In our News pages, Chris Lewcock presents comments on Hastings Borough Council’s draft Local Plan, which is up for consultation until 24th March. Bryan Fisher of West St Leonards Forum, a local community group, recommends that residents and businesses “give this some deep thought”. He suggests getting in touch with organisations like Hastings Urban Design Group or the West St Leonards Forum for advice – and submit ideas!

Bryan is particularly concerned about West St Leonards: “If HBC have their way, Bulverhythe fields, Filsham valley, and the Old Bathing Pool site will either disappear or be seriously altered as open spaces when housing is placed upon them. So, consider if the pandemic arrived in 2025 not 2020 – where would those in West St Leonards go to exercise? 

“Everyone now appreciates the benefits of exercise and the huge contribution open spaces make towards wellbeing,” says Bryan. “Franklin D Roosevelt is quoted as saying ‘Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people’, but he could equally have been talking about parks, fields and even promenades!”

He is beginning to think that it would take a “Road to Damascus revelation” for Hastings Borough Council (HBC) to acknowledge the overwhelming opposition to the housing developments on Bulverhythe’s flood plain and the Old Bathing Pool (also a designated flood plain). “HBC seems more intent upon following the Road to Nowhere!” he says.

Also of concern is that West St Leonards was neglected in decisions made at a local level by the Town Deal Board. “In 2020 local people and community groups were invited at short notice by an HBC-created Town Deal Board to submit project plans to be awarded UK government funding. I believe there were 155 submissions, which is impressive given the short notice. However, every submission from West St Leonards was rejected, including the innovative ‘Science-on-Sea’ project.”

And it’s not for want of trying. West St Leonards Forum undertook a 2,500 resident questionnaire and, under challenging Covid-19 restrictions, canvassed local businesses as initial steps in their move to create a Neighbourhood Plan that aligns to HBC’s Local Plan. “For months we have been trying to get some engagement from HBC to build the Neighbourhood Plan together, but requests have always been side-lined,” says Bryan. 

Finally, Bryan reminds local residents to vote in the local council election on Thursday 6th May, being held despite the pandemic. “If you care about the local area you will want to select a councillor who will match your aspirations – whether that be in regard to the environment, regeneration, employment, or better accounting on projects.”

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