Despite a petition signed by around 2,500 local people and a presentation to the full borough council last night it appears the fears of local people are being overlooked as Hastings Borough Council (HBC) still plans to press ahead with the development of the old bathing pool site.
There have been ongoing protests and calls to action by local people opposed to the potential development of the site to include five, five storey blocks of flats creating around 150 new homes on the land that was once the site of the bathing pool.
When councillors met last night they were presented with a petition signed by more than 2,500 local people asking the HBC to engage in a consultation process with locals about what is right for the site. They contend that doing what HBC plans; beginning consultation AFTER signing a lease with the council’s chosen developers County Gate Properties, will be too late.
Campaigner Lucie Mason spoke directly to councillors last night asking them to change their minds and citing the opposition to the plans as a reason why the council should think again: “Two and half thousand people do not want this to go ahead without having a say, we would ask the council to delay the signing of leases until full consultation has taken place.”
Asked about how campaigners have been treated by ‘leading councillors’ Ms Mason said that it had not been great with debate with councillors happening on social media as requests for formal consultations have been dismissed.
Replying on behalf of the council, Councillor Peter Chowney went over the history of the site and it’s inclusion in the local plan as a site for mixed development. But he appeared to completely ignore the issues raised by the petitioners and one more than one occasion expressed his wish to sign leases with the County gate as soon as possible.
“Overall it will be a good scheme. It may be fewer than 150 homes and that will be part of the consultation that takes place once the leases have been signed.
“I hope the council can sign the leases as soon as possible then start the consultation process.”
Mayor Nigel Sinden who was chairing the meeting then moved business on to the next item on the agenda. Councillor Matthew Beaver said he believed the full council should have an opportunity to discuss the petitioners points but was told that discussion could not happen as that was not in the council’s constitution.
The Leader of the Conservatives on Hastings Borough Council, Councillor Rob Lee who had urged the Labour leadership of the council to listen to the concerns of residents was disappointed.
“This is not the right place to put a large scale, high density housing scheme and local residents are quite right to be concerned,” he says.
“The council has not done a good enough job of listening to local people about what they would like to use the site for. There is a real opportunity to create something that can be a real asset to the community that live near the site and to the whole town. Instead, the Labour leadership have ignored local pleas to be heard and when a senior Labour councillor does engage with the group, he is only rude and dismissive.
“Local people deserve better than this. I urge the Labour leadership at HBC to engage constructively with residents and find a solution that can bring new opportunity into West St Leonards and not push on with this poor-quality scheme”
Speaking after the meeting Ms Mason, who was denied the chance to ask follow-up questions, said: “I feel extremely aggravated that Mr Chowney read his pre-prepared speech with no opportunity to respond – not really open engagement – and that he didn’t really address the petition directly, that we are asking for consultation before signing.
“What goes on the site and whether he thinks it will be a good outcome was not the purpose of the petition.
“What evidence does he have that developers can deliver? He says no grant funding has been found? Is there any evidence they have actually looked? That is why we request contracts be delayed to allow time for investigation into this preferred outcome.
Council papers at the meeting also showed that Sunley, the company originally teaming up with County Gate to fund the project were no longer involved.
Councillors were told: “The council has been advised that County Gate Properties have identified a new funder, in place of Sunley. This is the Generator Group backed by Revcap.
“The council’s advisors (Carter Jonas) advise that the company is well paced to fund the development – due diligence conducted to date supports this view.
“The council is currently clarifying with its legal advisers Bevan Brittan whether there are any procurement issues arising given the change in one of the funding partners.”