The Hastings Area Action Plan has been deliberately kept quiet

From: Heather Grief, Tower Road West, St Leonards

In August, Hastings Borough Council announced its plans for the town centre and Bohemia/White Rock area.

You included an article about it on Friday, August 31, headed ‘Consultation on town centre plan’.

This will have been the first that most people had heard of it, but the 12-week-long consultation period ended on September 24 – a little over three weeks later.

I bought a printed copy – 120 pages, for £10 – to be able to study it properly, and only just managed to submit my comments in time. In a recent ‘Opinion’ piece, Cllr Chowney referred to the Town Centre and Bohemia Area Action Plan (AAP) as Labour’s flagship project, or words to that effect. But there was no mention of it in the Labour leaflet that landed on voters’ doormats in the run-up to the local election in May.

The AAP was written by a Swedish firm of architects, and must have been in production, if not complete, well before the election. So why was there no mention of it in their pre-election leaflet?

Perhaps because the Labour leadership knows that building over 800 flats etc, all over the Oval and along Bohemia Road on a large proportion of the Summerfields/Bohemia estate will be very unpopular with voters of all political opinions.

People have been so concerned about the recently-dropped plan for Rock-a-Nore that little attention has been paid to the AAP.

The AAP ignores the 2014 Development Management Plan (DMP), which schedules all the areas where the AAP proposes housing as playing field, public park/gardens and amenity land, and this should protect it from having housing built on it.

Also, the Oval (possibly the whole of White Rock Gardens west of Falaise Road) was protected by a covenant as a public open space in perpetuity when the Brisco family sold it to the council in 1920. I suppose this counts for even less than the DMP when chasing after the perverse Conservative financial incentive to build more housing on council-owned land.

Anyone thinking that at least some local people will be provided with much-needed modest homes can think again. The whole purpose of the housing is to lever in more money for whatever schemes Labour wants to throw it at, and this means ‘quality’ homes only will actually be built. An AAP powerpoint presentation, that someone sent me a link to, referred to ‘gentrification’ of the area.

The idea of building a new sports centre, expanding the White Rock Theatre etc, will depend on far more funding than the sale of parkland for 800+ homes will produce, i.e. funding from other sources, and these new facilities may or may not eventually materialise.

The débacle over Warren Cottage and the Visitor Centre at Fairlight provides a timely warning of what may happen: the cottage was sold to raise funds for a new Visitor Centre, but the council had to be ambitious and wanted to have an eco-friendly straw version at much higher cost, with the aid of outside funding. The straw bales were bought and are now decomposing and providing a home for rodents, whilst the council searches for an architect willing to project manage the building of the centre.

The above shows the need for a more genuinely democratic process locally.

The current Labour leadership has treated the voters of Hastings with contempt by deliberately keeping quiet about the AAP.

The Rock-a-Nore plan has prompted talk of resurrecting a local alliance aimed at increasing genuine democracy locally.

Some such action is desperately needed, before the whole town is ruined.