Yesterday Hastings Green Party handed a petition to the town’s Mayor protesting against plans for the harbour and marina development that was proposed last year for an area of the town beyond Rock-a-Nore.
There has been a huge response to the story we published last night so we thought it might be appropriate to go back and look at what is being proposed by The Hastings Harbour Quarter Company.
The plan launched last year is for a development to include a harbour and marina complex with space for up to 600 vessels, at least 1,400 new homes and retail and restaurant space. Once complete the complex would, it is estimated create up to 300 full and part-time jobs. Those backing the bid also point out that it would provide additional protection for the fishing fleet.
Last October Hastings Chamber of Commerce staged a public forum to allow people to hear just what was being put forward in this £500m scheme. Michael Drain Architects, the company that has sketched out the plan were on hand to give a detailed analysis of their proposed project.
Michael Drain himself told his audience the project had the potential to be a ‘regeneration catalyst’ and that the new harbour could be worth £26m a year to the local economy. He did say that further discussion was needed before a decision by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) could be made on whether to take the plan forward.
The meeting heard the planned development would bring ‘essential reinforcement’ for the fishing industry, and would further strengthen the tourism industry as well as create jobs and much-needed new housing. Mr Drain said he believed the business case was financially self-sustaining, sitting alongside the rest of Hastings and St Leonard’s-On-Sea as a ‘halo development’.
In a question and answer session one of the main issues raised as the one of access. Mr Drain said that there had been no conclusive studies, and so, ‘many possible avenues’ were being investigated. He highlighted a series of options such as introduction of concession zones to certain areas to reduce the use of cars.
Whether the project does or doesn’t go ahead, the argument is that the feasibility study, funded by central government and not HBC, would benefit Hastings by providing valuable insights and knowledge into the local ecology and geology of the area, with a study into the marine ecology and potential impact of the longshore drift, and an investigation into the stability of the cliffs.
At the time Mr Drain concluded by saying the project needed further public consultation and community engagement.
The issue is one that has split the town, Anne Scott said: “I think it’s appalling the destruction of a beautiful bit of countryside. The views from Rock-A-Nore should be sacrosanct. That part of the beach has a spiritual quality that we mess with at our peril.”
While Anthony Berry wrote: “…I think the town needs something like this proposed development. I vote Green and did not sign the petition because the younger population of the town is growing and they need jobs and infrastructure to keep them here… we’ve ruined most things for them so we should give something back.
“I don’t believe we have the right to stop a future for the young and halt progress and if you are genuinely interested in the town’s future (and not just your own) then you might consider it.”
Carole Clifton is also supportive but worries about access: “What a bloody good idea. I am all for promoting Hastings. But seriously how the hell do all those cars get in and out of Rock-a-Nore?”
Jackie Wren is not convinced: “Don’t fall for the developers spin. This will be a disaster for the people of Hastings, especially our younger generation. The town needs preserving as this gives us our uniqueness. All this will do is put house prices out of he reach of our children and feather the nest of the already wealthy. This is not progress this is investment for the the rich.”
Adam Sheppard has a different solution: “We definitely need a harbour but my thinking is a small harbour in keeping with the old town using the existing harbour arm mainly for fishing vessels and no commercial, retail or restaurants and then a second much larger and commercial harbour by the old bathing pool similar to Brighton with retail, restaurants and housing.”
Steve Cox is just one person who says he’d like to see this kind of development on the old bathing pool site: “The bathing pool site is a desolate wasteland. Where they want this is narrow and has no development space.”
Retired local authority development control officer Chris Lewcock wrote to the Hastings Observer last year saying that what had been presented as a major investment that could boost the town could actually be an “over-ambitious kite flying exercise.”
Around the same time HBC’s cabinet agreed to authorise the Director of Operational Services, in consultation with the Peter Chowney, the leader of the council to support the development of a strategic case for the construction of a harbour quarter at Rock-a-Nore, including seeking external funding and support to take this forward.
They also agreed to authorise the Chief Legal Officer to conclude an options development agreement with Hastings Harbour Quarter in consultation with the council leader and deputy leader, the chair of the Charity Committee, Foreshore Trust and Director of Operational Services and said that the council, Foreshore Trust, and scheme sponsors should develop a “programme of community consultation and engagement while this early work is done.”
In the minutes from the meeting it is noted that the reason for the decision was: “To allow the viability of developing a new harbour, housing and leisure quarter to be properly assessed. To enable the council to assess at an early stage the benefits and potential impacts of such a scheme.”
Since then whenever asked about their views on the scheme the position of leading councillors has been that they need to see more detail about what is being proposed before either opposing the plan or supporting it.
Yesterday’s 1,100 signature petition handed over to HBC by Hastings Green Party urged the outright rejection of plans for the development.
Julia Hilton, Hastings Green Party spokesperson, said: “Hastings Green Party knows from conversations locally that the harbour proposal is massively unpopular and we are proud to have taken the lead in opposing it. We will continue to oppose it, and to be a voice for the community, calling for transparency around all major planning decisions and proper engagement with the people of Hastings about how we create a vision for this town. We need to find ways to bring ideas and solutions to the problems of this town from the bottom up, listening to this community, not top down from secretive developers working behind closed doors.”