On Monday (October 4), Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet gave its support to plans to increase from £1.2m to £1.7m the budget of a project to redevelop the now demolished public toilets in Harold Place.
The project will see a purpose-built restaurant constructed on the site, which the council intends to lease out to as-yet unnamed operator.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Paul Barnett, lead councillor for regeneration, said: “I am delighted that we are close to securing this important new regeneration project for our town centre.
“We will continue to look for grant funding opportunities to support the project to reduce the cost to the council.
“As a significant project in a key part of the town it is vital that the building is of the highest quality. We do not believe that lowering the quality of the build is the correct thing to do.
“The development will also provide job opportunities both during the build and in the running of the restaurant when the building work is complete.”
While first approved by full council in February last year, the project was put on hold by the potential operator until October.
Following this delay, the council says the cost of construction has increased from its initial estimate.
The council says this is due to inflation within the construction industry and the general impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but also because it now has a clearer and more detailed design.
Cabinet for finance Peter Chowney said: “There are increases in costs, fairly significant increases in costs, but as [chief finance officer] Peter Grace said borrowing costs have gone down, which offsets that to some extent.
“This isn’t a huge money earner though as you can see from the report. This is primarily a regeneration project to provide a building in a very prominent location, which will be a high quality building and also be built to good energy conservation standards, using recycled materials wherever possible and using good quality materials.
“It was suggested by the architects that we do what is called ‘value engineering’, which is basically reducing the cost by using cheaper materials but we decided not to partly because it would have made the building less environmentally friendly but also probably not look as good either.
“We have kept the high quality materials and higher specification in terms of energy conservation and I think we will have a really good building there.”
A final decision on the funding would require consent in a full council vote on October 13, while the wider project will also require planning permission.