After years of neglect and several proposals of varying viability for the redevelopment of the former bathing pool site at West St Leonards, Hastings Borough Council are about to embark on a new attempt to market the site – and they are holding a public meeting on Thursday 26th January at the Royal Victoria Hotel on St Leonards seafront from 5-6.30pm to explain what they plan to do.

Earmarked for at least a partial housing development site in the recently adopted Local Development Plan, the bathing pool site provides almost the last opportunity to create a landmark gateway leisure and visitor attraction in St Leonards that could act as a key driver of economic and cultural regeneration at this largely forgotten end of the seafront. Having been the subject of various proposals from a shipping container based leisure development to a mixed-use housing and water sports facility in recent times, this tricky but historically important site presents a fantastic opportunity for St Leonards to attract an innovative leisure development that – like the soon to open Source Skate Park at the former baths near Hastings Pier – could capture the essence of its original use while delivering a sustainable 21st Century attraction.

Naturally, local residents and others keen to see the site brought back into constructive use are concerned that the track record of Hastings Borough Council – the present owners of the site – leaves something to be desired when it comes to attracting quality developments to the town and standing up to developers looking to exploit sites for short-term maximum financial gain. The on-going debacle of the proposed dumbing down of the development approved in 2013 for the nearby Archery Ground in St Leonards by its latest owners being a case in point.

Some who live in the area surrounding the site have already been looking into the possibility of forming a Community Land Trust as a vehicle for taking ownership of the site and ensuring any development would be suitable and sustainable. Having the site listed as an Asset of Community Value under the terms of the Localism Act would ensure the community have a window of opportunity to purchase the land.

The future of this site to the town is too important to be left to the vagaries of the commercial property market, or the desire of our Borough Council to off-load a difficult ‘asset’ from their books. It is up to us to make sure this key space does not go the way that so many other others here have over recent decades.

By Clive Gross