Stade work ahead of schedule

The open space at The Stade
The open space at The Stade

THE community is rallying around the redevelopment of The Stade, it has been claimed, with some parts of the work set to finish months ahead of schedule.

The Observer was given a tour of the building site this week by Kevin Boorman, Hastings Borough Council’s head of tourism who has masterminded the controversial project. The Jerwood Gallery is expected to be finished by early autumn, but the new public toilets and the Stade Hall are already open and the cafe and the open space are due to be finished by the end of next month, well ahead of the June 30 deadline. And Mr Boorman says as progress on the site continues apace, the dissenting voices that dogged the project’s early stages are beginning to wane.

He said: “There is definitely an excitement and a growing buzz. I do not hear the negative vibes I used to, but having said that I believe it was only ever a vociferous minority who were against it. But now people seem really positive, and even some of the most outspoken opponents have said to me they know there is no point fighting it any more and they are committed to working with us to make sure the whole town benefits.”

The people behind the Eat@ cafes in Alexandra Park and Claremont will be running the new cafe, and Mr Boorman said one of the biggest factors in the selection process was that the council didn’t want a business that would go head-to-head with other establishments nearby.

“Everything down here is meant to compliment, not compete,” he said. “The cafe will be open 363 days a year creating full-time jobs rather than a few seasonal posts in the summer.”

He said the Stade Hall would be overseen by a new charitable trust with representatives chosen from the local community and that rents would be kept low.

Mr Boorman was keen to point out the “top quality” workmanship and the use of natural light wherever possible to keep energy costs down. The open space will become a “real focal point” and will be covered in shingle to resemble the beach, he said. Circular patterns will be included as a nod to the old marks made by the horses which trotted round capstones winching boats up the beach. It is not yet clear what will be the first event to benefit from the space, although it is thought it could form part of the Jack-in-the-Green celebrations over the Mayday weekend.

Beside the space, 40 foot high posts - designed to look like ship’s masts have now been installed -and the lights - designed to look like nautical lamps - are in place.

But Alan Smith, spokesman for the Save our Stade (SOS) group said: “Despite what the HBC acolytes might be telling Mr. Boorman, most people that SOS talk to express dismay at the sheer size of the new buildings. They appear much larger than the display models and drawings suggested, particularly the new cafe building which seems very obtrusive.

“The community building itself seems reminiscent of an a large slab of chocolate although to be fair, the adjacent concrete viewing platform looks quite good. It will be interesting to see how well the new building weathers over time, and of course we can rely on the seagulls to break up the monotony of the black brick with their own unique ‘artwork’.”