An article in The Times newspaper has sparked criticism and controversy from St Leonards residents with Will Stevens’ popular seaside café, The Goat Ledge, in the forefront. 

The Goat Ledge Facebook page makes their stance clear: “As a local business at the heart of the community, we were troubled by a feature on St Leonards that appeared in The Times last Friday (6th Nov); gloating over increasing property values in a town where a high proportion of local people can only afford to rent, left us feeling very uncomfortable.

“We are conscious that St Leonards is changing rapidly, and that Goat Ledge is very much part of that change. That said, we are concerned that treating the town as a monopoly board has a corrosive effect, forcing people out and ultimately dividing the whole community.”

One aspect of the story, calling the town ‘St Lennys’ evoked particular ire. “I was born here, and I’ve never heard it called St Lennys,” said Kev Towner. Nor had any of the many others who posted replies.

Incomer contribution
“I moved here seven years ago and have no issue with others wanting to move here and be active in making positive changes for all members of the community. Certainly some of the best things that have happened in St Leonards in the last few years have been the result of incomers and locals joining forces and creative minds – but spewing this rubbish into the media and then shamelessly profiteering off the back of it… whilst pricing out local people benefits only those lining their pockets,” wrote Danielle Burton.

Jo White seemed more sanguine: “I wouldn’t worry too much. There was an article about it on ‘Sussex Live’ and most people absolutely slated St Leonards saying it was full of down and outs, which also isn’t the full picture. No-one wants St Leonards to become too rinsed. But I would say that most people who grew up in the area tend to want to live in the more suburban areas like Ore, or towards the Ridge, so the rise in prices in St Leonards won’t affect them. It tends to be ex-London people who want to live centrally and don’t mind the rough with the smooth so to speak.” 

“I agree that article creates a very uncomfortable feeling. A very difficult balancing act though,” said Steven Bourner. “…St Leonards has improved dramatically over the last five years… now (we) have the growing pains that come with that.”

Housing issues
“I welcome people to the town, to actually live here. But please stop buying two bed properties for Airbnb as this removes vital housing stock from local people who need it to live in. If you’re going to buy then do that to rent to local people. This situation has gone beyond dire and will drive local people out of town,” said Patsy Solanki, adding, “I’m still waiting to hear from Councillor Andrew Batsford on this issue. I don’t believe that our council is powerless in this.”

In Lucie Mason’s opinion: “There are numerous derelict/land banked opportunities in the immediate area, and potential for more, which could provide the affordable homes that are desperately needed. This is not a debate about a housing shortage but the lack of vision and community engagement by this council. 

“The Old Bathing Pool site is currently under threat of becoming a ‘Holiday Home Housing Estate’, despite assurances from Hastings Borough Council that it is important for West St Leonards to become a ‘destination’ to help improve the local economy. They are on the brink of signing contracts to allow 152 flats/dwellings to be built on this fabulous site and lose the potential to turn this unique area into something amazing.” 

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