Labour’s Mike Turner says objections to Harrow Lane development is ‘nimbyism’

Last week’s meeting of Hastings Borough Council saw the debate continue over the future of the Harrow Lane playing fields. Gifted to the town for recreational use, HBC now wants to sell them off for housing development. The Conservative opposition wants to retain the playing fields as they, are describing them as ‘the last green lung’ in that part of town. But there are other issues too, with plans for housing and a new supermarket on the Ashdown House site and development already underway right at the top of Harrow Lane can the current roads and other infrastructure actually cope with what is being proposed?

Controversy over plans to build new houses on Harrow Lane playing fields continued at last week’s Hastings Borough Council (HBC) full council meeting.

There are plans for a new supermarket and significant numbers of new houses on the Ashdown House site.

Councillor Mike Edwards said there was ‘tremendous opposition’ from local residents: “The reasons for this opposition are very well known, general road congestion, the surgery closing down, the hospital nearby is at full capacity—everything speaks against the sale of this council owned green space.

“This is entirely the wrong time to dig up this last green lung in the borough. I would like to firmly declare to the Council we should not proceed with this; the Council is wrong to, when there are so many other planning approvals which already have been granted that could be easily progressed.

…if we don’t bring these houses forward, we are condemning the next generation of our children to yet more poverty, more inequality, less chances of education and work…

Councillor Andy Batsford

“This field was given to the Council many years ago, it was given with legal covenants which are about to be broken by this council.”

Former leader of the Council Peter Chowney dismissed opposition to the project: “I know there’s this sudden opposition to it, but we have had some Conservative councillors clearly supporting it.

“This was approved in the budget two years ago. One of the reasons for the sale is because we have a gap in our budget of £3.5million; it is true the money we received from the government throughout Covid has been generous, but we have to make that money up somehow. The sale of Harrow Lane would bring in about £250,000 revenue annually. If you’re not going to sell that, you’ve got to come up with a way of getting that £250,000—whose jobs are you going to cut? What services are you going to get rid of? How are you going to magic up that amount of income?”

Mr Chowney then went on to dismiss opposition from residents of the area, claiming: “You will always get local opposition to large developments – it has suddenly become a big issue.”

Councillor John Rankin told the meeting: “I want to address this situation about me reportedly saying that Harrow Lane should have council houses built on it.

“In 2018 I represented a group of residents and spoke on their behalf against having homes built on Harrow Lane. I also spoke against having homes built on Harrow Lane in 2016. I pushed through an amendment. I changed one word, a generic reference to the council retaining the right to build housing itself. I changed the word ‘had’ to ‘remains’ to say: “It remains the aspiration of HBC to build homes,” which I thought was very important bearing in mind we’ve spent considerable amounts of tax payer’s money on setting up a Hastings housing company, designed for this very purpose, which now sits on a shelf somewhere in an office gathering dust and doing nothing.”

He went on: “…and I want to clarify our MP’s position because she has been spoken about and she is not here to defend herself.

“Our MP is against building on Harrow Lane because she is now aware of all the facts, including the restrictive covenants on the land saying that it must be used for recreational purposes.”

Labour’s Mike Turner hit back at Councillors Edwards and Rankin, dismissing their criticisms and clarifications in what was essentially a personal attack on his colleagues: “This is a sort-of deja-vu as far as I’m concerned. I remember in the council chamber when the Conservatives were protesting against building on the Ridge and they suggested putting it all down to Baird Ward. I have to say what Councillor Edwards and Councillor Rankin have come out with is a ‘nimbyism’ (not in my back yard).

“I have to say as far as the MP is concerned she should learn the facts before she starts making statements. I don’t buy the Tories green credentials, oh no that doesn’t wash with me, ‘nimbyism’ and that’s the fact of the matter,” he claimed.

