Exciting proposals for the regeneration of West St Leonards have been drawn up by a passionate group of local people who hope their ideas could win a share £25m earmarked for the town.
They’ve had to battle the stereotype of community organisations that – no matter how enthusiastic and experienced their members – can often be criticised for ‘not doing enough’ or ‘not offering solutions’ when their main focus is to protests against what they believe are unwanted or ill-thought out plans for their area.
West St Leonards Forum, Save Our Bathing Site (SOBS) and West Marina Org have certainly attracting some of that kind of criticism and there have been those who were sceptical that they could make any difference around the area.
But two very successful protests on the land where the old bathing pool stood, door to door surveys and forums with local residents all proved to the campaigners that people were on their side of the argument and did not want to see high density housing on the iconic site. As a result they set out to devise their own proposals for how the site could be used again for leisure, recreation and as a way to pull people down to the eastern end of the town by giving them a good reason to go there.
Relying on the expertise and enthusiasm of individuals West St Leonards Forum, Save Our Bathing Site (SOBS) and West Marina Org have jointly submitted to the Hastings Town Deal proposals for a re-vamp and revival of West Marina centred upon the bathing pool site, West Marina Gardens, the Bo Peep parade and West St Leonards Station as a fully rounded destination for residents and visitors.
The proposal draws on ideas for activities and facilities on the bathing pool site made over many years and also the results of a survey and of forums with locals earlier this year. If the project is accepted in principle by the Town Deal Board then there will be a lot more engagement about the precise detail. A locally based management board and project manager is proposed.
Campaigners say: “If you want to support the proposals, we strongly suggest that you write to the Borough Council Managing Director Jane Hartnell, her email address is email@example.com and/or the East Sussex County Council Chief Executive Becky Shaw firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Both women sit on the Town Deal Board, which examines proposals submitted to improve the Hastings economy.
The UK government invited 101 towns to develop proposals for a Town Deal – there’s a £3.6b funding pot to support the best ideas – and Hastings is one of those towns eligible to bid for up to £25m with the opportunity to bid for more money from other national sources. The Town Deal will cover the whole of the Hastings borough.
What is being proposed for West St Leonards are three key things:
- In the short term, more facilities on the seafront like changing screens, and more signposting and information boards around the area, plus some ‘housekeeping’ support for footway surfaces and a ‘lick of paint’ to Bexhill Road shops;
- Activities and facilities on the bathing pool site – a ‘pop up’ pool, a ‘pop up’ performance space and basic planting, plus a series of mini-cultural and sporting events all aimed at drawing people back to the area as a destination;
- Preparing a set of detailed projects for permanent development on the various sites in the area.
On behalf of West St Leonards Forum, SOBS & West Marina Org, Bryan Fisher says: “Our joint proposal appears to be the only project related to our end of the borough, an area that has been neglected in so many ways over the years. This exciting proposal clearly demonstrates that the three local community organisations can work together to produce a viable plan that offers significant improvements to our community and beyond. I urge all those interested in regenerating our area to contact members of the Town Deal Board and show your support!”
Virginia Vilela says: “West Marina was once, with the Old Town and pier, one of three main visitor destinations in the borough, one of the economic pillars of the town. Sadly over the years its contribution to the town’s attractions has been allowed to decline… West Marina Gardens and the former bathing pool site are in a prime seafront location for leisure and recreation.
“Immediately adjoining are the Bo Peep shops, pubs, cafés and guest houses. There are numerous studios and workshop units in Seaside and Caves Roads. In an arc around West Marina is a series of potential residential development sites. West Marina is served by the A259, main bus routes and West St Leonards Station. There is great potential to regenerate this destination and restore its former commercial heft to spearhead the revival of the Borough economy.
“The proposal which West St Leonards Forum has submitted is for a programme of meantime activities, environmental upgrades and sign-posting to revive local confidence, expand commercial activity and increase visitor numbers. In parallel the project team would prepare and promote a series of oven ready permanent investment and development proposals to build on this re-awakened interest.
“The West St Leonards Forum has, pre-COVID, and with the support of Locality, already conducted door to door surveys and forums with local residents. The ideas in the submission reflect in large degree the outcome of these soundings. Local businesses and residents are very keen to be engaged in the revival of West Marina.”
Whats the plan and what does it cost?
To create the physical, cultural and commercial foundations for the resurgence of West Marina as a vibrant coastal neighbourhood centre and visitor destination.
The Project Proposers will work with local business, sports and cultural communities to establish and progress meantime environmental improvements and a series of sports and arts events using existing and other pop-up facilities to promote activity in and longer term regeneration of West Marina.
The Proposers and partners will in parallel prepare a business development/action area plan with fully worked up project propositions for permanent investment and funding bids. A locally representative managing board will work with a part-time community coordinator and draw on technical advice from appropriate local experts. A pop-up shop/office will be established as focal point for West Marina regeneration.
What could local people expect?
A series of mini-festivals utilising a mix of small indoor and larger outdoor performance spaces including:
- Westmarine an open air event celebrating and promoting awareness of the potential of the Marine Conservation Area for tourism, sustainable fishing and aquaculture, wildlife protection and underwater archaeology.
- Westwednesday a series of indoor and outdoor musical and theatrical events e.g. a chess tournament using human pieces.
- Westweekend celebrating, in particular, water-based recreational activities.
