Bumbling council left us in the dark

A GROUP of fans of St Mary-in-the-Castle (SMIC) eagerly went to the cabinet meeting on Monday, to hear the promised statement on SMIC by the council leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch.

What he said at length can be summed up by the single sentence in the agenda: “It is not yet possible to make a recommendation regarding a future leaseholder for the building.”

One councillor spoke but I could not hear her. Cllr John Hodges made some good suggestions about a trust being involved, these were politely noted. Cllr Peter Finch asked about Plan B, should the present negotiations fail. Waffle, waffle was the reply. There is no Plan B.

What is really disgraceful about all this is that Barbara Rogers was demonstrating that the building can pay its way. She had not quite reached the break-even point but she is confident on the matter. All this has been thrown away. Now, while the council fiddles around with only occasional bookings, and while the local people have no idea whether or not Christmas, Jazz Breakfasts or Old Hastings Week events (for example) can be held there, the building is effectively ‘dark’.

Yet it gets all smelly, cold and damp if it is not used regularly. Also, bookings at a venue such as this need to be made months or even years in advance.

The dilatory council muddling along is making life difficult indeed for event organisers, and wasting our money on keeping the building safe without any revenue coming in.

MICHAEL PLUMBE

Holmesdale Gardens

Bring back British Rail - all is forgiven

I DON’T go to school anymore - but I contribute to the education budget through my taxes.

People who don’t drive contribute to the roads budget (pitiful as it is locally). So quite why only those who use the railway should pay for all the associated costs is beyond me.

We have had 15 years of a privatised railway that has managed to trough its way through public funding that deeply inefficient British Rail - as John Major called it - could only ever dream of. And the net result is nothing that BR wouldn’t have produced anyway. At a considerably lower cost.

Hastings station has a model railway sized car park of just 75 spaces - many of which are grabbed by people working at Sussex Coast College. The train service is no quicker than it was at privatisation - and even when London Bridge is rebuilt, the improvement to timings will be minimal.

BR had reasonable fares on offer and would have continued to come up with new ideas. It was BR that introduced railcards - interesting that the Train Operating Companies have gradually reduced the discounts available on them - railcards are not as good a deal as they were in BR days.

Re: Rye and Ashford. That railway remains a single line track of indifferent standard operated with two-car diesel trains that are patently not up to the loadings. The overcrowding on those trains has to be seen to be believed.

That line is where the potential exists for a decent journey time to London - electrified, double tracked and dovetailed in with the high speed route to St Pancras, Hastings to London in around 65 minutes perfectly feasible. The Southeastern High Speed Javelin trains go into Kent - they should also come this way into Sussex.

As for the information systems that the privatised railway has come up with - well, a visit to Warrior Square with no platform staff and utterly inadequate information provision at times of delay will say it all on that topic.

SIMON STODDART

Wellis Gardens

St Leonards