3,000+ signature petition presented to council but will it be debated? Only if it’s ‘constitutionally friendly’?

Just what is going on at the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards?

It’s two and a half years since Hastings Borough Council said it was on the verge of signing a deal with a developer who was all set to build houses there and it’s getting on for six months since a meeting of the full council was told by Councillor Peter Chowney that signing was imminent.

All that delay has allowed those who do not want to see housing built on the old bathing pool site – who believe its only use should be for leisure purposes, that it should be used to attract people from Hastings across to the western end of the town – to develop their campaign and recruit more people to their cause.

Yesterday campaigners handed in their petition to HBC’s offices. Disappointingly no councillor would come to meet the campaigners and symbolically accept the petition on behalf of the council. Perhaps those in power hope if they ignore the protestors they will go away – if that’s the case then they underestimate the strength of feeling.

Here campaigner Lucie Mason explains what happened when she went to deliver the petition.

The car park was almost full on arriving at Pelham Place car park at 10.45 yesterday morning (April 13th), surely an indication that people are desperate to come and enjoy much needed leisure time down at our fabulous seafront writes Lucie Mason.

With our local economy reliant on tourist trade I’m sure it was a welcome sight for the many small businesses trying to recover. However, it really does beg the question why Hastings Borough Council is ready to throw away the opportunity of maximising the potential of what could be an amazing leisure and recreation area at the other end of town – on the site of the old bathing pool.. 

I personally feel more passionate post Covid that to waste the potential of this site on housing in light of the objections would be a despicable abuse of power. With the growing numbers joining the SOBS group it seems I am not alone.

Covid has meant we have been unable to drive this campaign as strongly as we may have liked but now lockdown is easing I hope to see a renewed energy going forward.

I hope the council recognise that the huge response from residents asking them to carry out meaningful consultation prior to any contracts being signed can no longer be ignored.

Several people turned up in support of the SOBS campaign on Tuesday but no representative of Hastings Borough Council would make themselves available to accept the petition on behalf of the council.

There were 268 signatories on the HBC website – the usual response to petitions on this site are less than 50! There are 520 signatures on the paper petitions that were carried out on the site itself and were located in local shops and the Change.Org petition continues to grow but currently stands at 2,490 signatures.

HBC needs to show that they understand their role as elected representatives and start listening to the communities they serve.

They are custodians of this site and the unique potential this area has to offer. Luckily, previous custodians were not short sighted and managed to retain the many wonderful green spaces, parks and leisure destinations we have to offer locally that now makes this area so desirable for visitors and residents.

Lets hope HBC can follow in their footsteps and leave this space for future generations to enjoy. 

Campaigners say it’s wrong to build the proposed five, five storey blocks of flats on the site of the old bathing pool in St Leonards.

Why no councillor turned up to accept the petition…

Lucie was told: “We are currently in the pre-election period we are unable to facilitate a meeting with a councillor on council property.”

She replied explaining: “We do not want a meeting, we just feel a document expressing the wishes of more than 3,000 people should be received by a senior member of the council rather than the receptionist. It would go a long way to demonstrate the desire of the council to listen to the residents it is there to represent.”

The council responded: “Due to the pre-election period it is not appropriate for a councillor to be present to receive the petition. In normal circumstances it would usually be the Chief Legal Officer or the Mayor who would receive a petition. However due to Covid-19 restrictions and the continued instruction from the government that staff should work from home, we only have minimal essential staff in the office.

“The petition will be received and receipted by our Contact Centre staff and then passed onto our Democratic Services to process. The Democratic Services team will then contact you to advise you of the process.”

Councillor Andy Batsford said he had spoken to Lucie to check the petition was “constitutionally friendly” and would meet the council’s criteria for holding a debate on the issue. He says he very much wants the matter to be debated by the council but for that to happen the petition needs to meet the criteria laid down by HBC for a debate to take place.

Watch videos from the protests staged on the old bathing pool site…

What are your thoughts on the matter? Tell us in the comment section below.

6 thoughts on “3,000+ signature petition presented to council but will it be debated? Only if it’s ‘constitutionally friendly’?