- Westgallery as part of the Southern Arts open days.
- A demountable or pop-up swimming pool, a pop up performance space and a pop-up sports education facility on the former bathing pool site and equipment for seasonal off-shore recreation such as diving rafts.
- Temporary awnings, seating, sound systems and screens for outdoor events.
- Beach showers, changing screens, bike/e-scooter stands, a lifeguard stand and secure out-of-season storage space for equipment.
- Tourist information boards about current attractions and past history of the area.
- Street scene improvements to the Bo Peep shopping parade and along the West Marina seafront and Cinque Ports Way, including a support fund for decorating materials.
- Meantime landscaping of the bathing pool site including raised beds, seating, waste bins.
- Meantime re-organisation including bike/e-scooter stands and upgrading of the appearance of the Keats Close and Carpetland car parks.
- Traffic calming on Bexhill Road and Grosvenor Gardens.
- Signage and footway improvements to and from West St Leonards station.
- Re-positioning of bus stops and advance signage.
- A detailed Business Development and Action Area Plan based on detailed engagement with local businesses and residents, and existing and potential visitors to and users of the area leading to ….
- A set of detailed, costed longer term projects with local and institutional support for the permanent regeneration of West Marina. These are not part of the current bid but might include:
- A managed, balanced and appropriate phasing of new housing development on brownfield sites across the area.
- Support to existing and new small business, craft studios and other workshops in Caves Road and Seaside Road.
- Support to existing and new guest houses in the area.
- A series of new permanent recreational and leisure facilities within the former bathing pool site, West Marina Gardens and in/on the adjoining sea including a keynote attraction or attractions such as a saltwater open air pool, an active creation of a full-size copy of the Amsterdam, a sculpture garden, a permanent outdoor music or theatre space.
- Reopening of access to the Brighton/Ashford rail services, by re-using the West Marina Station platforms or extending West St Leonards Station.
- Creation of a permanent mixed pedestrian and short-term parking plaza between West Hill Road, the Bo Peep Public House and the Bexhill Road shops.
- Stabilisation of the Caves Road cliff and wildlife area and re-opening of the Sussex Steps, a key pedestrian route between the seafront and housing.
- Support to “little and often” seafront public transport.
- Complement the current Local Plan Review including identifying and specifying in more detail appropriate sites for housing and small enterprises.
- Draw upon recent forums and surveys held for the creation of a proposed Neighbourhood Forum and Plan, in particular recognising and building on existing assets and activities in the area and proposing environmental improvements.
- Fit with the Borough Council’s Seafront and other policies on, for example, housing, recreation and climate change.
- Fit with County Council Transport polices in respect of pedestrians, cycling and public transport.
- Contribute to the objectives of the most recent SELEP “Economic Prospectus for The South East Coast” Notably in promoting and improving access to coastal assets.
- Contribute to wider understanding and engagement with the objectives of the Marine Conservation Area.
- Support Public Health objectives in encouraging recreation.
- Increase flexibility for holding indoor and outdoor cultural and sporting activities.
- Visual improvements to the local environment.
- Improved health outcomes.
- Improved economic benefits from use of local shops, guest houses and other facilities creating more jobs.
- Improved recreation facilities.
- Increased cultural value.
- Increased community cohesion.
- Visitor footfall and use of recreational/cultural spaces in West Marina but also as an addition to overall Hastings (and 1066 Country) visitor numbers.
- Footfall in local shops and pubs.
- Improved business turnover.
- Passenger traffic at W St Leonards Station and on local buses.
- Increased and active community participation in management of the area.
- Visitor and resident satisfaction surveys.
- Health indicators.
Project fit with town deal priorities:
Urban regeneration, planning and land use
Arts, culture and heritage
Potential partners that could support delivery?
- The Coastal Users Group and partner organisations.
- The Foreshore Trust.
- Businesses in the West Marina area.
- Local sports groups and Hastings Half Marathon and Park Run.
- St Leonards Town Team.
- Love Hastings.
- The University of Brighton.
- Southern Arts and other local arts and theatrical groups.
- RNLI and Beach Patrol.
- Hastings and Rother CCG.
- A demountable or pop-up swimming pool
- A “pop up” performance space/sports education space
- Equipment for seasonal off-shore recreation: example diving rafts
- Awnings, seating, sound systems and screens for outdoor events
- Beach showers (2 sets)
- Changing screens
- A lifeguard stand
- Secure out-of-season storage space
- Tourist information boards
- Street scene improvements to the Bo Peep shopping parade and along the West Marina seafront and Cinque Ports Way including a support fund for decorating materials
- Landscaping of the bathing pool site including raised beds, seating, waste bins
- Re-organisation and upgrading of the appearance of the Keats Close and Carpetland car parks.
- Signage and footway improvements to and from West St Leonards station.
- Re-positioning of bus stops and advance signage
- Mini-festivals (say 4 x 2 years) at £10,000 per time*
- *Assumes that use of the bathing pool site would be without charge.
- Part-time project manager for (say) 2 years
- Technical consultancy time
- Pop-up shop: (possibly rent free) running costs for 2 years:
- Traffic calming on Bexhill Road and Grosvenor Gardens (signage, public notices)
- An Action Area and Business Development Area Plan and Project Proposals
- Some of these costs could be re-interpreted as Capital (introductory support) costs.
- Total: £425,500
We’ve been following this story closely, here are two films we have made