Need to take hard look at future

THE Observer recently announced that three of the big name retail shops in the town were to close.

Not so long ago Hastings hit the headlines for the wrong reasons with the sad exposure that it has one of the highest drink related death rates in country.

Is it not time we had a hard look at the future of our town? During the 1920s and 30s Hastings was considered to be a health retreat. The borough council, when considering the revamping of the White Rock Baths, took medical advice on the type of special treatment baths to install.

Following the Second World War and on into the 1960s it was considered a holiday destination, this is when I first came to Hastings.

For a brief period we tried to be a manufacturing town producing such widely diverse items as shirts, commercial catering equipment, small electrical motors, furniture, TVs and other domestic electric equipment. We still retain some manufacturing but also a growing proportion of office-based employment. The majority of the employment now being promoted is at the lower end of the salary scale.

It is always claimed that Hastings’ problem is the poor transport links to the rest of the country. The A21 often referred to as the Snail Trail and the A259 to the west is narrow and winding. If the A21 is the Snail Trail then the A259 to the east must be classed as a mule track.

With the present financial situation and, probably more to the point, the anti-road improvement lobby by some I do not see this link being improved in time to save our towns.

We do have one transport link that I believe is much overlooked, that is the railway. Yes I know there are problems and speed restrictions on the track to London but this link takes you direct into the heart of the city.

The introduction of Thameslink, which at the moment is not intended to link to Hastings, could if it did so I believe be the saviour of our towns. With fast trains Hastings and Bexhill could be ideal places for commuters to live.

The construction of the link road opens up an opportunity for a new railway station close to its junction with Queensway, a scheme long proposed by the county council. With bus connections to Bexhill, Battle and St Leonards and ample parking this could, with these extra potential of 40,000 residents from Bexhill, provide the incentive to the rail franchiser and Government to upgrade the track.

With higher income residents being attracted to our town I would hope that more shops would be attracted to the town centre reversing the growing trend for shoppers to travel to adjacent towns, as well as improving the general wellbeing of our lovely towns.

PETER JOHN

Essenden Road