Hastings Borough Council is to move ahead with controversial proposals to build its first housing development for more than 20 years.
On Monday council leaders gave the go-ahead to proposals intended to pave the way for a 190-home development at the Lower Tier Site in Bexhill Road.
The cabinet agreed to spend up to £6.9m on works to bring the scheme forward (the cost of which is to be covered by a government grant), including the appointment of a firm to carry out flood remediation work at the site.
In a statement released after the meeting, cabinet member for housing Andy Batsford, said: “We have secured nearly £7m from Homes England’s Local Authority Accelerated Construction (LAAC) programme to carry out the necessary work – including flood remediation measures – needed to take forward the development.
“We will work with the local community to design a high quality scheme for approximately 190 new homes and I encourage all those that are interested in shaping this development to bring their ideas and energy to the open consultation events.
“We hope the site will act as an exemplar of local development and maximise social value.
“The development will be of the highest quality, accessible, and sustainable and provide sports, leisure, play facilities and beautiful safe place for our new and established local families to live and thrive.
“It will also address local flood related issues to support the development as well as improving the current flood risk for local residents in the area.”
House building on the site had initially been proposed as part of a larger scheme brought forward by developer Keepmoat Homes.
This scheme would have involved building up to 400 homes and the construction of a sports complex to act as a new home for Hastings United Football Club, Hastings and St Leonards Priory Cricket Club and South Saxons Hockey Club.
However, Keepmoat pulled out of the scheme in December 2017, for what it described as ‘commercial reasons’.
Although of a smaller scale, the proposals have still proven controversial with many residents, more than 300 of whom have put their name to a petition opposing the scheme.
Ward councillor Karl Beaney is among those objecting to the development. He said: “It is important to defeat this proposal, working together as a community to preserve this valued green space for future generations and avoid additional traffic, pollution, impacts on local services and many other potential issues.
“While I understand the need for more housing, parks, sports fields and green spaces play an important role in the physical and mental health of the residents of this town.
“It is vital that we do not build on land in the Countryside Park and focus more on brownfield sites.”
Similar criticisms were raised during Monday’s meeting by the council’s Conservative group leader Rob Lee.
Cllr Lee said: “There is no infrastructure project to go along with this apart from the flooding mitigation. Where is the new road?
“Is it just going to be 200 houses, 400 extra cars in the morning, going to work and straight on to Bexhill Road.
“I, for one, cannot support this ill-thought-out scheme and will be voting against it.”
Council leader Peter Chowney, however, warned that the authority was under pressure from the government to bring more housing.
He said: “We are doing a review of the local plan at the moment and we know we will be required by government policy to find significantly more sites than we have currently got in the plan.
“That is going to be difficult in a place like Hastings, which is densely populated already and where a lot of our open spaces are protected.
“There aren’t going to be any easy sites that aren’t controversial. Almost all the sites we will be putting forward are going to be controversial but we have to do that in order to meet the housing numbers that will be required.”