Firstly, many congratulations to Amber Rudd who has been re-elected as our MP, although the result was close it did see Amber gain her highest amount of votes ever.
As a local Councillor there are few areas more controversial than planning. All Councillors in Hastings are regularly contacted by residents concerned about new proposals that are being put forward in their local area.
They are often right to be concerned, as developers plans regularly seem to be at odds with the area in which they are situated and the local guidelines which the Council has set out for new developments to follow. In addition to this of course, the impact to the local area can be significant but only immediately obvious to those living adjacent to the site and once something is built there is little that can be done to change it.
It is accepted wisdom that more homes must be built in Hastings but where the Conservatives Councillors disagree with our opponents is that this must not be done at the expense of quality and diversity of housing types. Those that follow planning matters closely will know that there is a slew of developments that are entirely composed of one and two bedroom flats, this is unhelpful as it limits the options for those with growing families, forcing people to move to other parts of the Borough to find suitable accommodation.
The argument around quality goes further, we believe that all developments must be ‘tenure blind’ meaning that in larger developments where there is an element of social housing, this should be of the same quality and design as the privately owned units. This may seem like an obvious statement but it is something that I have seen many times being unfulfilled. The original and thankfully rejected plans for the Archery Ground are a good example of this bad practice.
We are fortunate that we live in such a beautiful town, which contains many conservation areas. Part of the role of the conservation area status is to regulate what is built in the area and ensuring consideration when changes are made to existing properties. These areas need to be enforced effectively but also they need to have detailed design briefs to be really effective. Currently we do not have the level of detail required to protect the conservation areas. I promise that if the Conservatives gain control of Hastings Borough Council next year, I will ensure that we will look closely at development in conservation areas to ensure that no more bad, intrusive, out of place buildings appear in these sensitive areas.
I will also make sure that these protections are enforced to protect our historical town from more ugly and unwise development.
Finally, as some of you reading this would have recently discovered, Hastings Borough Council has ended the practice of sending letters to nearby properties when an application is submitted. This is grossly unfair and the Conservatives are committed to reversing this decision and reinstating the letters. Before this happens I suggest signing up to the ‘My Hastings’ portal on Hastings Borough Councils website, in order that you can view local planning submissions and keep an eye out for planning notifications attached to buildings and lamp posts, you might be surprised what you find.