Why is Hastings Borough Council (HBC) intent on building on green spaces within the borough when there are extensive brownfield sites in the town that could be developed instead? That was a question put to Cllr Colin Fitzgerald, deputy leader of the council, at an open Zoom meeting styled Hastings Question Time hosted by Hastings Voluntary Action on 19th February.

PICTURE: David Dennis

Cllr Fitzgerald responded that a number of potential brownfield sites are zoned for residential development but being held back (“land-banked”) by their owners. He also pointed out that the West Marina area was technically brownfield, having been previously built upon. As for the prospective development of the lower tier at Bulverhythe he was far from apologetic, saying that the Labour-majority council had a clear mandate from the last council election to proceed with this project and “owed it” to West St Leonards to see it through. He didn’t mention that the ward electors of West St Leonards had voted in two Conservative party councillors in opposition.

Cllr Maya Evans, on the other hand, whose cabinet respon-sibilities are for the natural environment and leisure, has been strangely silent.

She may have in mind Jeremy Corbyn’s environmental policy manifesto, A Plan for Nature – for the many, not the few, at the last general election, which contained in its section on national planning policy a seemingly apposite message. As well as promising a home-building programme which delivered “net biodiversity gains”, Labour would “consult on new planning rules to stop developers building inappropriate housing in high-risk areas such as flood plains. We will instruct the Environment Agency to take a more robust approach to halting planned development where there is serious risk of flooding.”

It seems that the EA have taken this idea to heart even if the Hastings Labour party has not.

However, Cllr Fitzgerald’s cabinet colleague Andy Batsford, whose portfolio is Housing and Homelessness and who has long championed the Bulverhythe development, maintains a buoyant stance. Last week he posted comments on the Friends of Combe Valley Facebook page denying that the planned works to control the risk of flooding could result in “extra water being pushed up valley”. He claimed that the proposed sluice gate system would only be closed “during a 1 in a 100 year event” and that “the whole of the Bexhill Road area” would then be protected from flooding.

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