New Hastings home for arts-based mental health organisation

Hastings council leaders have backed plans to support an arts-based mental health organisation. 

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 2:43 pm
File: Alexandra Park in Hastings. SUS-211014-114336001

On Tuesday (January 4), Hastings Borough Council cabinet members gave the go-ahead to proposals to lease part of the bowls green and pavilion at Alexandra Park to Arts on Prescription — a not-for-profit organisation which provides creative activities designed to enhance mental health.

The group was one of six potential tenants considered and, in purely financial terms, was not considered to be the best value offer, particularly as the group cannot afford to enter into a full repairing lease.  

However, cabinet members argued the group offered the best social value of the bunch, given its focus on improving mental health. 

Paul Barnet, the council’s deputy leader, said: “For over 100 years in Hastings people could expect their life expectancy to be increasing, whatever their individual financial circumstances.

“But for the last ten years, shockingly, that has reversed. We have started to see a decline in life expectancy, markedly in the poorer areas of Hastings. 

“So much so that there is now a gap between the life expectancy in the richest and poorest parts of Hastings of well over ten years.”

He added: “It is not in the main because older people are running out of puff after a lifetime of sweat, it is more shocking than that. It is younger people, particularly younger men, who are killing themselves in middle age.”

Cllr Barnett went on to say organisations like Art on Prescription offered a way to improve mental health in the town in a way other health services are not currently able to.

Cabinet members also pointed to the group’s position with the ‘social prescribing network’, which can see GPs prescribe its activities to patients. 

While cabinet members argued the group offered the best social value, the rental income is notably lower than some of the other offers.

Other offers on the space had included: a community farm, a centre for parenting classes, a dog grooming business and a mixed cafe/events space.

For the first year, the council is expected to receive a £1,000 rent from Arts on Prescription, while the highest offer would have brought in £6,000. It will also not be a full-repairing lease, meaning the council would still be responsible for maintaining the site.

The council expects to revisit the rent and conditions after 12 months and says it would not accept a landlord repairing lease in future years.

Even so, the lower financial value of the lease means the final decision could not be approved by the cabinet alone.

As a result, it will need to go to a full council vote (with a cabinet recommendation in favour) in the near future.