Go-ahead for new visitors centre in park

The Firehills, Hastings Country Park
The Firehills, Hastings Country Park
  • Centre will cost £400,000
  • Plans include an amphitheatre, shop and refreshments area and space for exhibitions
  • Council says existing centre not fit for purpose

A new visitors centre in Hastings Country Park will be built.

Councillors on Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee gave the scheme the go-ahead on Wednesday (March 4).

The centre, which would cost £400,000, will be based in Lower Coastguard Lane, Fairlight, within Hastings Country Park.

The application, submitted by the council, includes an amphitheatre, a small shop and refreshments area, storage, plant room and a large space for exhibitions and education purposes.

However, the council received 50 letters of objection from residents unhappy with the scheme.

Objectors said they were worried about overlooking, light and noise pollution and increased traffic.

Jill Howell, from Fairlight, said: “This is totally inappropriate for our wonderful nature reserve which should be seen as a place of tranquillity and beauty, not as a cash cow for the council.”

Richard Paine, from Bexhill, said: “I object most strongly to the Disneyfication of our country park and the erection of a building in an area of outstanding beauty.”

Anna Newington, of Hastings, said: “Undisturbed peace and quiet in nature is so rare that it must be safeguarded.

“It is a luxury to be able to watch the stars at night without light pollution or coach parties.”

Maggie Alderson said: “I don’t see the need for any kind of visitor centre in the country park. The whole point of it is to provide an area that is undeveloped in which to enjoy fresh air, calm and peace.

“Why bring such an urban concept into a gloriously natural reserve?”

A report by council planning officers, which was presented to councillors at Wednesday’s meeting, said: “The current visitors centre facility is no longer considered fit for purpose given its lack of space, condition and lack of associated facilities.

“It is considered that the need for a new centre is in the interest of the public as a whole and for the ongoing conservation and associated educational needs for the benefit of the park.”

Councillor Michael Wincott said: “Questions have been asked on why the need for a new centre. It’s a tourist attraction and it’s replacing something rubbish with something good.

“This is a good centre in the right place and that’s why we should accept it.”

Cllr Rob Lee said he found the proposals ‘exciting’ and was impressed by the outside amphitheatre, which would be used as a classroom for educational purposes.

Cllr Maureen Charlesworth said: “It’s a wonderful idea to have a new, modern educational centre there.”