We need to talk Hastings up

IN response to Brian Fellowes’ letter (‘Hastings has no future as a tourist resort’), I’d like to make a few points. Obviously I disagree – in my letter last week, I said that we had ‘a tourism sector that is re-shaping itself to meet the changing demands of visitors’ (this was cut from the published version).

There are hundreds of successful tourism-related businesses in Hastings and St Leonards, including many recently established, in particular high-quality accommodation and restaurants.

Initial analysis shows that more than 20,000 more cars than last year have used the seafront car parks this summer. Businesses in the tourism sector, apart from outdoor attractions, have reported that trade is up significantly on last year, in spite of the awful weather. And they won’t find Mr Fellowes’ comments especially helpful – tourism in Hastings is thriving.

The current issue with sea water quality is caused not by quality deteriorating, but by the standards changing. There is no prospect of beaches being closed.

Poor sea water quality is of concern, but it’s an enforcement problem rather than a planning problem.

The Environment Agency and Southern Water, which are responsible for sorting it out, believe it’s caused mostly by illegal plumbing – new toilets have been fitted in houses and plumbed into the surface water drains, rather than sewers. Southern Water can detect this, and can take enforcement action to put it right.

We will be pressing Southern Water to do this, or use whatever other means are necessary to improve water quality, but it could be unpopular with householders who may not even know that their toilet is plumbed illegally.

So water quality isn’t something that would feature in the Planning Strategy, the contents of which are fairly tightly prescribed by national regulations.

But it is something we’ll be making sure Southern Water tackles vigorously. Whatever happens, I’m optimistic that tourism in Hastings will remain an important part of the local economy, and will continue to grow, as it has done in recent years. We want people to visit Hastings, we need to talk it up, not write off the entire tourism sector without any justification.

CLLR PETER CHOWNEY

Deputy Leader

Hastings Borough Council