by a tall hotel?
    Why not let the locals suggest how the White Rock area might be improved, and have ideas which are costed and do not waste money moving stuff around to make areas for purposes?
    Blocking existing roads and putting in new ones will cost a lot for no real benefit. Likewise, extending the WR Theatre across the road and up the cliff would be unnecessarily expensive.
    The idea of using more of the old convent’s buildings, and for educational purposes is good, but the plans as a whole seem to be a vast expense for not much benefit, which ignores the area’s history and natural beauty and will destroy these. Are readers aware just how important the area is for migrating birds, especially in the autumn, who feed up before crossing the Channel?

    Comment by Heather Grief — Friday, Jan 19, 2018 @ 19:47

  3. Hippolyte Grigg

    Whilst I find this plan enthralling it’s a waste of money. Let’s put HBC limited funds towards some of what we have. The bottom of Bohemia Road is a disgrace and should somehow be developed to make more commercially frindly.

    Comment by Hippolyte Grigg — Monday, Jan 15, 2018 @ 19:17

  4. Ms.Doubtfire

    We have been invaded by some really foolish luvvies who have their heads in the clouds and have absolutely no concept what this town is all about. Flatten everything, erase our history and then – move on of course. So long as the much favoured word ‘cultural’ is incoporated into these crazy master plans, approval will be given. Who are these people who are trying their darndest to destroy Hastings and St. Leonards?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Jan 5, 2018 @ 09:09

  5. Bea

    I agree with Ken Davis that the site should relate to the pier. This is an existing, very valuable asset and it is critical that we support the pier with any new development opposite.

    Comment by Bea — Thursday, Jan 4, 2018 @ 12:21


    … more of The Emperors new clothes then … gotta give Mr.Chowney and the greater HBC ten outa 10 for ‘transparency’ … yep Peter ol’ son, we see straight thru this one as well … just a pity you have to spend yet more money that we haven’t got in paying yet more consultants to showcase ‘the new clothes’, sorry “The White Rock Masterplan” …sorry, the peripheral bullshit that goes with residential development … that frankly we don’t need … and certainly not in The White Rock area by raping our existing, albeit some in need of a re-vamp given funds down the line,green and/or pleasant spaces when your Planning Committee have just rubber stamped 50 odd flats in the sky blocking piece of crap architecture that is The Observer Building development … the more years we get from the heyday of Hastings/St.Lennies society … the further we dig ourselves a cheap ‘n nasty vision for the future of this still, just about, beautiful and characterful town …

    Comment by BRUCE ROLSTON — Monday, Jan 1, 2018 @ 21:01

  7. Fiona Pienkowska

    Describing Summerfields Woods as a ‘Dormant asset’ is very worrying.
    It is a ‘beautiful piece of secluded woodland’ is what it is. This asset needs protecting from the developers for the sake of the trees and wildlife living there now. No mention is made of the walled garden and the allotments contained within it already, how does this feature in the new development? Alongside a jogging track, woodland school(building?) and ‘treetop walkway all in such a relatively small space???
    ‘Opening it up’ means cutting it down. Hands Off!!! I hope this never goes ahead, there will be nothing left of it to enjoy!

    Comment by Fiona Pienkowska — Saturday, Dec 30, 2017 @ 20:25

  8. ken davis

    Not so much a dog’s breakfast as a curate’s egg. But firstly, yet again, why does the council continue to use expensive consultants from foreign parts when there is plenty of homegrown talent as well as much useful local knowledge?
    That aside, the lack of local knowledge misses some of the most significant factors.
    Firstly, the White Rock area is the remnant of the open space separating the two areas of Hastings and St.Leonards, such could easily be identified, even reinforced, by a greenspace running north from the pier and with link across the high density housing area around Warrior Square so that those residents have convenient access to public open space.
    Secondly, to think of this area as a new neighbourhood is a bit of a nonesense with the A21 still running through it and still running into the backside of the Victorian town. The A21 should run down passed Alexander Park or stop on the town boundary. The existing road could be reduced to a shared surface with a max 20mph limit and traffic calming etc.
    Thirdly, why on earth is the incredibly significant space of White Rock itself given over to playing fields when there are plenty of spaces further out which are ideal for such use.
    Fourthly, if the 1066 Centre (in the wrong place altogether methinks) is to be a major tourist attraction then why is it lost amongst the bland layout of other blocks and un-related to the museum.
    If the council genuinely wants proper participative involvement then it should truly engage with the locals. Yes, you will get a hundred or more different approaches but at least it really provides a critique of what is on offer and can bring forward some innovative solutions…..not likely to happen then!
    Oh, and where is the easy connection to the pier?

