It was in 1926 that the Hastings Corporation advertised for an engineer to ‘rebuild Hastings’ and the man they appointed was Sidney Little who would go on to leave a lasting mark on the town.
The regeneration of Hastings was the subject of a ‘short history’ last month written by Council leader and Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate Peter Chowney who looked back down the years to Little’s arrival in 1926.
Looking to the future regeneration of the town Mr Chowney was far from optimistic and concluded saying: “At the moment, the future looks fairly bleak.”
He went on: “What’s needed is a continuation of pre-2010 funding levels, through a long-term programme of planned economic interventions and public investment – but there’s no sign that anything like that will be forthcoming from the current government.”
However Hastings MP Amber Rudd said today that she had ‘fact-checked’ Mr Chowney’s claim and accused him of ‘talking down’ the town.
She said: “It’s typical for Labour to talk down our towns and pretend times were better under their Government. I’d like to remind Peter of a few key improvements to our area.
“Let’s not forget that since the last Labour Government, youth unemployment has nearly halved and there are 540 additional businesses in our towns. The number of people out of work has fallen by 486, or 15 per cent – so it’s no surprise that every Labour Government has left unemployment at a higher rate than they found it.
“Since 2010, we have seen the launch of better transport connections with the Javelin at Ashford International seeing journeys reach London in under 90 minutes, the launch of a new four car electric service between Ore and Brighton, and of course the introduction of an express service with fewer stops which many constituents refer to as the Amber Rudd Seaside Express!
“In 2020, we have more improvements on their way with a new designated service from Hastings and Ore to Gatwick Airport and Croydon. Looking to 2021 and beyond, we will see the continuation of improvements at Ashford International, speed enhancements on the Marshlink and new green technology coming online will boost tourism and business even further in Hastings.
“Education is another area that has dramatically improved since 2010: Following my representations to Government, Hastings was designated an Opportunity Area, becoming one of 12 areas benefiting from a £72 million pool of funding. The funding aims to boost social mobility and unlock the potential of children and young people through education.
“The Opportunity Area has helped some of our schools make it into the top one per cent most improved in the country, and has greatly increased mental health support for young people including £600,000 annually from Government dedicated to improving local services.
“This new funding has delivered clear results, with the number of primary school students in Hastings and Rye attending good or outstanding schools increasing from 73 per cent in 2015 to 93 per cent in 2019. For secondary school students, the improvement is even better – with 83 per cnet students attending good or outstanding schools up from 60 per cent in 2015. This has helped our pupils, with an nine per cent increase in pupils achieving the expected standard (A*-C) since 2010.
“The facts speak for themselves, so it is surprising to see Peter say that things were better in 2010. It is clear that things will only continue to improve under a Conservative Government, and I will be working my hardest for residents to ensure these improvements continue to come to our towns.”
Despite predicting a ‘bleak’ future Mr Chowney says Hastings Borough Council will move towards a more ‘project based’ way of working, planning a series of our own physical regeneration projects that can be ‘self funded’, through the sale of housing for example, as well as seeking grant funding.
• Redevelopment of White Rock Gardens and land in Bohemia as the ‘Bohemia Quarter’, to provide housing, visitor accommodation, a new arts and leisure centre, and new gardens;
• Housing development incorporating 40 per cent housing association rented homes on land behind Bexhill Road (the ‘lower tier’ site);
• A housing and leisure development at West Marina;
• A new business start-up unit creating 78 jobs at Sidney Little Way;
• New housing on the former Harrow Lane playing fields;
• Potential redevelopment of Priory Street car park and the post office sorting office.
Mr Chowney adds: “We’re also drawing up a new regeneration plan with local partners… and will be looking at whether we need a new regeneration company to take these plans forward.
“It’s likely that we’ll continue to take these plans forward jointly with Rother Council, particularly as the new administration there is much more interested in joint working than the previous one was. But without planned government funding and capital investment, this will be far more limited than the original plan, which was based around the £250 million pounds or so of local investment from central government to deliver the plan.
“Hastings still needs proper, planned public investment. Without that, our long-term problems, and the plight of our most deprived communities, will continue,” he concluded.