We must have the best designs

THE Englishman’s-Home-is-his-Castle wonderland ended quite some time ago.

The vice-chairman of Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) planning committee (Letters, January 31) should know that the need for permission to develop did not begin in 1947.

Owners – notably slum landlords – were required to meet minimum standards, from the mid-19th century onwards. They did not have ‘the right to develop their land’ that Cllrs Street and Daniel fondly imagine.

Borough records go back to 1850 on ‘Registers of applications and notices as to new streets and buildings’ — surely not a waste of ratepayers’ money? A dozen Acts of Parliament from 1868 to 1935 also affected people’s scope to develop.

2014 marks the centenary of the founding of the Royal Town Planning Institute, whose view is that statutory town planning derives from the 1909 Housing and Town Planning Act.

Cllr Street mentions the need to ‘follow the law’, but not the dubious practices to circumvent it. For instance, then Cllr Beaver made a statement to the planning committee in January 2012 complaining of appeal procedures. The chairman referred darkly to ‘confidential legal advice’.

Developers’ ‘right to appeal’ is used as the basis to get councillors to concede and save money, rather than do the right thing. The mantra is ‘Grant permission’.

The council’s indulgence of developers has brought few gains in recent decades, and many losses. More damage to the town’s character will be done when the new building at the top of Havelock Road is completed. Views of the castle will be spoiled, as will be pointed out until 2066.

The planning process is not trusted. Developers have the right to appeal after eight weeks. Proposals to develop the convent beside White Rock Gardens have been ‘live’ for four years without ever going to the planning committee, and residents have to live with that.

Another unpleasant practice by planners is to denigrate the quality of existing buildings (that HBC approved not so long ago), as a reason to recommend approval of new ones.

Unbelievably, as the newpier takes shape, White Rock Gardens (and Linton Gardens) are officially not of ‘town wide significance’ — but every ‘pedestrian-only street’ is. Does anyone outside HBC agree?

The council should show more pride in St Leonards and Hastings, still an exceptional place, and refuse to accept cheap and nasty design.

BERNARD MCGINLEY

Magdalen Road

St Leonards