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Photo: HBC/Agata Read.

£110m at stake as Town Deal plan goes in

The Town Investment Plan – Hastings’ Town Deal bid – could bring more than £110m into the town to fund a range of projects. If the Town Deal board’s vision becomes reality, Hastings will become the South East’s first green city, with new housing, commercial and leisure facilities, new jobs and two regional ‘green skills’ bases. Nick Terdre reports.

The Town Deal board is celebrating the submission of the Town Investment Plan, the council reports. If approved by the government – hopefully within three months, HBC tells HOT – it will secure £28.2m from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Town Fund, plus up to £85m of match-funding, to finance a series of projects to boost regeneration over the next six years.

“We are seeking investment through the plan for projects which offer an exciting future for the town,” say the co-chairs of the board, Carole Dixon and Graham Peters. “These come from the hundreds of thoughts, ideas and comments from residents, businesses and organisations in the town who are as passionate about the town as we, the board and the council are.

“There is a real mix of projects, from exciting new skills provision, to housing, to Hastings Castle, to new facilities and biodiversity in the town centre and factory and flexible co-working spaces. Many of these projects are still at concept stage so there will be lots of opportunity for communities to help shape, influence and have their say on the detail over the coming year and beyond.”

Assuming the plan gets the initial go-ahead, detailed business cases will need to be developed for each project over the next year and submitted for final approval before they can be implemented.

Apart from the fact that the plan would focus on Hastings town centre, the public had hitherto largely been kept in the dark as to the projects under consideration. This veil has now been partially lifted, as can be seen by a visit to the Town Deal blog pages. The vision finally chosen is revealed to be: “A healthy, vibrant and quirky seaside town that people love to visit live and work in and say ‘I Can  #MakeItInHastings.’”

Hastings garden town

A key aim is to make Hastings into the South East’s first green garden town: “Green arteries buzzing with biodiversity will connect our old Norman harbour of a town centre to its nationally recognised countryside parks, seafront and urban parks.” The castle will be transformed into a “national destination in its own right.”

The town centre will be “diversified, renewed and revitalised by bringing mixed-use facilities, new homes, commercial, leisure and Electric Vehicle charging facilities into our current aged infrastructure. It will build on our High Street Heritage Action Zone, running through to the seafront establishing a wide arc of creative and cultural enterprise development.”

Two regional ‘green’ skills bases will be created, with Plumpton College setting up a “new, pilot skills hub” in the town centre while East Sussex College Group establishes a “Green Technology Centre of Excellence” on its Ore campus.

Among the projected impacts of the plan are 203 new and refurbished homes, 614 new jobs, 23 new and repurposed buildings and an annual 875,000 new visitors to the town centre.

The work of the Town Deal board was hailed by Cllr Kim Forward, council leader, who said: “Hastings Borough Council is delighted to see the submission of the Town Investment Plan, it has been a huge undertaking by not only the Town Deal board but also the project team and project leads to get to this point.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the town to re-set its ambitions for regeneration and offers an exciting future with benefits for all those who live, work and visit.”

Welcoming

Chris Lewcock, who fronted a bid for a Science on Sea project based on the redundant St Leonards church which proved to be too far from the town centre to fit in with the board’s ideas, was generally welcoming.

“The ideas for a Garden Town are interesting and imaginative and could result in real visible change in the Town Centre,” he told HOT. “ The involvement of Plumpton and East Sussex College in developing green courses and expertise could and should complement this venture, and, if the idea takes off, could result in Hastings green pioneers going to help out other Towns.

“It’s good to see other funds for improvement of Hastings town centre going to established organisations who have a already got stuck in at Rock House, Observer Building and the heritage area, with a track record and enthusiasm to get things done.

“Also worth noting as a positive is the amount of other funding which will it is hoped be leveraged in alongside Town Deal Funds.”

Disappointed

“But I continue to be disappointed that the several imaginative and innovative proposals that I’m aware of (there may be others) were dismissed without proper explanation.  It’s also a pity that the Council hasn’t trusted local residents enough to be fully transparent in developing these proposals. I’m sure that the Green Garden Town idea would have got widespread approval while some of the rest of the programme is a bit same old, same old?”

Residents who may have felt excluded from a process which the government, according to its guidance, intended to be open, transparent and inclusive, are now invited to get involved. “We need to hear your thoughts on the future of Hastings as well as helping us to develop detailed plans for the projects,” says the Town Deal blog.

“The more people get behind the deal, the more likely we can secure the best deal possible for Hastings.”

Thoughts may be submitted by email or via the council’s social media channels:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

 

 

 

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Posted 19:11 Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021 In: Local Economy

3 Comments

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  1. Bolshie

    Yes a well informed article and some pertinent comments to. I not the word “transparency” surfaces yet again in reference to this Town Deal Board. As it is more or less an extension of HBC with Councillor Forward and her deputy on it along with those connected to Sea Change on the panel. Transparency and public involvement will take a back seat. It appears to be another exercise of what they want and not what the public would like.
    With this eye watering amount of money quoted, I question if it will be used efficiently. How well will these projects be managed and how much will be wasted by bureaucracy, inept quotations for works, overruns etc.
    I note the projections quoted for housing, jobs and tourism. How do they arrive at those figures? Sound similar to the illustrious figures quoted in the past by Sea Space and Sea Change on how their developments would attract so many new jobs – but have they ?
    And as Bernard reminds us the green spaces in this borough are under constant threat of development. The only green space I can think of being saved from HBC concreting it over is Robsack meadow.

    Comment by Bolshie — Thursday, Feb 11, 2021 @ 10:54

  2. Bernard McGinley

    If the ‘Green Garden Town’ involves collusion in building over the Oval, and White Rock Gardens on both sides of Falaise Road, then it won’t be much of a Green Garden Town, will it?

    Seachange have revived their threat to Marline Valley nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (owned by HBC), while the Bathing Pool site is proposed for second homes for DFLs. This is not to be confused with the DFL Ghetto plan from Wessex Economics (2018):
    https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hot-topics/home-ground/council-vision-threatens-white-rock-gardens

    The green spaces of St Leonards & Hastings have been under relentless attack for decades. Spare us from people with a ‘vision’ like this, who usually say ‘vibrant’ and ‘world-class pocket park’ too.

    Why should we want to be ‘the first green garden town’ when we were already that?.

    No doubt parts of the scheme are excellent — perhaps including the projects that the Town Deal Board disregarded.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Friday, Feb 5, 2021 @ 19:45

  3. Bryan Fisher

    Another great, well-balanced article on Hastings Online Times! Like many others, I am disappointed at the Hastings Town-centric nature of the Town Deal, although I hope the investment is awarded and actually works! The area of Hastings Borough desperately needs businesses and tourists to swell the coffers, provide jobs and ensure an overall regeneration of what is a run-down area. Quite why HBC and the Town Deal had to be so secretive about how the worked towards awarding bids to successful projects is a puzzle.

    Comment by Bryan Fisher — Thursday, Feb 4, 2021 @ 17:31

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