It’s an own goal

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HASTINGS had an early Christmas present this year, when an amazing football phenomenon hit the town.

In a year that has seen sport over the whole country, transcend the misery associated with serious economic woes, Our own football team beat the odds to make it into the third round of an FA Cup that still thrills us all.

Hastings is beating the odds in so many other ways too, new private sector jobs, the great news on funding of our Hastings Pier rebuild, the start of a new link road, negotiating the building and running of the Jerwood art gallery, Grotbuster project, helping provide mortgages for first-time buyers, apprenticeships, the Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival, and the opening of the cycle path from Hastings to Bexhill - all this while keeping the notion that people need to have their say, by listening to pressure groups, holding public meetings, administering surveys, and keeping people informed.

Just like Hastings Utd, Hastings town is on its own thrilling Cup run.

Consequently I am saddened by such a cynical outburst by the chairman of Hastings Utd in using its fantastic achievement, to persuade us all of his ‘no brainer business plan’, the basis of which seems to rely solely on selling the publicly owned Pilot Field and The Firs on Elphinstone Road to a private developer, and to redevelop the site to create around 200 new homes. All the money raised will be used to create a new football stadium located just off Queensway.

He would have gained so much more respect had he just kept his comments on keeping the bubble afloat that Hastings Utd might even beat Middlesbrough this Saturday. Instead he has exposed himself yet again as a self promoter, and taking the edge of what is a fantastic achievement of our football lads and manager.

The reality of his business plan proposal is far more complex than his ‘no brainer attitude’ belies, not least in the fact that value of standard building land has significantly fallen, and selling such precious publicly owned land at such depressed levels, would be tantamount to financial incompetence.

Then there is the politics of doing it, the community backlash, the planning, local amenities, environment, let alone the right for the money gained for such a sale to be given to Hastings Utd football club.

Furthermore the smell of nepotism that will inevitably rise from any such sale, of who the real beneficiaries might be. No wonder the local council has given it a wide birth.

To say that Hastings Utd’s recent success, (which we are all delighted with) should be an example of the need to build a new stadium in nonsense. It is most unlikely that Hastings Utd will ever reach the Third Round of the FA Cup any time soon. That’s why it makes their recent efforts so brilliant, because they did against the odds this year.

Jeremy Birch, council leader has kindly offered his time to talk to the club’s chairman and board, about Hastings Utd football ground’s long-term future, and ideas of how the recent windfall of its FA Cup success can be used.

I hope the chairman and board jumps to this opportunity, and acts reasonably by listening and sharing ideas.

A new Hastings football stadium should be within our dreams, there is nothing wrong with that. But there are always many ways to achieve grand plans, not least by proper worked out ideas, within the reality of scarce resources. Whatever the result on Saturday, let’s just enjoy that, and give all our blessings to the football team of Hastings Utd that have beaten all the odds.

John Sydes

Langham Road