From: Chris Lewcock, Archery Road, St Leonards
For years the council-owned Cornwallis Street car park has been designated in the Local Plan for housing and a children’s play area.
This is probably the place in town where there is the greatest need for both. For years local people have been told that housing can’t be built here because of the loss of car park income. Now it appears that a greater greed has taken over and the local residents will have to put up with a hotel. Given the position and dimensions of the Cornwallis Street site a hotel will inevitably be bulky and over-bearing for the neighbouring terraced housing. The servicing and parking arrangements for the hotel will also be intrusive in the STAR residential area.
Hotels aren’t the sort of things that you invest in on the basis of ‘build it and they will come’. Proposals for a hotel in the Observer building came to nought and we have been waiting for some time for the approved conversion of Queensbury House. There are established hotels in and around the town centre including the White Rock Hotel and the Travelodge.
It would be interesting to see if existing and projected bed occupancy rates actually justify a new hotel. A lot of rising demand can be met by opening or re-opening guesthouses. Even if there is a high demand there are other more suitable town centre sites, for example on either end of Station Plaza, by more intensive redevelopment (with their agreement) of the ESK premises or by conversion of some of the long empty offices and the former University premises in Priory Square. A desperately needed housing site such as Cornwallis Street should not be sterilised on the off chance that a hotel will turn up – especially not when more suitable sites are available.
This is but one example where a desire to maximise the income potential of council land – while in itself necessary – appears to over-ride common sense and the council’s service delivery priorities. The tail is starting to wag the dog. Remember the idea of putting solar panels on fields in what is supposed to be a Country Park? Or the current whacko idea of building over the Bexhill Road Playing Fields in a high risk flood zone?
Please, please can our Labour-led council re-focus its efforts and only bring forward properly thought out proposals on realistic sites – which it may or may not own – to actually build much needed social housing.