It was very disheartening to hear about the council’s intentions for the old bathing pool site at West Marina when I attended the meeting at the Royal Victoria Hotel on Tuesday January 26.
Although council leader Peter Chowney was at pains to point out that no firm plan had yet been formulated it was clear from the presentation that the focus is firmly on housing rather than amenity.
It was explained that as the site contains large water tanks and many underground pipes and cables that cannot be disturbed it will be difficult and expensive to develop and this fact was used to argue that only by incorporating a mass of housing could any scheme be economically viable.
While there is a lot of pressure on the council, both to raise money and to build new homes, what is being suggested for this site is completely the wrong approach.
What we need to regenerate West St Leonards are reasons for people, both locals and visitors, to be attracted to this side of the town but the ideas being promulgated by the council and its consultants provide very few.
To my mind it would be a sacrilege to transform this prime piece of seafront into a housing estate.
The council should have a re-think, designate the area as a potential jewel in the crown and invite suggestions as to what shape that jewel should take.
Suggestions at the meeting included the creation of a marina, a park or the re-siting there of the town’s museum.
Someone – an Old Towner perhaps – suggested that the area should be used as a car park for park and ride visitors so that they can be ferried very quickly to other parts of the town.
What the council was proposing was dire – and went down very badly at the meeting – but it was not as dire as that.
I would like the council to become less pragmatic and much more visionary.
I would like it to aim high, not go for the easy options but to champion the regeneration of the area as an attraction, to fight for better facilities, and for better transport links.
Why can’t we have a direct bus route along the seafront the Old Town to West St Leonards?
And would it really be impossible to envisage the re-opening of the station at Bo-Peep?
One of the options Cllr Chowney suggested was to do nothing.
But that’s exactly what the council has done for decades.
It owns the site and has had plenty of opportunity to make something of it but has left it shamefully neglected for far too long.
Other parts of the town have had money spent on re-generation and while that is not to be resented we in this part of town deserve so much better than what we have received to date.
St Vincents Road
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