No Sport, Please, “Keep Hastings Safe”

HIP reported in the article, Stink Over Toilet Closures on 2nd June 2020 that, with national lockdown restrictions gradually easing, the tennis courts and golf courses of local clubs had reopened from mid-May, subject to hygienic precautions and rules for social distancing. Elsewhere on this page, we observe that the cricketers of Hastings Priory are now undertaking net practice in preparation for a season hoped to start in July. And, though our TV screens will show no Wimbledon tennis this summer, we will shortly be watching Premier League football and a Test match cricket series as the England team host the West Indies, albeit without live audiences. 

White Rock Gardens – trimmed greens, no bowlers
PICTURE: Dave Young

Hastings Borough Council, on the other hand, is still declining to reopen any of its outdoor sports or leisure facilities to its citizens. The tennis courts at Alexandra Park; the bowls greens at White Rock Gardens, Alexandra Park and West Marina; multi-games areas (MUGAs) and kids’ playgrounds across the borough – all remain padlocked or otherwise barred from use.

Bowls England, the national sports body, has confirmed that outdoor bowls clubs across the country are permitted to open, but advises on its website that each club, including those using council-owned facilities, “will make their own decision about when their facilities are ready to open and can be operated safely”. Not so in Hastings – here, it is the council’s Resort Manager who tells the clubs when they can start using the greens; and they’re still waiting.

Oddly, Idverde, the council’s estate contractors, have been instructed to maintain the White Rock greens “to an appropriate standard” and the others (which the council voted prior to the lockdown to cease maintaining) to “a minimal level… to prevent them becoming overgrown”. The former certainly look immediately playable. But the council message is clear: “the site remains closed”.

Cllr Maya Evans has just been appointed council cabinet member for leisure as well as for the natural environment, and presumably has responsibility for sports facilities within this portfolio. She has not offered any comment on the continued closure. However, a council spokesperson told HIP Thursday 11th June: “Government guidance allows for local authorities to decide their own position in relation to [the easing of lockdown measures] that is best for their area… Our priority remains, and will always be, keeping residents and staff safe. We have the lowest infection rate in the whole of England and Wales, and we intend to do our part to keep things that way. We want to keep Hastings safe, and these cannot just be empty words, they must be backed up by actions.”

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