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Hastings castle, set to become a national destination under the Town Deal plans.

Town Deal bid approved

Hastings has been awarded £24.3m from the government’s Towns Fund for regeneration, a little short of what it applied for. But if match funding of £85m can be raised, £100m will be available to invest in the town. Before government funding is released, business cases for the proposed projects have to be developed and approved. Nick Terdre reports, photos by Russell Jacobs.

The Hastings Town Deal Board has confirmed the award of £24.3m from the government’s Towns Fund for urban centres identified as needing particular help to get regeneration going, which represents the bulk of the £28.2m applied for in January.

Assuming match funding of £85m can be raised, the town will benefit from new, and very welcome, investment of nearly £100m towards regeneration.

The award has been made as part of the latest tranche of Town Deal approvals under which 30 towns will receive total funding of some £750m. Altogether 83 town deals involving investments of more than £2bn have so far been sanctioned, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said .

“We are grateful that the Government saw the regeneration opportunities these proposals offer our seaside town and we are delighted with the news that Hastings has been successful in being awarded £24.3m funding through the Towns Fund,” said Carole Dixon, co-chair of Hastings Town Deal Board.

The ‘greening’ of Hastings is core to the Town Deal plans. New electric vehicle charging points have already been installed in local car parks as part of projects approved ahead of the main Town Deal.

“£24.3m is a significant amount, and we are excited to be able to use this to enable the successful projects to come to life. Helping to regenerate our town and creating more opportunities for businesses and residents sits at the heart of the bid.

“Although this is a huge step in the process, the hard work is just beginning. Over the next 12 months, business cases for each project will need to be developed and submitted to government for approval. It is only then that the funding will be released, and work can start.”

Boost in Covid times

Cllr Paul Barnett, deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council, said, “This offers our whole town great prospects and is exactly the boost our local economy needs, following the huge impact that has been felt by Covid-19.

“I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has been involved in this process. This includes those on the Town Deal board who have worked incredibly hard to secure this funding, as well as local organisations and residents who submitted their regeneration ideas for the town.”

Turning Hastings into the South East’s first green garden city, including the establishment of a Low Carbon Centre of Excellence, is one of the key aims of the town investment plan, as is transforming the castle into a “national destination” and generally giving the town’s tourism offer a lift.

Although the full amount applied for had not been granted, it was hoped to go ahead with all the projects, albeit there would need to be some adjustments, a council spokesman told HOT.

Despite reservations about how the deal was handled, Chris Lewcock, who fronted one of the many unsuccessful bids, welcomed the news, acknowledging that “a lot of effort must have gone in by Officers and they should be thanked.

“I also hope going forward, as projects are developed in more detail, much greater efforts than hitherto will be made to engage the local community, eg creating a citizens panel as other towns have done, and to be fully transparent, not just [releasing] the occasional token press release about what’s already been decided.”

The board’s decision to overlook the government’s call for town residents to be engaged in developing the plan from the off provoked criticism, but in the light of Dixon and fellow co-chair Graham Peters’ words when the bid was submitted – that “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” – Lewcock’s hopes of greater openness from now on may yet be realised.

 

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Posted 16:25 Wednesday, Jun 9, 2021 In: Local Economy

4 Comments

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  1. Francis Sheppard

    Good salient points by the contributors.
    As outlined in the conditions set out by the government that there should be full citizen engagement in order to receive the funding a way to implement this would be to follow the example of Preston, Ayrshire, Birmingham, Bristol, councils in getting their citizens involvement in helping to change the way the council’s are run. To those who are physically involved in the attempt to bring Hastings up to where they think it should be. May I suggest a book recently available title Paint your town Red by Matthew Brown & Rhian Jones. Showing how Preston residents gained control and revolutionised the way things worked.creating a far better system for residents of those councils.

    Comment by Francis Sheppard — Wednesday, Jun 16, 2021 @ 10:01

  2. Bernard McGinley

    Many questions arise. How much green space will be lost in pursuing this ‘first green garden city’ vision?

    How much of the £24 million or £100 million is going to be spent on actual regeneration? Or is it all defined as regeneration?

    Another way of giving the town’s tourism a lift is to look after the Pier, instead of pretending it never won national acclaim in 2017 with the RIBA Stirling Prize. There isn’t so much as a plaque there, but there’s a large number of unauthorised buildings, and barbed wire.

    Another building furiously ignored is Azur, an HBC seafront property. Meant to be a ‘destination’, it’s now more of a slum.

    What’s at Hastings Castle to make it a ‘national destination’? How about a visitor attraction in West St Leonards to rebalance the Borough? How many second homes for DFLs does West St Leonards need?

    A Low Carbon Centre of Excellence sounds great. What of the diesel generators around town on Council or Foreshore Trust land? (East Hill for instance.) Have the decisionmakers read HBC’s Climate Emergency Strategy 2020?

    When will the consultants’ glossy report appear (due last autumn) on the proposed redevelopment of White Rock Gardens?

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Friday, Jun 11, 2021 @ 15:53

  3. Vitruvius

    Yes, good news about the potential award of £24m, although this is dependent on securing £80m of matched funding.

    To date the proposed projects and process have been shrouded in secrecy, hardly any detail has been made public and there has been very little community involvement. The Council and the Town Deal Board should now start a process of meaningful dialogue with the wider community to take the bid forward.

    In fact, they should also make up for their past “behind closed doors” strategy and give a clear explanation of what projects were initially submitted (the only bit of community involvement as far as I know), and on what basis projects were selected to go forward, or to be rejected.

    Comment by Vitruvius — Friday, Jun 11, 2021 @ 11:40

  4. Bea

    Yes, hoping for more consultation and more transparency. Also hoping consultation will not be just on details but on major decisions. We wouldn’t want to be accused of cliquery and cronyism, would we?

    Comment by Bea — Thursday, Jun 10, 2021 @ 11:10

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