Former leader of the council’s Conservative group Rob Cooke said: “I was leader of the Conservative group at the time and he’s right that we did oppose one site on the Ridge, but we also opposed building on Speckled Wood and Robsack. At the time the Labour Party told us we were ludicrous and those two sites had to stay in the plan no matter what. Lo and behold, six months later, Councillor Chowney in one of his first meetings as leader took both those sites out, so it’s not fair to say it’s a ‘nimbyism’ when we were supporting residents in Hollington, Tressel, Ore and Baird and you agreed with us.”

Gifted to the town for recreational use the playing fields have been described as ‘The last green lung’ in that corner of town – do you think housing should be built there?

Councillor Clair Carr told the meeting: “What seems to be lost among is this plan in Harrow Lane is to help the people in Hastings who need it the most. The problem is we have around 300 people in temporary accommodation, and 3,000 people waiting on the council list for a home. They have nowhere to go. We have targets set by the government we have to fulfil and we need to build somewhere. Wherever we build currently the Tories oppose every single site.”

Councillor Andy Batsford, HBC’s lead councillor for housing said: “All I’ve heard from the Tories is their desperate attempt to play to the crowd, to play to the votes. No talk of the thousands of people, the children, living in damp and terrible accommodation waiting on the housing list for over two years because of the desperate lack of affordable housing in this town.”

Mr Batsford then decided to personally address those in the town living in temporary accommodation: “I’m going to talk to those people,” he said.

“We the Labour council, we see you, we hear you, okay? We’re not leaving you on that waiting list in the hope some development company in the future builds some houses for you—we are going to deliver 500 affordable houses for this town, and when those planning permissions are granted we will celebrate with you and show you those plans that you will call those homes a place where your children can grow up and thrive and be a fantastic asset for our town. Because if we don’t bring these houses forward, we are condemning the next generation of our children to yet more poverty, more inequality, less chances of education and work—this has to be one of the focuses for this town, no matter what.”

What is your view of the council’s plans for this part of town?

Tell us in the comment section below.

7 thoughts on “Labour’s Mike Turner says objections to Harrow Lane development is ‘nimbyism’

  1. It is wrong to sell off a green space playing field to fund a shortfall in a budget. Yes houses are needed, but that has been the case for years. Look at Tilebarn, built for London overspill. No locals were allowed to rent them at first. We cannot house everyone. Harrow lane cannot cope with more traffic neither can the rest of the Town.

  2. These playing fields have been well used by many local sports groups, individuals and families for many years, as intended by the gifter, the Council removed the facilities there and dug test pits all over the field to to deter users obviously intending to sell by any means, the area can not cope with yet more housing and development, there are numerous developments already in progress, why not speed these up if they are so desperately needed? We need our green space and so does the wildlife that lives there already, give us a break HBC….

  3. While there is reported to be”covenant(s)” on this land, depending the wording it could be challenge in the High Court to break it. Breaking of these is not uncommon.
    Need to see a copy of the Land Registry Title.
    This will not be the first time the council has broken a covenant. The Priory Shopping Centre that was once a cricket ground. Also the long past Archery Gardens had a covenant from Decimus Burton. But with both these properties the covenants were broken.

  4. Oh hell, get the violins out. If there are quote “thousands of people, the children, living in damp and terrible accommodation waiting on the housing list” then isn’t it the councils responsibility to make sure this accommodation is suitable for adults and children to live in?

  5. Of course the Labour run council want to build houses on it, ITS A GREEN SPACE.
    They wont be happy until the only grass left is where it’s growing between paving slabs on the unkempt streets. This council is nothing more than shortsighted and they have a total lack of vision.

  6. This is exactly the same situation as exists for the Old Bathing Pool site: gifted to the community for leisure use but HBC wants to develop for housing. There are better alternatives available but HBC do not want the bother of using CPOs! Instead they are grabbing green open spaces. Housing is needed but not at the expense of wellbeing!!

  7. errrrr no the surrounding roads cannot. why dont they finish the job they started on the a21 link road as that road is a waste of money at the moment. or repair the ridges west is in utter joke and keeps getting bodged by the council. probably filling their pockets. crooks

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