Observer Comment: Hastings will not accept the closure of the maternity unit

WITH the Observer once again getting whipped up over rumours that the maternity unit at The Conquest is under threat, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was 2007.

But the depressing truth is that we are here again, facing the uncomfortable possibility that young mums will be forced to drive over to Eastbourne to have their children – or vice versa.

The trust are saying no decision has been made, but tellingly they have not dismissed the rumours, which would have nipped this story in the bud at the start of the week. In fact the trust seem annoyed campaigners like Margaret Williams ever spoke to the media about it – and said as much to her at Tuesday’s meeting.

But the people of Hastings and St Leonards, and the people of Eastbourne, have every right to know. We saw four years ago how strongly local people feel about this issue, and a bit more transparency wouldn’t go amiss.

Amber Rudd is right to say that any safety concerns need to be looked into, but her refusal to engage in what she calls “speculation” is puzzling.

We need to make it clear that Hastings will not accept the closure of the maternity unit. The Observer is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with the campaigners and fight any changes that would impact negatively on this town.

WITH the upcoming Jerwood Gallery and the existing wide range of tourist attractions in Hastings, it’s important that there is plenty of accommodation available for visitors, so it’s no surprise that the council plans to get tough in stemming the rapid decline in hotels and guesthouses.

Hastings only has 1,000 hotel beds, and in a town that is steeped in history and already attracts hundreds of thousands of overnight guests each year, it’s obvious something needs to be done, and quick.

The case for preserving existing accommodation and bringing in more hotel trade is highlighted with the news that Hastings has been chosen as one of the top 10 cultural hotspots in the world, alongside big tourist centres like Miami in the USA (page five), because of its vibrant arts scene.

Hastings needs more tourist beds, especially in these straightened times with more people holidaying closer to home.

Our town also needs more high quality hotels and B&Bs, so tourists return to 1066 Country.

If there is not enough accommodation and the decline continues unabated, more developers will turn valuable hotel space into soulless flats, which could mean the death knell for the town’s vital tourist trade.

BIG businesses don’t have the best reputation. But one supermarket here in St Leonards is bucking the trend. Asda is new to Silverhill but its staff are working hard to get invovled with the local community. This week the store has taken discarded stock down to a pair of charities.

In an age when so many are going without, it is refreshing to hear of a business doing its best to make sure decent food is not wasted.

Well done, Asda. Hopefully other companies will follow their lead.