Gallery a sore point amongst local people

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MAY I assure your readers that while writing this letter I am neither smiling nor gloating, I’m actually rather sad and very disappointed.

How long before the taxpayers of Hastings wake up to the scandal that is the Stade redevelopment project?

Last week’s front-page headline reveals just the latest in a series of buried costs to long suffering local taxpayers, resulting from what started off as a ‘free art gallery’, courtesy of Jerwood.

It started with Hastings Borough Council (HBC) buying a small area of the Stade coach and lorry park from the Foreshore Trust.

It was valued at around £100,000. That bit of land was added to a larger bit of HBC land and effectively given to Jerwood for free on a 99-year lease. The land in question has been conservatively valued at £600,000.

HBC also entered into a legal agreement with Jerwood whereby HBC guaranteed that Jerwood would not pay any business rates for the duration of the 99-year lease – worth between £60-70,000 per year, with the tab being picked up by the taxpayer of course.

Now we find out that it’s costing the local taxpayer £20,000 per month and rising to provide temporary power to the site.

Finally, the loss of car and coach parking revenue from The Stade amounts to about £130,000 per year, and these are just the costs we know about.

So much for a ‘free art gallery’ then. What’s that old adage? “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, or in this case, Liechtenstein-based lawyers.

To add final insult to injury, local people will have to pay to visit the gallery, as and when it finally opens. Can’t wait, although I will probably be on the Jerwood blacklist.

ALAN SMITH

SOS secretary