Green Party campaigners have come under fire from Hastings councillors who say they ‘spread misinformation’ about controversial proposals to build a marina in the Old Town.
The plans had been put forward by developer Hastings Harbour Quarter Ltd in November last year, but were formally withdrawn in September as the group had been unable to secure funding for a feasibility study.
While the plans had already been withdrawn, Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet responded to a 1,100-strong petition against the proposals earlier this month, with Green Party campaigner Julia Hilton addressing the council as lead petitioner.
After calling a report on the petition for discussion at a full council meeting on Wednesday (October 17), Dany Louise (Lab. – Old Hastings) criticised the Green Party for its campaigning on the plans.
She said: “In common with many residents of Old Hastings I am very pleased that the company responsible for putting forward a rather overblown and unnecessary proposal to site a marina off the Old Town has withdrawn that proposal.
“I’m pleased, not least, because the Green Party seemed to take a great and peculiar delight in spreading misinformation about it and encouraging residents to believe that it was not just going to happen, but going to happen immediately.
“It was always very, very, very unlikely to happen. Cllr Bacon and myself were unenthusiastic, to be diplomatic, about the proposals from the beginning and we made that view known.
“Not only did we say that it was unlikely to bring the required benefits to Hastings residents it would irrevocably change the character of the Old Town.
“I was also always absolutely certain that the proposal was unworkable and nothing more than a greedy idea in the minds of a fistful of developers. That view has been proven correct I’m pleased to say.”
The comments were echoed by Conservative group leader Rob Lee (Maze Hill), who said: “I wasn’t going to speak on this at all, but I thought I would because I completely agree with what Cllr Louise said.
“I think the misinformation spread by the Green Party, not only before the local elections but afterwards as well, was appalling.
“I’m sure every single one of us in this room had to spend an awful lot of time with people who were genuinely worried that the Old Town was imminently going to change and that the lorries were going to turn up at any moment.
“We all spent a lot of time – on the phone and in person – talking to people, saying it was pie-in-the-sky outline suggestions and artists’ impressions.
“It goes to show how using it as a stick, like the Green Party did, didn’t stop anything from happening, but caused a lot of unnecessary anguish for some people. I think both our parties can be united in deploring such bad tactics and bad form on behalf of the Green Party.”
In response to the comments, Green Party campaigner Andrea Needham said: “In its campaign, Hastings Green Party gave local residents only the information that was publicly available about the marina proposal.
“We did not suggest that the development was imminent but felt it was important to make clear at the earliest possible stage just how unpopular this proposal was with local residents.
“Those councillors who now claim to have been against the marina plans notably failed to speak out against them when they were first proposed. And had we waited to speak out until the plans were more concrete, the same councillors who are now criticising us for scaremongering would no doubt have asked why we didn’t raise our objections earlier.
“The marina would be have been a hugely destructive development for Hastings, but the fact that the council report stated that it would welcome other proposals for the area shows that no lessons have been learnt from this sorry episode.
“We stand by our campaign against the marina plans, which reflected the views of the vast majority of local residents.”