  1. All we are asking for is meaningful consultation between HBC and the community most impacted by this proposal prior to any contract being signed.

    The last line from Cllr Batsford is typical of his tactics of misdirection. There have been several years during which this matter (as he puts it) could have been – debated – by the council. The sheer weight of numbers supporting the SOBS campaign and their ongoing attempts to engage with the council. Should have raised alarm bells within the higher echelons of HBC by now.

    Regardless of Cllr Batsfod’s rhetoric, there has been no meaningful debate, and this appears to be how HBC will continue. The degree of belligerence he and the council present to campaigners is way beyond what the community perceives as democratic.

  2. Well done Lucie Mason for presenting the combined petition to a council official. It is no surprise to me that no councillor from the ruling party would take receipt of it – after all which of them is willing to admit that 3000 object to their plans for 5 high-rise blocks and a multi-storey car park? As Graham Wilkins rightly states, there has been no meaningful engagement with the local community in regard to plans for this last coastal open space in the borough. This is not how a council should behave that cares about communities and their future!

  3. I think I have said in the past all that I dare say on the matter. The council “person” who has mainly made various meaningless comments now says our petition will only be debated if it is “constitutionally friendly”. Please explain what this means in English and not “Batsford speak”. Thank you.

  4. Yes the last line of Cllr Batsford’s remark as Graham Wilkins has noted is very typical of HBC where petitions are involved.
    The council have an aversion of organised public petitions speaking from a personal experience eleven years ago.
    This was about the intended development of Robsack meadow by HBC to build apartments on this greenfield site. Ours was rejected due to the format of the petition. They will no doubt examine every name and address to see if it has been executed correctly to see if they can reject it for any possible fault.
    Objections this large doesn’t go down well with this council when you get objections of this size. The words democracy and transparency get ignored and the community perceived as a bunch of rebels.
    I wish SOBS all the very best in this struggle with HBC

  5. Thanks Sagacious, but having listened to Peter Chowney’s comment at the council meeting last night I can only say that I am totally dumbfounded by the total inability for HBC after two and a half years to be no further on than they were. Surprise, surprise, he will be able to tell us next week if their vital agreement had been signed. Two and a half years later and they still haven’t got a clue. SOBS would have had leisure facilities up and running if HBC had listened to us. Over 3000 signatures from local people on a document saying that we want the old bathing pool site to be used for leisure NOT housing – oh dear. Labour run HBC must go. They just don’t listen to Hastings people.

  6. If councillors genuinely want an open discussion at full council all they need to do is suspend Council Procedural Rules concerning petitions as defined in section 10. This can be done with a majority vote. Once Procedural Rules are suspended councillors will be free to discuss the issue regardless of the format of the petition. This mechanism was available at the full council meeting when the petition was refused and no debate took place. Maybe Cllr Rogers or HBC legal officers should have advised elected members of this mechanism at the time rather than just using the petition format as a pretext for stifling the debate? Forgive my cynicism but it appears to me that a full debate is the last thing that the majority of councillors want.

    Section 24 of part 4 of the constitution covers “Suspension and Amendment of Council Procedure Rules”

    Suspension
    24.1 All of these Council Rules of Procedure except Rule 16.6, save to permit all
    proposals to be considered together when the Council is considering the
    budget and the corporate plan, and 17.2 may be suspended by motion on
    notice or without notice if at least two thirds of the whole number of members of the Council are present. Suspension can only be for the duration of the
    meeting.”

Leave a Reply to Graham Wilkins Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related

Taking everyone at face value

‘Can archdeacons go to heaven?’ was a question that exercised medieval minds because it was this rank of the clergy – between the parish clergy and the bishop – which dealt with financial matters.  Today’s archdeacons remain concerned with matters of finance and buildings but I hope that the current Archdeacon of Hastings – whose […]

Back to school

Whether back to school or still at work, are you, your family, children, friends and colleagues menopause savvy? For most of us in the UK this summer, the weather’s not been great – but September has arrived, bathed in soft warmth and sunshine, marking the autumn equinox and the beginning of the academic year.  And […]