LETTER: Pros and cons of centre proposal

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Keyboard SUS-160615-124004001
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I refer to the article (November 5 edition). The Hastings Urban Design Group has not taken a considered position for or against the proposals. However, it might be helpful to the public debate to set out some of the pros and cons.

Whatever the eventual decision we would welcome this attempt to link together projects across the borough into an imaginative, comprehensive development package. On the face of it the proposals could unblock additional land for housing in Pilot Field and Horntye.

Given that the proposals appear to depend in large part on release of council-owned land at Bulverhythe and charitable land at Horntye, most of the build should be for much needed affordable social housing.

The scheme also offers the possibility for rejuvenating and expanding outdated sports facilities and the creation of new ones. It could provide significant numbers of construction jobs and longer term new recreational work. It should provide a promotional boost for the area.

It may also be possible that, associated with the development, can come road improvements around Elphinstone at the junction at the Ridge and to and fro and along the A259 diverting the A259 via Lewis Avenue and Haven Road.

There might also be public transport improvements associated with the new sports complex e.g. re-opening the idea of a Ravenside station for football supporters.

Improvements might be made to local surface water drainage in Combe Haven.

Perhaps there could be greater community access to sports facilities.

Possibly the complex could itself – which will be very visible – comprise landmark buildings which would themselves promote the image of the area.

There are on the other hand a series of questions which will need to be addressed and dealt with in an open and transparent manner if the scheme is to stand any chance of getting public acceptance and planning approval.

There are in effect three different development sites in three very different neighbourhoods to be considered. Each raises its own challenges.

In all three cases the proposals don’t sit very squarely with the relatively recently approved Local Plan documents and Policies.

At Bulverhythe, the site is in a Country Park and the development will be an undeniable intrusion on the informal recreational uses of the area and the visual and other amenities of housing in Bexhill Road. This would include noise and flood lighting intrusion.

The stadium and other extensive buildings will be viewed across bowling-green-flat land.

The current design proposals are, to put it politely, basic with standard commercial style sheds and crinkle cut tin roofs. They will be very visible. It is not clear that all sports clubs in the area would have access to the new facilities, indeed it appears that there could be in effect privatisation of otherwise publicly accessible open space.

The complex will be accessed from the Freshfields and Bexhill Road junction which already struggles to cope with current traffic.

The limited reduction in traffic as a result of the Link Road construction will be reversed. There are already significant drainage problems for residents around Combe Haven, the development might exacerbate these.

Furthermore in light of global warming the land should perhaps be reserved for longer term flood management. Part of the site is on landfill which could give rise to contamination concerns. There may be adverse impacts on wildlife interests and underlying important archaeological remains.

Redevelopment of the site at Pilot Field would result in significant loss of openness in the area. There could be a significant adverse impact of large-scale new housing loading on to local roads e.g. at top and bottom of Elphinstone Road. And what would be the implications of population increase on already stretched local schools and surgeries?

Similar problems could arise at Horntye, e.g. more traffic threading its way through Bohemia. It isn’t clear at Horntye how new development would be tied in with historic and environmental assets in the area, e.g. Summerfields and the walled garden.

The Design Group would also be interested to know why a new sports complex on this scale couldn’t be accommodated on land opened up by the Link Road and Queensway – much of which remains vacant.

The above is just a list some of the immediately apparent possible benefits and costs of the scheme. We hope this may help people to think through whether they should be for or against the proposals.

There are two or three more immediate concerns which the Design Group hopes can be resolved before the developers embark, as we imagine they will, on wider public consultation.

We consider that the timetable to have premises up and running by 2018 is clearly unrealistic.

It will raise hopes (and fears) unduly and may result in matters being rushed. Only limited and very poor quality drawings were available on the Hastings FC and the Observer website.

We hope that a much more professional approach will be taken as the ideas are developed and consulted upon.

To avoid many of the possible costs and to achieve many of the possible benefits will require skilled detailed and persistent negotiation by Hastings Borough and Rother District planners. They are currently woefully under-staffed and struggling with current workloads.

The developers could offer to provide support (without strings) to allow the councils to buy in additional manpower to properly manage and assess the development proposals.

There is a vital need for early engagement with the public at each site and more widely. HUDG may be able to assist in this process.

Chris Lewcock

Chairman

Hastings Urban Design Group

Crabtree House

Archery Road

St Leonards

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