Chowney – “I hope we can sign the lease as soon as possible!” Where now for bathing pool protestors?

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.

Video from December 2019.

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.

The latest protest earlier this month was a visual one with a flag being planted on the site, each flag representing one of the signatories to the petition.

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”

Peter Chowney, HBC’s lead councillor for finance hopes leases with developers can be signed as soon as possible.

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.”

15 thoughts on “Chowney – “I hope we can sign the lease as soon as possible!” Where now for bathing pool protestors?

  1. I think the Mayor was a waste of space, to be honest.

    Disgraceful behavior by the council. There were several elements in Peter Chowney ‘s prepared response that were questionable. Sadly Lucie was not permitted to challenge them. This is not democracy in action.

  2. Welcome to ‘Shrugsville-On-Sea’

    This development will see the greatest changes to the St Leonards-On-Sea seafront in 90 years since Sidney Little & 100 years before him James Burton: 1828 will mark the 200th anniversary of St Leonards-On-Sea. The legacy of Burton & Little’s seafront vision continues well documented in C21 books & exhibitions.

    Peter Chowney’s performance at the meeting last night was that of a dictatorship spokes-person: sticking to the script penned by the ‘back room’ boys – It was a cold mean hearted display by HBC.

    Chowney displayed zero empathy towards community concerns raised by this 2,600 signature petition. Zero respect or acknowledgement of the dedicated community campaign efforts. No effort to engage with the intelligence, creativity & gumption of the petition. No crumbs of consolation. Whilst the rest of the Labour councillors & their leader looked uneasy, desperately waiting for their executioner to finish the job: to slay the petition.

    Chowney displayed zero passion for the towns seafront: it’s environmental or architectural legacy. No interest in its rich history or future. He was unable to muster enthusiasm for this huge seafront development, no reassurances that the council would deliver something for the town & community could be proud of.

    Q/ Come 2028 what will this council have contributed for the next 200 years?
    A/ A bland ‘bolt on’ executive housing complex, that will look dated & weather battered within 5 years.
    & this will be what Councillor Peter Chowney will be remembered for: a prominent plaque should be unveiled for him.

  3. How can it be democratic if the council members are already prepped about a petition, but petitioner does not know what they will ask, and is then followed by the project sponsor who can distort facts at will and cannot have anything queried? How is it democratic if HBC’s petition process is so flawed that multiple users gave up; so the popular version had to be introduced? Is this deliberate by HBC?

  4. Its a bit to near the sea to build flats/houses in 10 or 20 years time with sea waters rising they will all be under water!

  5. What an awful situation this has become. But to be quite honest, I am really not surprised at the Chowney et al ignoring the peitition of 2500 signatures. This is what this council does and has done on other development issues in the past. Ignore the people. Ignore their wishes. And carry on the way THEY want things done.
    People really must remember Councillors such as Chowney when it comes to ballot box time.
    It is a disgraceful result of what is supposed to be a democratic system we live in.
    Cllr Rob Lee remarks on how it is a disgrace how the council have not listened to the people. Well he should know this is a regular occurrence.
    My only thought now is perhaps SOBS could pursue a Judicial Review of this decision. Not a cheap option but maybe the only one now.

  6. Many thanks HIF for printing my previous comment. I notice I made a typo on para 1/. It should have read –
    “2028 will mark the 200th anniversary of St Leonards-On-Sea”

    I wanted to mention this 200 year anniversary as it is only 7 years away. It ‘could be’ a big opportunity for funding for St Leonards as there will be significant interest in the remarkable unique history of the area & builder James Burton’s legacy. It will only be an opportunity if our council seize the opportunity to make it so. Why is it that the community always have to be the ones dragging the council screaming & kicking into thinking with any long term vision or civic pride? But afterwards take credit for any success……

    I would also like to mention the chosen developers – Chowney announced a change in the funder working with County Gate. It is no longer the highly dubious Sunley Group, after 2 years of negotiations they have pulled out. It is now ‘The Generator Group’ with funding via REVCAP. Looking at companies house records ‘Generator (St Leonards) Ltd’ was est in March 2020 – so their involvement does not appear so fresh?

    The Generator Group are based in Essex building executive housing for London city commuters along the East Anglian train route (& further afield) A recent project in Norwich, a dull looking riverside block its sales literature targeting young people relocating to Norwich from London with leasehold one bed flats priced at 275K & 2 bed flats at 522K. By Norwich prices for local buyers that is inflated & out of reach.

    I have noticed Local Labour savaging the SOBS group as being Tory ‘middle class’ against home building for locals, without sympathy for the homeless. That baseless spiteful rhetoric seems to have dripped down from the ambitious Clr Batsford? Just wait for Labour to go canvassing for votes in the finished development (if that ever happens), let them count how many ‘affordable housing’ doors they knock upon. How many grateful local families open the door to engage with them. It is more likely no-one will be at home, as the owners are absent up in London or renting the property out for lucrative AIR B&B. This plan is going to backfire big time on Labour, they will never live this down. They have lost my long loyal vote over this, along with growing numbers.

