There’s been a lack of vision and leadership at Hastings Borough Council (HBC) according to campaigners opposed to plans for a housing development on the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards.
Campaigners are not just opposed to plans for more than 150 homes on the site but they are angry that HBC will not reveal details of what is planned despite being on the verge of signing a contract with a developer.
Hastings In Focus has been told that while the proposed sale has been confirmed the precise details of the developer’s scheme have yet to be released: “The council has received draft plans but at the request of the developer has stated that it is not prepared to disclose them until the sale of the land has been completed,” a spokesman for West Marina Group told us.
On Saturday morning campaigners hope to demonstrate the level of unhappiness that exists towards HBC’s actions by staging a mass meeting on the old bathing pool site: “We want to to demonstrate to HBC the level of opposition there is to the building of 152 residential units on this unique and precious site. They talk about the exciting regeneration of this area but seem to lack vision that anything other than dense residential development is viable.”
In a Facebook call to arms campaigners say: “We are asking everyone that currently uses the site or feels this prestigious site deserves more and should be retained for future generations to come along. Bring banners if you wish but please bring yourselves.
We will be there to see the Park Runners off and are expecting some media coverage, to maximise impact please try and arrive at 8.40am, we will be here until about 11am.”
West Marina Group is not just campaigning for the old bathing pool site but is working on a neighbourhood plan to cover the whole West St Leonards Area.
While it’s understood that proposals being considered by the council include five, five storey blocks of flats on the land immediately opposite Seaside Road HBC will not confirm this to the members of the West Marina Group.
Opposition to the plans for residential development are growing. In late October a Facebook group called St Leonards SOBS Save Our Bathing Site had 543 members, today – less than a month later – that stands at more than 800 with new members joining all the time.
Campaigners believe the site should be earmarked for leisure and recreation use rather than high density housing.
In another mover this week the West marina Group has written to the four candidates bidding to be MP for Hastings and Rye at the forthcoming general election saying; “As a potential champion of the town we hope you will agree with us and lend us your support.
The full text of the letter says: “On behalf of the West Marina Group I am writing to you – and our other parliamentary candidates – to ask for your support in our opposition to the council’s plans for the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards.
“You are probably aware that HBC has announced that a transfer of this land to a developer is imminent, heads of terms having been agreed and that the proposal is to allow up to 152 housing units to be built on the site.
“While the proposed sale has been confirmed the precise details of the developer’s scheme have yet to be released. The council has received draft plans but at the request of the developer has stated that it is not prepared to disclose them until the sale of the land has been completed.
“The interest of the developer is being allowed to take precedence over that of the local community.
“We recognise the need to build more housing but believe this prime seafront location should be principally earmarked for leisure and recreation.
“The town’s economy relies heavily on tourism. Taking into account the impact of climate change on our weather patterns and the imperative to reduce carbon emissions, it is predicted that more and more people will choose to holiday in the UK in the future, and it is vital that the town positions itself to be a become one of the favoured holiday destinations. As the recent House of Lords report starkly warned , coastal towns must either get creative or they will die.
“A report on the coastal regeneration in English resorts published in 2010 highlighted the need to address the lack of innovation to overcome the adverse aspects of the legacy of the past, noting that Hastings, which has difficult metropolitan access, does not reap discernible benefits from regional prosperity. It said the key is to regenerate the democratic excitement that made the seaside an exciting destination for earlier generations.
“What has happened since 2002, when Making Waves, a regeneration strategy for Hastings and St Leonards was published by the council? It was said then that planning work that had been commissioned which would produce a new vision of ‘the seaside’ and what it can offer, and that the town would become one of the most forward thinking seaside towns in England.
“Unfortunately there has been a marked lack of leadership and vision since then.
“The bathing pool site has been sadly neglected over the last 30 years but we believe with leadership and vision it can be transformed into a destination worthy of the name, a vibrant space for the local community, visitors and business owners alike. Instead of a housing estate, let there be a swimming pool, flower gardens, a sculpture park, an iconic building or other such amenity that will give pleasure, inspire and help with the much needed regeneration of the town.
“As a potential champion of the of the town we hope you will agree with us and lend us your support.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Perry told Hastings In Focus this afternoon: “I am hoping to be there Saturday morning to support the demo.
“The West Marina Group is so right about the transparency issue, and this council’s tendency to roll over for developers…
“I broadly agree with them about the site and the need for excellent design and amenities. While I am aware that some campaigners don’t want any housing, we Lib Dems do still want to stay focused on the Borough’s housing need.
“Lib Dem colleagues suggest to me that a small amount of housing could be focused on the MoD and former Stamco sites on Cinque Ports Way. Priority in that should be to local need as opposed to second home seaside flats.”
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