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Harrow Lane Playing Fields – voters should think about its future, says Lib Dem candidate Martin Griffiths.

Harrow Lane: an important choice for voters!

So says Martin Griffiths, the Liberal Democrat candidate for both Ashdown ward and the Ashdown & Conquest division in the forthcoming elections, as he presents his take on the cluster of four developments at the top of Harrow Lane which has caught local attention.It’s of no surprise that the future of the Harrow Lane Playing Fields is back in the local media spotlight, as development on the neighbouring fields appears to have started.

The residents of Ashdown & Conquest have good cause to be worried about the impact that four proposed housing developments, close to each other on Harrow Lane and The Ridge, will have on the area. At a time when the benefits of the outdoors on our well-being are so well recognised, and with the environment being of such a great concern, it seems illogical to lose such a valuable amenity as the Playing Fields.

I am well-aware of its importance. It is where my daughter who lives nearby walks her dog, and my grandsons play football there! One recent evening I saw three groups of young people playing football as well as a martial arts class taking place. There are no other similar outdoor spaces nearby. This is a well-used and well-loved open space.

In his recent article on HOT’s pages, Cllr Mike Edwards focused in on the Playing Fields, rightly saying that housing needs shouldn’t be used as a political football. I agree that there should be a more collaborative approach to local issues (indeed the alliance of parties that control Rother District Council, taking control away from the Conservative Party for the first time in decades, is a good example of this). But whilst Liberal Democrats will always seek to be collaborative where it is possible, we don’t want politicians to duck accountability either.

Leaving aside the question of whether work has started on the adjacent site without planning approval (an important matter in itself), when it comes to the Playing Fields, the Council appears to have been behaving just like a commercial developer: attempting to maximise its financial return from the site, rather than protecting a valuable community asset.

If all or part of the land has to be developed, I suggest that it would be better for any development to be handled by the Council’s own Housing Development company, or by a community land trust. This way the Council could optimise a chance to provide good quality social housing, rather than accepting (as it usually does) the minimum required number of affordable homes that a commercial developer is required to build.

Activity on the site which lies between the playing fields and The Ridge, for which planning permission is still awaited.

Traffic volumes to increase

Inevitably, developing some, or all, of the sites, will increase traffic volumes as well as the need for school places, GP surgery capacity and so forth. These are issues which are directly or indirectly the remit of the County Council.

Just as, in fact, it might have been the responsibility of local councillors to have addressed these issues with the Planning Inspector when he was last in Hastings…My colleague and Freeman of the Borough Pam Brown will attest to the fact that there were no local councillors from Ashdown & Conquest petitioning the Planning Inspector when it would have counted on issues such as these.

There is currently a lack of primary school provision in the northern part of the Borough and GP services are limited; both matters need to be addressed.  A problem experienced by many people each day is traffic congestion on The Ridge, and on Harrow Lane itself, both of which are poorly maintained.

Indeed, part of The Ridge is no better than a cart track. Whatever one might think about the decision to build the Queensway Gateway Road (and the environmental vandalism that has ensued), the failure of all the agencies involved to complete the project in a reasonable time frame has added to the traffic misery of residents in the northern part of the Borough.

Lessons to be learned

Lessons must be learnt from this delay, and the County Council must ensure that the proposed measures to mitigate the increase in traffic, when building starts, on Harrow Lane, are implemented as development takes place, not years afterwards.

The question is, do the good people of Ashdown & Conquest have the kind of councillors at Borough and County level that are up to the job?

Let’s not forget, currently, those councillors represent the same party as the national government – one that has at the same time imposed unrealistic targets for house-building on the Borough and provided inadequate funding to local government so that it can meet its statutory duties.

It will therefore fall to local councillors to ensure that we make the very most of our current allocation, and lobby for increased means to shore up our local economy, providing residents with a decently resourced place in which to live.

We need local councillors to be ahead of the curve, not behind it, joining up policy and decision-making for the benefit of their local community.  On the basis of all this, voters in Ashdown & Conquest will make an important choice on 6 May.  If you live in the division (as I do), please ensure everyone in your household has their say!

 

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Posted 11:40 Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 In: Politics

2 Comments

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  1. DAR

    I note the use of past comments that I have made here and elsewhere re: this issue. Nice to see, though a bit late in the day. Yes, it’s a combination of unrealistic central government housing targets for Hastings, acquiescent local planners looking for easy solutions, and a Labour-controlled council full of housebuilding zealots who don’t seem to care about green spaces in the borough (bar Alexandra Park) or residents’ legitimate objections about insufficient infrastructure in unsuitable areas.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 @ 12:28

  2. Tim Barton

    sadly, government targets dictate copious new housing targets within the borough. nowhere ‘wants’ them (it’s called Nimbyism), but -someone- is getting them. if the council here do not meet targets, check out what is happening in Paignton, where such failures to sign off on significant build has seen the govt step in and dictate what will happen (hint: it is not a small project they want, but a ‘link-road’ sized screw-up which will trash the Gampton end of town with what they euphemistically call a ‘new village’, but is clearly a congestion causing conurbation. be careful what you wish for.

    Comment by Tim Barton — Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 @ 09:59

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