Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Part of Arup’s vision of how the route from the station to the sea could be transformed.

Road traffic: the knotty problem for the town centre plan

The Town Centre Public Realm plan proposes a redesign which could revitalise this key area of Hastings – if the appropriate solution can be found for cars and buses, Anna Sabin argues.

This vision of how Harold Place could be with the £10m Levelling Up grant is lovely. I hope it gets built. I think it would give everyone in Hastings a place to be very happy with. Tourists would love it. They’d be able to stroll from beach to town in first class holiday resort style.

Right now, it looks much less lovely. It’s not nice enough to hang out in and doesn’t draw in enough tourists or shoppers. The paving is cracked up, shops are struggling or closed, there’s not much greenery, buses and taxis run through the middle cutting dead its civic centre potential and it’s very likely to suffer flooding as sea level rises – which gives it a lot of problems to solve.

The Town Centre Public Realm and Green Connections proposal addresses the flood risk with areas of permeable surface growing trees, shrubs, horned poppies and the like – designed to drain water out of town as quickly as possible, which will also make the place maximally attractive for tourism – meaning it’ll be richer, with more jobs, happier lives and more buzz. It’ll follow the easy rule of thumb – if it’s good for kids, it’s good for holidaymakers. If it’s good for holidaymakers, it’s great for residents.

The consultation pictures by East Sussex County Council and consultants Arup show the concept that won the bid – the town centre connected to the beach for shopping beachgoers. Almost as old postcards show it used to be in 1895.

Unresolved question

But there is an unresolved question – where to route buses from the seafront to the station? The first suggestion was to route them one way down the pedestrianised end of Queens Road, past Cafe Nero and up Havelock Road…then have them leave the Station via Devonshire Road, South Terrace, Queens Road and Albert Place.

No one liked that.

The second suggestion, beloved by Stagecoach and ESCC but driving a coach and horses through the Garden Town idea, is to leave the route as it is, cutting the centre in half. The route’s road would leave much less room for those green permeable surfaces – very much not the ideal floodwater-absorbing town centre for walking, meeting, spending, selling, entertaining and being entertained.

Without a bus road, it could be Hastings’ answer to Venice’s St Marks Square – smaller but with some of the same shtick – with transport all around it but not through it.

However, we can’t deny – our buses are stuck in traffic, to everyone’s detriment. Any traffic-free stretch of route makes more money for the bus company (and a better service for us) than the usual congested road miles they endure everywhere else. It’s just that taking congestion-free mileage from town centre pedestrian space is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

A car traffic-reduced Queens Road would make a much better two-way sea-to-station bus route than the centre.

To date there has been no re-allocation of Hastings’ road space from cars to buses. The way things are now, if you’re the right age, with the right physical capability and have the means, you buy a car…which slows the buses so those without a car have a poor bus service and horrid roads to walk along, and those with a car lament the difficulty of parking, potholes and flagging local shops…caused in turn by the cars…

Many towns and cities are designing their way out of this bind and we should do the same.

The answer

How motorised traffic could be diverted away from walking and cycling routes between the station and the sea. Buses – green lines, taxis – orange lines, cars and other private traffic – red lines, pedestrian routes and sustainable urban drainage – pink lines, future enhanced walks to Castle, Old Town and Museum – pink dashed lines.

The answer is clever, incremental, partial road reallocation from cars to buses. A good place to start would be Queens Road and South Terrace.

These roads provide car access to Morrisons and Priory Meadow respectively, but, if we want a nice town centre, they shouldn’t be used as a car through-route. The A259, Old London Road, should be the through-route, not our Victorian shopping street.

Traffic-lite and access-only, these streets could have buses flowing through them congestion-free. South Terrace, Queens Road and Albert Place reserved almost exclusively for buses would amply compensate them for ‘losing’ what they shouldn’t be given – the Harold Place-Havelock Road route through the Garden Town. Which would make it garden no more.

Plans are being finalised by Arup and ESCC now. Taking space for good things like cycling and buses from pedestrians rather than cars is an ESCC speciality. But Hastings would suffer irretrievable loss from its town centre investment if it allowed them to do it again here.


If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link. Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 10:23 Monday, May 27, 2024 In: Transport


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Anna Sabin

    Colin – we could still have Park and Rides – at Norths Seat off Fairlight Road, off Whitworth (road to nowhere) Road and off Queensway. But even more effort should be put into good bus services from surrounding towns and villages to Hastings. Really good public transport would save us all a fortune and make our streets liveable again – wouldn’t they.

    Susie – yes yes yes!!!

    Bea – buses 100% important but they don’t need to be routed through £10m’s worth of Sustainable Urban Drainage Garden! They can drive round it, Sea to Station and back, and revel in ballooning passenger numbers the project will bring.

    Comment by Anna Sabin — Monday, Jun 10, 2024 @ 21:14

  2. Colin Foy

    In the 1970s, there was an offer of park and ride along the ridge, but no, more houses along the Ridge and more houses in Harrow Lane and the A21. Even the playing fields are earmarked for housing, but the construction firm went bankrupt. There is an opportunity to make Harrow Lane playing fields into park and ride. Enter and leave via the Ridge and buses to and fro along Harrow Lane.

    Comment by Colin Foy — Monday, Jun 3, 2024 @ 05:18

  3. Susie

    The greening and pedestrianisation of the town centre will bring so many more visitors to the town to enjoy the beautiful, traffic-free zone, with a potential Mediterranean style ambiance. Businesses, trade, tourism, music, and outdoor performance will flourish there, generating employment. The health benefits of socialising, eating, and shopping in a vehicle-free area are very significant. Reducing town centre flooding through greening is crucial. All of this completely outweighs the need to keep bus routes through the town centre. Re-routing the buses so that everyone can still access the town centre is achievable. A planning triumph, with long- term vision.

    Comment by Susie — Thursday, May 30, 2024 @ 16:25

  4. Bea

    The proposal to evict buses and bus stops from Havelock Road, the main bus route artery in central Hastings, is quite wrong. Enormous numbers of people depend on the buses, many of them the most disadvantaged, and routes should be made better, not worse.
    This has nothing to do with “greening”. The town has all sorts of opportunities for planting trees and planting boxes, and greenery v the people’s buses? A planning disaster.

    Comment by Bea — Thursday, May 30, 2024 @ 09:17

Leave a comment

(no more than 350 words)

Also in: Transport

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us


    Get our regular digest emails

  • Subscribe to HOT