As Borough Council elections loom, Labour insist that there’s no “done deal”

Three current Labour councillors, including Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney, plus a fourth candidate standing for the party in the May elections have taken the unusual step of setting on record that the potential development of a marina and harbour at Rock-a-Nore is not a ‘done deal’ and ‘has a considerable journey ahead of it before it becomes a serious possibility.”

It may be recalled that Cllr Chowney performed a rather more cheerleading role back in August last year when the project was first mooted, talking of how it could bring ‘much-needed social housing, a protected beach for the fishing fleet to launch from’ and ‘transport improvements’. Another council spokesman had claimed it could bring an annual economic boost of £26m.

However this initial positive mood does not seem to have found much favour in social media or other public reaction since. And with council elections coming up, in which both Greens and Lib Dems are going out of their way to criticise both the project itself and the majority Labour council’s involvement with it – see separate story on page 5 – it seems that Cllr Chowney feels the need to show a different face.

He has been joined by Cllrs Dawn Poole and James Bacon, plus Old Hastings candidate Dany Louise, in writing a joint letter to HIP describing the project as ‘barely more than a twinkle in the eye of the development company’ and ‘at this point, notional’ with ‘a very long way to go before it becomes anything other than a paper exercise’.

They confirm that the company has had meetings with council officers and given presentations to all councillors about their ideas, but say that during these presentations, it was clear that the feasibility of any such project needs to be established ‘in terms of the engineering, ecological impact, conservation implications, and its economic viability’. They maintain that any research and information gathering at this stage will be funded by the Treasury at no cost to the council.

The development company has indicated that it will be three years before they are in a position to submit a planning application. If they do, the Council would ‘subject every aspect of it to intense scrutiny and question. A major development such as this has the potential to change the character of the town. Assuming that the Feasibility Study concludes that it is viable – a very big assumption and by no means certain – we will ensure that it only goes ahead if there is very significant benefit for residents of the town’. Public consultations would take place with the Council fully involved at every stage.

 

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