    Comment by ken davis — Saturday, Dec 30, 2017 @ 14:17

  9. David Stevenson

    I echo most of what has already been said although I disagree with John that the White Rock Theatre should be demolished. The building itself is fine but most of the performances are uninspiring. The De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhil is of a similar age and size but has a more imaginative schedule. Bogbrush is correct. We have too many people, not too few houses. The fact that the Hastings unemployment rate is twice the national average confirms this. Why do the Council want to “redevelop” the area anyway? There is nothing wrong with what we have now. Strange how they complain about not having enough money to provide basic services and yet they can afford to pay for this unnecessary report. I missed the “extensive consultation”. I suppose I must have have been away thay day.

    Comment by David Stevenson — Saturday, Dec 30, 2017 @ 13:26

  10. Bogbrush

    White Rock is one of the best areas of Victorian/Edwardian open leisure areas in Hastings/St Leonards. Here we see it turned into high density housing and not much else. Why? Hastings and St Leonards are already chronically overcrowded. Far from there being a shortage of housing there is an excess of people. Building more houses will bring in more people for whom the already over stretched infrastructure will be completely inadequate. I hope this gets ditched.

    Comment by Bogbrush — Friday, Dec 29, 2017 @ 23:34

  11. Ms.Doubtfire

    June Knight has vented her fully justified anger on this crazy plan. Is there a masterplan out there which seeks to devastate this town? It would appear to many that all the recent improvements, developments and more have simply cost millions of pounds and reaped little benefit for people who live here. The recently fashionable title of ‘Cultural’ means little to those struggling with low income and inadequate housing…wise up Hastings council. you are beginning to look very foolish of late.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Dec 29, 2017 @ 10:42

  12. Andy Ammo

    This is awful. The White Rock Masterplan is a proposal to make money by destroying the Victorian spaces of the two towns. It is not about the unmet housing need in the borough.

    Central St Leonards is already the most densely populated ward in East Sussex, and adding more people will damage it badly.

    Statements such as ‘The development will be characterised by tree lined streets and lush pocket parks’ are guff trying to disguise the proposal to have new buildings destroy old spaces and old trees. Summerfield Woods have already been shrunk by the developments outside the Law Courts. The Oval should not go the same way.

    The playing fields of the Convent can have a future as playing fields. The East Wing, the red and white Italianate building entirely unmentioned in the consultation report, is also deserving of a decent future.

    Even the consultation seems oddly skewed: the Jerwood is there but not the St Leonards Town Team.

    Why does the Council suppose that these proposals are anywhere near acceptable? They are not.

    At one point the prissy observation is made that ‘the pedestrian experience is poor’. Well it’s going to be a site poorer if this grotesque stupidity goes ahead.

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Thursday, Dec 28, 2017 @ 23:16

  13. Fiona Horan

    Some of it sounds great! But I’m dismayed at the loss of public green space in central Hastings & St Leonards. I suspect the housing will be built first then the good stuff (enhanced facilities, woodland school, improved White Rock Theatre) will turn out to be “unaffordable”. Also … woodland turned into a community orchard? A friend of mine has recently been protesting the loss of a small community orchard in south London. I think it was only planted in the Eighties and now it’s built over and the greenery and wildlife refuge in a very densely populated and polluted area has been lost forever.

    Comment by Fiona Horan — Thursday, Dec 28, 2017 @ 10:13

  14. John Knowles

    I have voiced this before in other forums, but with regards to the White Rock Theatre I am of the firm belief that it is not fit for purpose and that we need to demolish it and build from scratch, Hastings deserves a modern all purpose theatre space with a main house and studio spaces. And it also needs a shake up from the lack lustre, poor scheduling of the present management company to a forward thinking, producing/touring house with a genuine local focus.

    Comment by John Knowles — Thursday, Dec 28, 2017 @ 09:58

  15. June Knight

    Pretencious, bullshit, Claptrap.

    MasterPlan splattered with pretencious spiel, stick the word “Cultural” on anything and immediately placate the masses and make them feel they are doing something superior and high class. Instead of taking land for development and money parking opportunities.

    And no real investment or private investment interests unless White Rock can promote itself as a brand, WTF! Does that pretencious claptrap mean. Sandcastles in the air again.

    And stages and events and meetings already gone through without anyone knowing.


    Comment by June Knight — Thursday, Dec 28, 2017 @ 01:19

  16. Penny

    Will it include public toilets?

    Comment by Penny — Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017 @ 21:11

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