Clarifying the Friends’ position

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THE committee was recently asked to give a rapid response to the outline proposals, so our thoughts could be taken into consideration before the idea went before council cabinet.

After considerable debate the decision was taken not actively to support the proposal, but not, at least at this stage, to oppose it either.

We’re all aware Hastings Borough Council, in line with others, faces a huge reduction in its budget for the coming years.

In the current round of economies the country park was identified as a hugely important resource for the town, and the £200,000 annual budget for the park was not cut - a major coup for all who want to see the current level of support unchanged.

However, we have to be realistic, and there may well be further drastic economies in the coming year, and perhaps the year following that. Money will have to be found somewhere.

The proposal to introduce parking charges is in its infancy, and committee members identified many potential problems - not least implementation and enforcement.

A working group will be set up to address such questions and come up with a concrete proposal in some months time. It was felt it would be irresponsible of the committee to oppose (or fully support) the idea before we see its final form.

On the plus side, the proposed charges are modest, the annual ticket should be available to all members of the Friends, and, most important by far, all funds raised should be ploughed directly back into the running of the country park. The latter is a condition of our non-opposition.

The committee will be represented in further discussions and want to hear from all Friends so we can present a broad cross-section of members’ views.

The Friends have long campaigned for an improved bus service to the country park, and introduction of a Sunday service. This might be the ideal opportunity to revisit this question.

ANDREW BLACKMAN

Deputy Chairman

Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve