Losing our green spaces 

By Peter Bailey

How many more publicly owned green spaces are to be lost to housing in Hastings?

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) wants to build 500 so-called ‘affordable’ homes by 2027, which is commendable. However, to achieve this, the council wants to sell off to developers valuable and much needed council-owned community green spaces and sporting facilities which will be lost FOREVER to local communities.

What efforts have been made by the council to get housing onto significant land bank spaces, some of which have been vacant for more than 10 years? For example, Frederick Road, Braybrooke Road, Sandrock, Holmhurst St Mary, Westhill Road, the old Stamco site, Darwell Close, Frederick Road, Ashdown House. Some of these are sizeable, and some are owned by quangos. It seems almost criminal and certainly wasteful not to utilise these, notwithstanding that their ownership is a bit more complex. It just requires will and resolve to progress them. 

Instead HBC is selling off its publicly owned green spaces in the borough. Harrow Lane playing fields and recreation area are already gone. Under consideration for residential redevelopments are the site of the old Bathing Pool, Horntye Park sports complex, Bulverhythe recreation ground and the Pilot Field. The council-owned green spaces are to be sacrificed for an expensive stadium and two 3G pitches in the inaccessible location of Tilekiln. 

Pilot Field – to be turned into housing?
CREDIT: Denise Treglown

Look at the ‘big picture’ and you will see that there is a substantive loss of local community sporting facilities. Football, in particular, will suffer, as the local teams using the existing, but soon to be lost, green spaces are an important source of local talent for Hastings United (HUFC). Are HUFC and the council expecting local teams now to have to travel to an inaccessible site on the far side of town to play on fewer and more expensive pitches?

A local asset for Baird

As Chair of Pilot Field Area Residents Association, I am particularly concerned at the proposed loss of the Pilot Field, a local asset and ‘green space’ for Baird Ward residents. It provides a good local venue for communal activities. Look at the signage outside the main gates to get a feel for what happens on that site. Also lost will be the Sports and Social Club whose clubhouse is for hire and used regularly by local groups and clubs.

A football match brings people and the community together, out of the house and into the fresh air. Don’t forget also other communal celebrations (bonfires, concerts etc) they put on. Where are local people supposed to go, moving forward, from a ward with one of the lowest car ownership rates in Hastings? Many HUFC supporters already come by public transport. Are they expected to drive to Tilekiln, which is the other proposal inextricably linked with that for the Pilot Field? How does that fit with the Council’s green policies?

There are also major infrastructure problems with the Pilot Field development. Drainage for water and sewage for all properties downstream from the site already have a problem and will be even more overloaded by run-off from the site. The developer already knows that the site is prone to flooding, since it plans to build the houses one foot above ground level to mitigate flood risks there. Who will maintain and pay in the future for the additional drainage needed at the site? Moreover, the developer has not made any provision for the consequential costs and extra drainage needed to compensate downstream properties.

Public consultation

We would like HBC to offer a full transparent public consultation with details of the costs and valuations and business cases for the proposed developments. Why are the sites being sold to developers at below market value?

If Tilekiln goes ahead, will the Stadium developer be in business in, say, ten years time. What are the financing arrangements for the stadium? Who will maintain it in years to come?

With a bit of imagination the football facilities at Pilot Field could be improved and upgraded to make them more attractive to HUFC as well as to other local teams.

There are various groups springing up objecting to the different proposals to build on council-owned green spaces. “‘United we stand, divided we fall.” Is there a catalyst for a community-based group and petition objecting to all these proposals and pushing for vacant land banks to be used instead?

Peter Bailey is Chair of the Pilot Field Area Residents Association. Further details of objections to the development of the Pilot  Field site can be found on the Association’s website www.pfara.org. HBC’s planning committee is scheduled to consider the outline planning proposal at a hearing on 8 December. 

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