    1. Hmmmn! not sure that Sunley has pulled out, there may well be another Sunley controversy in the near future. Watch this space. It is also worth noting that Amanda Vint (a director of Countygate) is also a director of the ‘Generator Group’ strange that!

  7. We have to go higher than this irresponsible council that we have in this town. I vote we take it as high as we can. Disgusted that Chowney didn’t listen to one word .

  8. Those in favor should pay compensation for any damage to house prices/business, in turn those against should make a collective bid for the lease if they’re serious about preserving it – it’s the only way to ascertain if they as a group cumulatively value preserving it more than homebuyers/tenants would cumulatively value it

    Housing would obviously mean a lot to those who receive it so you need some way of weighing that against the opinions of many against, and putting a financial value on that is the best method we have

  9. Matthew I find this a bizarre argument – the type only a private developer would offer in response: the community having to dig into their own pockets to pitch against Tory dream London/ international developers only interested in short term profit? To buy land already owned by the borough? There are grant opportunities that the council could work WITH the community to gain. If only they had the gumption.

    There were over 2.600 signatures on the petition & countless negative press reports. We are not discussing a random plot of land that a few neighbours are quibbling over.

    HBC’s development is about capital for investor incomers. It is not about community & long term town planning for local business. Over the past 18 months HBC have conducted a social cleaning campaign to woo the developers. Caging up the Grosvenor Gardens area promenade bench kiosks & moving on the caravans – that community must have really valued the area as ‘home’ – but in a very different way to London executive home investors. I hear Clr Batsford has been piping up on social media wanting a Waitrose to replace Bensons For Beds – champagne socialism or what!

    HBC are posing as private property developers, contradicting their Labour manifesto: land-banking this prime seafront land for decades, neglecting it to ripen it for sale. Not even a park bench for the elderly or goal post for the young. Seeing off undesirable neighbours as soon as prices rise. Everything election candidate Chowney spoke against at the 2019 hustings. He continues to negotiate with developers from the off shore/ union scabbing Richard Tice/Sunley school of building > via County Gate & their director who sat on 8 of their companies.

    What value ca be placed on the environmental & historical impact on the seafront? The town planning for long term prosperous future of St Leonards, nurturing its community, their children & their children’s children. How do you place a value on that? Everyone knows the council are skint but there are grants out there, there are better business decisions.

    Sorry Matthew but I am batting this one back to HBC.

    1. @Dirk – (sorry for delay) if people feel strongly enough they will be willing to put their hands on their pocket over the issue – so they feel so strongly about history that they’d work over time or sacrifice savings to save it? If course many won’t be able to afford to, but among the signatories there will be people with the money. Money may not be the perfect valuation but it’s the best we have and I do think I that people who lose out should be compensated – We have to remember that housing has a definite high value to the small number of people who get it, maybe it’s not the optimum site, but if it isn’t then that should be reflected in the price after they compensate for any damage caused to valuations

      You could argue that you could financially value history by the proportion of income the average person spends in a non covid year in museums and giving to history related charities, vs other discretionary things

      1. Matthew, I’m find your comments off topic & muddled – Did you read the petition?

        Your comments focus on the residents with properties overlooking this site?
        Also you are focussed on history (?) whereas the campaign focusses on the FUTURE. The petition has over 2,600 signatures from the borough’s residents who care about the FUTURE of seafront land development & impact of council decisions as they affect EVERYONE.

        As Sienna pointed out in her comments – This development will bring the greatest changes to the seafront in 90 yrs. All changes must be excellent ensuring prosperous FUTURE for the borough.

        The campaign focusses on BEST town planning – That the site should be leisure/ recreation/ tourism focussed as that would be far more beneficial to this borough’s FUTURE – to it’s community, economy & in turn the council.

        Did you watch the campaign video on YOUTUBE ? The drone footage shows numerous nearby sites far more suited to housing developments. Plenty of high value for property developers creating lovely homes for locals & investors at these sites –

  10. A sad predictable response from HBC yet again treating their community as irritants best avoided. Chowney’s routine dismissive cold style – HBC officers pulling the councillor strings & ticking boxes. Pushing through ill considered plans for the town’s future.

    Affordable housing & vibrant leisure destination who are they kidding? Soulless luxury flats & a restaurant, nothing for locals. Labour look like nincompoops, but all political parties failed here. Where were the Greens, they defend the County Park, White Rock Gardens but not the seafront? The Tory MP only ever seen for media photo ops.

    The campaign should have targeted the whole town. If this complex is ever completed everyone will then gaze in horror & ask why, oh why? The 25% AH by then, a long forgotten council promise. I was impressed by SOBS campaigns video of drone footage revealing numerous sites in the area ripe for housing. This should have been wider publicised & still could be.

    As for councils ‘Regen’ Vision’ for St Leonards seafront – Look at the AZUR Marina Pavilion project with 2 mill funding, only 13yrs on now a dilapidated blight to the seafront, trail of neg controversy inc the prom closed off for private use, repeated business bankruptcies, wedding street brawls etc.etc.

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