Campaigners who opposed the Hastings Harbour Quarter Project proposals say the town should consider applying for UNESCO World Heritage status to protect against future development.
Green Party campaigners raised the idea at meeting on Monday (October 1) as Hastings Borough Council’s Labour-controlled cabinet responded to a 1,100-strong petition objecting to the development proposals.
While the proposals have now been withdrawn, lead petitioner Julia Hilton of Hastings Green Party criticised council leaders for agreeing to offer support to the ‘strategic case’ at a meeting in September last year.
Addressing cabinet members, Ms Hilton said: “I have watched with interest the spin the council has been putting on this announcement, claiming that the development was rejected because it didn’t meet the council’s requirements.
“But the decision taken at the cabinet meeting last December was unanimous in allowing this destructive development to take the next step forward, trying to seek public money for the company to do feasibility studies.
“It is a relief that the relevant government departments had enough sense to realise how destructive this proposal could be and refused any public subsidy being given to the developers.
“The report to cabinet back in September stated that the council had to be seen to be up for development. It should have been clear from the start that this proposal was absolutely the wrong plan in the wrong place. No amount of requirements would have made it acceptable.”
Responding to Ms Hilton’s comments, council leader Peter Chowney said: “The developer has not said it was the red lines which caused them to withdraw the scheme – they said they couldn’t get the funding for it – but I think those red lines that we laid down would have made it more expensive.
“All those red lines were about is if a scheme came forward, then this is what we would want it to comply with.
“This was never actually a scheme, it was only ever a concept. When developers come to you with a half billion pound idea and say ‘we want to explore this with you’ it is quite hard to just say ‘go away, we don’t want to talk about it at all.’
“But in this case no actual plan, or proposal, ever came forward so none of that was really necessary.”
Cllr Chowney also defended the process of communicating with developers who put forward proposals which could affect the town.
He said: “We have to say that if any developer comes forward with any scheme then we have to talk to them about it. That would apply whether it was a community group, local people or a commercial developer.
“I think we would still consider things people bring to us but in the end we will always be clear about what we find is acceptable and what isn’t.
“As I say this never got as far as knowing what was acceptable and what wasn’t because there was never an actual plan to discuss.”
Cllr Chowney added that there are currently no other proposals to develop the Stade area, but said proposals would be considered if put forward.
During her speech earlier in the meeting, Ms Hilton also spoke about the potential for the town to apply for UNESCO.
She invited local residents to attend a meeting on the subject from the Hastings and St Leonards Society, which is to be held at Brighton University’s building in Priory Square from 6pm on Friday, October 19.
She said: “Gaining UNESCO World Heritage status is a long and complicated process, but it involves the kind of vision for this town that we can all be proud of.”
During the meeting council officers also confirmed the petition had gathered ‘more than 1,000 signatures’, not the 118 which appeared in council documents.