DURING my childhood the town centre was a confluence of roads.
But where traffic once flowed, pedestrians now tread.
We have large open spaces, which encompass Harold Place, Wellington Place and lower Queens Road, and also where Cambridge Road meets Robertson Street.
Councillors of the last 20 years have done splendidly in creating this amount of public space for pedestrian use. We should be pleased and proud of our pedestrianised town centre.
So why aren’t we? The answer lies with the overall appearance of our pedestrianised areas and their surrounding buildings.
The paving is a hotch-potch, the plants miserable, and the street furniture boring. On the Continent these areas would be magnificent piazzas and boulevards. Why could this not be so in Hastings?
The area where Robertson Street and Cambridge Road meet could, with prettier street furniture, interesting lighting, and water features, for example, cease to be the humdrum thoroughfare it is today, and become a much-loved square to which tourists and residents would flock. A similar transformation could occur with the concourse that lies between Jempsons, Costa Coffee and Caffé Nero, and, of course, with other pedestrian streets.
Inappropriate fascias should be removed. The town centre has beautiful buildings we are unable to fully appreciate due to shop fronts totally out of keeping with the rest of the building. There are few buildings in the town centre that have architectural harmony between their top and bottom halves. Unsympathetic commercial signage has disfigured our urban environment and diminishes our civic pride. So could there be a town centre renaissance? ‘Grotbusters’, ‘the Wave’, and gorgeous reproduction Victorian lampposts prove our councillors possess artistic awareness and aptitude for aesthetic improvements.
The farmers’ market, the merry-go-round, and the garden stall hint at a more vibrant street life in what could be continental-style piazzas.
So it is not beyond our imagination or ability to breathe beauty and life into our town centre.
For the good of the town we must replace the boring street furniture, paving mishmash and unsightly shop exteriors, and create attractive civic squares.