St Leonard’s Church is a huge asset and yet it appears forgotten and forlorn set back from the seafront where regeneration is happening at an astonishing rate – whether in the interest of the town or not is another matter. 

Most people are probably unaware of its historical significance, a Grade II listed building designed by renowned architect Adrian Scott to replace the original Burton St Leonards church, which was destroyed by a V1 bomb in 1944.

And it’s not just the church that appears abandoned: all attempts to develop the area to the east along the undercliff have run into difficulties because of the costs involved in stabilising the cliffs that are in danger of collapsing on the church and surrounding area. All that is left is the abandoned church and a failed attempt at a housing development – strange concrete structures that baffle many passers-by.  

CREDIT: Google photos

But behind the scenes there have been some serious attempts to rescue this area. And on 21st October in the Masonic Hall there will be a meeting of the various stakeholders involved in the preservation and use of St Leonard’s Church. 

The aim of the meeting is to highlight the problems and determine if a solution can be found to protect the building. Then the next step would be, with the Diocese of Chichester’s consent, to create viable use of the church and its surroundings.

CREDIT: Dave Young

At this meeting, there will not be the usual hot air and handwringing, but concrete proposals for schemes aimed at helping to generate enough money to both stabilise the cliff and create a viable alternative use
for the building. The proposals are:

• A locally based, Science-on-Sea project where the building would act as a satellite of the Science Museum in London, featuring exhibits often not seen, plus ones related to those with local connections such as Alan Turing and Logie Baird; the proposal also includes landscaping and housing further along Undercliff. The scheme did not get funding from the Town Deal, but there are other avenues being explored.

• A Wedding/Music venue plus landscaping, with a housing development and boutique hotel to offset costs; a proposal by London-based property developers with links to Hastings, John Penfold and Marie O’Leary.

• A Community-focused Initiative, from a young local designer, Laurie Flint, focusing on social housing and community group usage of the venue, including the possibility of using the church as a centre for rock climbing. He believes that there are sufficient funding pots to get this – and people – off the ground.

Bryan Fisher, Media Coordinator at West St Leonards Forum says: “These are all impressive proposals and a lot
of thought has gone into them.” It is hoped the meeting will focus minds upon the need to save the building before it is too late, as well as establishing a means to properly regenerate the site. This would not only benefit the surrounding area, but also act as a link along the seafront towards Old Hastings from West St Leonards, helping to focus attention on the till-now neglected part of the town.  

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