Hastings United Football Club have lodged twin planning applications with the borough council to pursue their intended relocation from Pilot Field on Elphinstone Road to the Tilekiln playing fields above Tesco in Hollington. 

Composition of the new stadium, football pitches and other facilities at Tilekiln has been signalled in outline for some months – see the summary below.  The move will be financed to a large extent by the redevelopment of Pilot Field as a housing estate, the details of which have emerged publicly for the first time.

PICTURE: Scott White

The total site to be developed for housing, amounting to nearly eight acres (3.15 hectares), covers the current football stadium and surrounds plus the premises of the club’s sports and social club (former Post Office club) on the terraced area above. Permission to build a total of 86 dwellings is applied for: 56 houses and 30 flats or maisonettes, of which 22 (just over 25%) will be “affordable”, plus parking spaces for 152 vehicles.

Sport England have submitted a holding objection pending fuller investigation of whether the move would lead to an overall loss of playing field facilities, but (for reasons suggested below), it seems unlikely that they will persist in opposition. Questions are more likely to arise as to whether the local infrastructure in Baird ward can absorb this number of extra housing units in terms of pressure on local schools, medical facilities, shops etc.

In November 2018 when the plans were first mooted, Cllr Andy Batsford, then lead councillor on the borough council for housing and leisure, as well as representing St Helen’s ward just down the road, made supportive statements, but said that “the development of much-needed homes on the Pilot Field site needs to be done sympathetically, listening to the concerns and ideas of local residents”.

A local community grouping Pilot Field Area Residents Association was at that time aiming to keep the area’s “green spaces”, which also include The Firs area above, “for leisure use”. Whether serious opposition will be mounted to the current plans remains to be seen.

Tilekiln Application

There is nothing in the plans now lodged for the five-hectare (12.4 acres) Tilekiln site that has not been previously trailed. The proposed spectator capacity for the stadium is confirmed as 1,950, though there is potential for expansion of this maximum should the club’s ambitions to rise in the football pyramid make it desirable. There will be two additional 3G pitches, a MUGA, a sports hall, three petanque courts, changing facilities, and associated car and coach parking.

The application, put forward by PWA Planning on behalf of the club, argues that, despite the loss of existing playing fields at Tilekiln to make way, there will be “no net loss of facilities…The flexibility of use and availability for different users will, in our view, be of significant benefit to the development of sport within the Borough.” The artificial 3G pitches and an all-weather MUGA can be used much more intensively than traditional grass pitches, so there should be a clear gain for local teams playing in both adult and junior local leagues provided that costs are kept in check.

The aim is for the new stadium to be completed in time for the start of the 2022/23 season. 

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