There’s mounting anger at plans by the council to sell-off Harrow Lane playing fields for housing and in the process depriving that part of town of its last open green space.
That’s why there is a protest tomorrow morning at 11am when organisers hope people will turn out to show their opposition to the proposed sell-off.
More than 700 people have already signed a petition calling on Hastings Borough Council (HBC) not to sell off the playing fields for housing and now the Conservative councillors on the council say they are: “…firmly opposed to the sale of Harrow Lane playing fields, a precious green space which, once the adjoining development sites are built on, will be the last remaining ‘green lung’ in Ashdown Ward.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we need space to exercise, walk the dog, kick a ball about and generally chill out. We all know what happened on the adjoining site, it looks like a moonscape now but imagine 67 houses crammed onto that site.
“They want to put more than 140 houses on the playing field site our protest is to tell the Labour group that runs the council that the playing field is ‘not for sale’ and we would welcome all residents to come and join us to make their feelings known.“
When the Harrow Lane playing field was gifted to HBC covenants were placed on the deed that meant that the site would remain an area for residents to enjoy, Councillor Paul Foster says: “HBC has now decided to break those covenants by selling the site for development. Thereby, not living up to the hopes and aspirations of the benefactor.”
Click here to go to the petition that has ben set up to ask local people to show they do not support the council’s plans and to request that HBC ‘immediately stop’ its plans to sell the Harrow Lane Playing Field. The council is also asked to recognise that the area actually belongs to the people of Hastings, “…not the council who are merely the custodian of the deeds.”
Calvin Humphries says: “This is a key green space in a disadvantaged area for working class kids to play on, take this away and you encourage deliquentism! (sic).”
Jennifer Fletcher adds: “Always been grateful for this space. It is needed by so many and should remain the way it is.”
Councillor Andy Patmore, leader of the Conservative group on HBC has written an open letter to the council that asks for the land to be withdrawn from sale saying he believes the sale of the playing fields, seems contrary to the council’s aspirations outlined in its Town Deal objective to, “…create the South East’s first green garden town.”
HBC’s objective says: “Visitors will also want to see the South East’s first green garden town. Green arteries buzzing with biodiversity will connect our old Norman harbour of a town centre to its nationally recognised countryside parks, seafront and urban parks. This, coupled with the wider movement and access plans and curation of our street scene, will transform the town and allow room to breathe, think and dwell – attracting much needed footfall into our town centre.”
Mr Patmore suggests it would be a healthier aspiration for HBC to re-designate Harrow Lane Playing Fields as a park, which he says is ‘much needed’ in that part of town?
“We would like to see the Council adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach for the Harrow Lane Playing Fields site as there are a number of housing developments in the pipeline for that area. The Council is also going through a consultation period for the new Local Plan and the sale seems to pre-empt its outcome,” he tells HBC
There are already more than 420 dwellings that have been granted – or are pending – planning approval to be built in the immediate vicinity including the Ashdown House site. Mr Patmopre says the Conservative Group believe it would be prudent for the Council to see the full impact of all the planned development before taking the decision to sell Harrow Lane Playing Fields.
“With the number of planned housing units in the immediate area, there is a strong argument to continue to use this space as much needed recreational land for the enjoyment of the 420 planned new households,” he says.
His letter concludes: “A deferment of the decision to sell this land would allow the Council time to reconsider the sale and keep control of this site and its ability to make decisions over its future use.
“The Conservative group would respectfully ask HBC to stop the sale of Harrow Lane Playing Fields, leaving this recreational space for the local people to enjoy, and re-think where Harrow Lane Playing Fields sits in our overall town planning ideology and aspirations.”
Labour’s Councillor Andrew Batsford, the lead member with responsibility for housing says: “I’m listening to the nearly 2,000 families on the housing waiting list. The 300 in temp accommodation, the thousands struggling to find an affordable homes to rent. We have to be honest and know there’s a balancing act between retaining and enhancing bio diversity and open spaces and the real crisis in housing here in Hastings.”