JUST weeks after missing out on the City of Culture title, Hastings and St Leonards are battling it out with Cork and Buxton to be named the greatest towns in the UK and Ireland for 2014.
The towns have made the shortlist for a special award run by the Academy for Urbanism, a group of urban experts.
A seven strong team delegation from the Academy was recently welcomed by Hastings Borough Council for a two-day visit.
The Academy created the awards in 2007 to recognise great places and understand what makes them great. They examine what each finalist has achieved in the previous decades rather than those towns and cities which have inherited great architecture.
The judges look at factors such as how the town is run by the council, the local character, commercial success and environmental issues.
Hastings was nominated by Academy members and whittled down from a list of 74 nominations.
During the visit the team was given a guided tour visiting the Old Town, New Town, seafront, White Rock area, pier, Ore Valley Social Housing project, Enviro 21 business centre off Queensway and Alexandra Park.
The visit culminated in a reception at the Jerwood Gallery where delegates met local business leaders, members of community organisations, councillors and urban designers. This year’s winner will be revealed on November 8 at a ceremony at London’s Grand Connaught Rooms.
The Great Town Award Winner 2014 will have a special poem written by playwright and poet Ian McMillan.
Stephen Gallagher, spokesman for the Academy, said: “Hastings and St Leonards has a very good chance of coming home with the award. The team was particularly impressed with the partnerships formed between the council, community groups and business. They also liked the high level of dedication shown by local people to make the town an overall better place.”
Jeremy Birch: “This would be a real shot in the arm especially after losing out on the City of Culture bid.
“We never gave up the themes we started for the bid. We just carried on it’s very pleasing these experts came down to see for themselves the good work that we have been doing.”