Jerwood’s power paid for by you

A ROW over land ownership is costing taxpayers up to £20,000 a month.

Legal red tape surrounding the development of The Stade and the Jerwood Gallery means the electricity supply to the new cafe and Stade Hall is running from two generators.

And a third will shortly be needed to power the gallery.

The dispute, which has already cost taxpayers almost £100,000 so far, centres around who owns a strip of land, around three square metres in size, where an empty electricity substation is based.

When completed this should provide power to the whole Stade development but UK Power Networks refuses to put in any of its equipment until legal difficulties have been resolved, Kevin Boorman, marketing and communications head for Hastings Borough Council (HBC), said.

One angry resident said: “It’s a scandal as it has cost the taxpayers, so far, tens of thousands of pounds and someone needs to be accountable for what has gone wrong.”

The disputed piece of land is part-owned by the council and the Foreshore Trust, a charity that was set up in 1893 to run the whole of the town’s seafront.

But HBC has been acting as trustee for the charity since January, effectively making the authority outright owners of the strip of land, Mr Boorman told the Observer.

A building was also constructed in July last year to house the substation on the piece of land.

But Mr Boorman fears that if the legal wrangle is not resolved soon this could be knocked down and relocated elsewhere, potentially costing a further £60,000 from the council’s coffers.

The red tape also means that a fourth generator will be needed to power The Stade Open Space for next weekend’s Seafood and Wine Festival, costing up to an extra £1,500 for the two days.

The first of the diesel-powered generators arrived in March and the second in May. The third one is imminent.

Mr Boorman said: “This money is all coming from the ratepayers. It’s a nightmare and we are really not happy about having to pay out all of this money.

“We still do not have any idea when this will be sorted out, are very concerned and trying our best to resolve this as quickly as possible by pressing lawyers for UK Power Networks for a speedy resolution.

“It is costing taxpayers up to £5,000 a week.

“Even when the legal difficulties are sorted out it could take another three months for UK Power Networks to install its equipment, costing us another £60,000.”

Niamh Arnett, spokesman for UK Power Networks, said: “We are working closely with HBC to provide a new power supply to the Stade development in Marine Parade, which will be safe and reliable for the future.

“Our legal team is investigating complicated land ownership issues and we will continue to work with the council to resolve these issues so that the work can proceed.”