Land dispute over Stade plans to end ‘within weeks’

27/7/11- Jerwood, The Stade, Hastings
27/7/11- Jerwood, The Stade, Hastings

A LONG-STANDING row over land ownership is set to be resolved ‘within weeks’ according to the council.

Legal red tape surrounding the development of The Stade and the Jerwood Gallery means the electricity supply to the new cafe and Stade Hall is currently running from two generators, costing taxpayers up to £20,000 a month.

The dispute centres around who owns a strip of land, around three square metres in size, where an empty electricity substation is based.

UK Power Networks until this week refused to put in any of its equipment until legal difficulties had been resolved.

But Kevin Boorman, marketing and communications head for Hastings Borough Council (HBC), said a meeting on Wednesday between the authority, lawyers for the electricity firm and representatives from Hastings Fishmarket Enterprise, leaseholders of the land, had been ‘extremely positive’.

He said: “We now have an agreement in principle that UK Power Networks can have access to the land leased by Hastings Fishmarket Enterprise so it can install the electrical equipment in the substation immediately.

“It was a positive meeting with lots of goodwill from all sides and we are very grateful for the co-operation, so that this has moved on so quickly in the last two weeks.

“Lawyers still need to go through all the details but they are expecting everything to be signed within the next fortnight.

“We are very optimistic that the equipment will be installed in around two weeks. It may be slightly longer as there is quite a bit to go in.”

The disputed piece of land is part-owned by the council and the Foreshore Trust, a charity that was set up in 1893 to run the whole of the town’s seafront.

But HBC has been acting as trustee for the charity since January, effectively making the authority outright owners of the strip of land.

A building was also constructed in July last year to house the substation on the piece of land.

Mr Boorman feared that if the legal wrangle, which has cost taxpayers more than £100,000 in total so far, was not resolved soon it would have to be knocked down and relocated elsewhere, potentially costing a further £60,000 from the council’s coffers.