Hastings alleyways beset by anti-social and criminal behaviour to be gated off

Plans to close off alleyways “seriously affected by anti-social behaviour” have been given the go ahead by Hastings council leaders. 

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 2:31 pm

On Monday (March 1), Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet approved plans to gate-off three public rights of way, which are considered to have become hotspots for anti-social and criminal behaviour.

The three alleyways are: Valentines Passage, which runs between North Street and Aldersgate Terrace; Laser Lane, between Kings Road and Cross Street; and an unnamed cut-through between Havelock Road and Priory Square (adjacent to the Brass Monkey bar).

Speaking at the meeting, community safety manager John Whittington laid out some of the issues associated with the areas. He said: “Laser Lane has a long, long, long chequered history of antisocial behaviour. It has had youth disorder and has generally caused lots of nuisance to all the residents in the area.

Valentine's Passage, St Leonards. SUS-210226-102508001

“There is drug-related litter scattered around there, I know a lot of the street drinkers use it as a public toilet, there is a whole load of fly-tipped mess down there and is generally not a place I would recommend anyone walk in. 

“Valentines Passage is quite a short, narrow route with a slight bend in it and steps. There are drug deals going on there every night. All the time, even during the day, they are sitting on the steps in the footpath, shouting, screaming and telling each other that they are going to take out weapons and wave them at each other. 

“There is public defecation going on there, there was a burnt-out scooter there a year or so ago. Generally not a very nice place to walk.

“[At] Havelock Road, there’s been an overspill of public place violence over a long period of time and again, because it is out of the way and no one can see what is going on down there, there has been people going to the toilet there and trying to break into the pub. It is generally, in my opinion, not one of the nicest places to spend any time.

Laser Lane, off Kings Road, St Leonards. SUS-210226-102441001

“The local residents in all three [areas] are really keen to actually see some action associated with all these streets.”

While supported by residents and businesses near the alleyways, the proposals had seen some opposition from groups associated with the maintenance of public rights of way, including among others the Ramblers’ Association and the Open Spaces Society.

These objections were not made public (as they had not come in during the public consultation), but officers and cabinet members confirmed they had been read ahead of the meeting.

Officers said these groups had asked the council to consider alternative measures to closing off the alleyways to the public.

Unnamed cut-through between Havelock Road and Priory Square, Hastings. SUS-210226-102534001

Similar concerns had been raised by East Sussex County Council’s public rights of way officer, who said the borough council should be cautious of setting an “untenable precedent” which could result in other paths being closed off to the public.

However, officers said that CCTV, as well as patrols by both police and council wardens, had been ‘tried several times’ to reduce anti-social behaviour in the area in the past, but had only resulted in temporary relief. As a result, gating-off the alleys was considered to be a more effective solution. 

Paul Barnett, cabinet member for urban environment and community safety, said: “We are, as a council, responsible for community safety and we take that very seriously. Taking it seriously means taking action when we hear about serious concerns anywhere in the town. 

“But we also believe in the community having a strong voice in what kind of action we take. In this case, we’ve tried very hard to listen to what the residents have been saying, to what the police have been saying and to what the county council and other consultees have told us. 

“We’ve tried very hard to find the right balance between all the varying views and in this case what is being proposed involves local management of the alleyways, involvement in the design of the gates and crucially, a more frequent review of any orders we introduce than is required by the new law.”

 “I think that demonstrates an appropriate balance in this particular case.” 

Cllr Barnett went on to say the alleyways, while closed, would not lose their designation as public rights of way and could be reopened in future. He added that the closure would be reviewed within the next two years. Any subsequent change would require public consultation. 

Cllr Peter Chowney, cabinet member for financial management and estates, said this could take place sooner however, as the council had plans to improve the Priory Square area in future, potentially with a cafe or eatery in place of a currently boarded-up building next to Lacuna Place. 

Following further discussions, cabinet agreed to put in place gating orders on all three alleyways, with all three orders to be reviewed within two years.