ATTEMPTING to answer the question from Jo Legg in last week’s Observer: ‘Why are we spending money on new offices that are empty when the seaside tourist attractions we once had can be rebuilt?’, I’ve had a good look through the recent Hastings Local Plan, Hastings Planning Strategy Proposed Submission Version May 25 - August 17, 2012.
It claims to ‘set out a clear economic vision and strategy which positively and proactively encourages sustainable economic growth.’ It doesn’t do this. Remember, it’s a vision.
Since the decline of traditional seaside tourism in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was cheap to go to Spain, attempts have been made to ‘broaden the economic base of the town‘.
Mega millions have been thrown in this direction. SEEDA, Sea Space, Regional Growth Fund, Hastings and Bexhill Taskforce, Irish Banks, Growing Places Fund, East Sussex Energy Infrastructure and Development, and others, have spent the money unwisely, extending a long period of decline.
Demolition of Havelock Mansions, Havelock Road, for an office building, is a current example of this destructive irresponsibility. Hastings remains in the top 20 most deprived local authority areas in England.
Councils go to government for funds for these schemes, overlooking the risks.
The whole premise rests on the basis that the investment will attract businesses. If the businesses don’t come there’s a big debt and no means to pay it off. That leads to higher taxes and business rates.
Some would think that Britain’s economic woes, and boarding-up new office and retail developments around town, would trigger greater scrutiny, yet Cllr Peter Chowney, lead member, Hastings Borough Council, carries on regardless and recommends building another 200,000 sqft of offices in Hastings town centre.
The foot-of-pride has come down and there ain’t no going back. Built in the 1880s, Havelock Mansions should’ve been polished, not demolished.