St Leonards is slowly starting to catch up

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IN the last few years St Leonards seems to have been emerging from her Cinderella-like relationship with her older sister, Hastings.

Money has been spent, commitments made. Advertising proclaiming the artistic and cultural ethos of the borough has included both partners, with the result that many entrepreneurial, artistic and media-related people have chosen to live here in St Leonards.

The other week, a representative of one of the oldest-established estate agents remarked that Burtons’ St Leonards is second only to the Old Town in terms of desirable locations.

And yet, here we are again, with the council apparently showing a complete split in mind-sets between the two areas.

Admittedly, many in the Old Town have been against the Jerwood development, but at least it had a massive consultation process, even if in the end the council in its wisdom has said: “It’s artistic, it’s cultural, it’s good for the town, it’s happening”.

By contrast, at the other end of town, after a derisory afternoon showing half-baked concept sketches to around 80 people, the proposed development of the Archery Ground has been allowed to bloat out of all proportion, threatening to destroy forever our unique legacy of one of the country’s leading architects of the 19th Century.

The area survived the imposition of Hastings College, just. But make no mistake, this inappropriate urban townscape development will tear the heart out of Burtons’ St Leonards.

Whether some folk with long memories like it or not, we are all in this together, as the Observer put it recently, Hastings and St Leonards are inextricably linked.

If this destruction of one of its residential and tourist-destination jewels is allowed to go ahead, the whole borough will be regarded with dismay and disdain, its credentials as artistic and culturally sensitive in tatters, and all the thousands spent on promotion just money down the drain.

They paved paradise /And put up a parking lot …

They took all the trees /And put them in a tree museum…

Don’t it always seem to go /That you don’t know what you’ve got /‘Til it’s gone. [Joni Mitchell/ Big Yellow Taxi/1970/Warner Bros]

Progress, eh?

JANETTE GALLINI

North Street

St Leonards