The controversial removal of benches from Hastings town centre last month was a considered and deliberate action by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) to reclaim an area of the town that had become ‘rude, lewd and intimidating’.
That’s what Councillor Paul Barnett told fellow councillors last night when HBC met as a full council for the first time since February.
Mr Barnett who is the council’s lead member for Urban Environment and Community Safety said that just after lockdown ended he led a group on a walkabout in the town, while doing so he said an ‘altercation’ broke out among a large group outside Millets.
The people involved, he said, had alcohol and drug issues, he said they had colonised that area of town, he described their behaviour as ‘rude, lewd and intimidating’.
“It was unacceptable and local businesses said so,” Mr Barnett told fellow councillors.
He explained that he started a review of the situation involving police, Hastings town centre management and the county council as well as involving local business. The upshot was that a decision was made to ‘reclaim’ York Gardens for the public. That meant removing the benches where those causing a disturbance would congregate.
“Residents can now walk there uninterrupted and there is a changed atmosphere in that part of town,” Mr Barnett explained.
With increased police presence and increased attention to that part of the town centre by council wardens Mr Barnett says he hopes it will be possible at some stage in the future to replace the benches that were removed.