IN his foreword to the Hastings Planning Strategy, Councillor Peter Chowney, writes ‘this plan is important: it will affect dramatically how the town changes in the coming years. It will shape the look, feel and prosperity of Hastings not just for us, but for generations to come’.
In his letter in last week’s Observer he writes: “In the end, the Development Management Plan is just that: a plan. No one can predict the future; we can only make informed guesses.”
Construction of vast swathes of still vacant office space has been a costly test of a regeneration plan introduced in 2004. Things have changed hugely since then.
Many leading economists see a long-lasting stagnation in their crystal balls, but you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Yet councillors continue to outrage local opinion by pushing through unpopular developments at all costs.
A new conference centre has been bigged up in the Observer recently. At a cost of £2.5 million six new jobs have been ’created’. Clearly, those responsible, Sea Change Sussex, is a ‘not for profit’ organisation.
Unable to respect the past or leave things alone, pathetically anxious to make its creations as conspicuous as possible, and abusing Hastings’ architecture in the process, Hastings Borough Council knows what it has to do. And it knows who we’ll blame if it doesn’t.
There are significant deficiencies in the expert advice being relied on, too numerous to set down here. Cllr Chowney and his colleagues should find a quiet moment, look at the elements of the plan, such as an additional 20,000sqm of retail space and an additional 21,700sqm of offices in the town centre, and ask: Is this plausible?
Given their lamentable record, I think we are entitled to more than a little scepticism about the plan, it should be based on more than guesswork and false assumptions.