Is Hastings Council Delusional?

Hastings Station 1
Hastings Station Aerial View
Hastings Station 2A

The Site Allocation Schedule section of the draft Local Plan (Site reference TC2) refers specifically to “the town square which is in front of the station”.

In reality, as can be seen in the photos above, what we have is a few bus stops, a traffic island and a parking lot. Hardly a civic space.

Past proposals from MBM, BDP and Rummey Associates, amongst others, offered the prospect of a civic space as a fitting gateway to Hastings. All apparently shelved, without community consultation, in favour of a traffic engineers “vision” which does nothing to enhance the perception or enjoyment of the town.

As part of the Local Plan review, and in light of the less than detailed aspirations of the Town Fund Bid, is it not time for the Council to show some evidence of joined-up thinking?

The current fragmented proposals for the town centre, embodied in the Local Plan and the Town Fund Bid, need a comprehensive review, based on past studies, and current aspirations to develop an over-arching vision that in addition to other improvements, could deliver a civic space in the form of a town square in front of the station, which at the moment is just a figment of the Council’s imagination.

Hastings Local Plan Update (5 January 2021)

Hastings Borough Council’s long-deferred Local Plan Review is now open for consultation (until 24 March 2021). Details can be found here.

This is a crucial opportunity for individuals and community groups to register any concerns they may have regarding the Council’s proposals, but equally it is an opportunity to put forward proposals from the community as to how they would wish to see the town develop over the next 15 years.

It is at this stage of the planning process that the Council makes some fundamental decisions, such as allocating sites for specific uses. This creates a template against which future planning applications are assessed and establishes the Council’s policy on a range of topics.

Make sure you read the full text of the consultation document when it is published. If you have any concerns about future development in your local area, or the town in general, raise your concerns now and do not wait until a future planning application has been lodged. By then the principle of development will have been established by the Local Plan and scope for future objection may well be limited.

Helpful Hints

1.This is only the first step in the process. A further, final draft will go out to consultation. You may very well need to repeat your concerns! Councillors on the Cabinet will then approve (and possibly amend) this draft. The final draft will then go to an Inquiry when you will get another chance to put your case to an Independent Inspector. You may need to be ready for a long haul! The last Local Plan process showed that local campaigners who stick to their guns can get results, e.g. saving Speckled Wood,.

2.  Is the topic you are most interested in given enough/any real weight in the Plan? For example, housing is (rightly) given a lot of weight. The sea, surprisingly, is given almost none.

3.Is the place you are most interested in given enough weight? Four areas are identified as priority Focus Areas, does that include your area?

4. At least skim through the whole plan, not just the most obvious Policy headings. You may find that what looks like a perfectly good set of Strategic words isn’t supported, may even be undermined, by more detailed policy further on. For example Green Infrastructure is promoted in general terms but lacks detail, which would be very important for it to be effective.

5.Is there enough hard up to date evidence in the Plan to support the Council’s proposed policies or your alternative suggestions? This could be very important if an issue comes to be decided by the Independent Inspector. You may want to ask the Council to do more research and/or you may need to find more information to prove your point. Don’t let that stop you raising concerns, there will be time later to do a bit more research if needed.

6.Do the proposed Policies look realistic? Are they just wishful thinking or are they clear and sharp enough to be enforced? How should they be tightened?

7.Have you already got some experience how the existing Local Plan has succeeded or failed? Does this give clues on how the new Plan could be better?

8.Is it clear by whom and how a Policy will be implemented? This is an area where the draft Local Plan is especially woolly.

9.The Planning Officers, the Councillors (and perhaps the Inspector) can be swayed by the strength of feeling about an issue. If you think somebody else shares your view about an issue make sure they know about it. Even if a group view is submitted, encourage individual members of the group to write in as well. Copy your views to your Ward Councillors and the Cabinet. Also to the local press and social media.

Modern Gov (Ward Councillors)

Modern Gov (Cabinet Members)

Hastings Independent: news@hastingsindependentpress.co.uk

Hastings Online Times: nickterdre@btinternet.com

Hastings Decides: sbu06rh@gmail.com

Hastings in Focus: stuart.baillie@hastingsinfocus.co.uk

Hastings Observer: richard.gladstone@trbeckett.co.uk

Chris Lewcock (former Chair of HUDG) has drawn up a checklist to help you in making some preliminary notes of any areas of concern. Unfortunately HUDG do not have the resources to make comments on your behalf.

The HUDG website page Local Plan gives some further background information.

Amazingly Short Notice On Local Plan Consultation (2 September 2020)

The following email has been received from Hastings Borough Council (on 2 September 2020):

“As you may have heard, we have been working on our new Local Plan for Hastings over the past few months and as you have previously opted in to hear from the Planning Policy team at Hastings Borough Council to receive updates about the Local Plan we wanted to give you an update on progress.

The new Local Plan will cover the period up to 2039 and will set out a vision for the borough and a plan for the development of the town.  We would like to get your early feedback on priority areas for the new plan and have developed a short questionnaire so you can submit your views.  If you wish to complete the questionnaire please do so by 10th September 2020.  

We have also launched a new webpage and there will be more opportunities to comment on our draft plan in the Autumn.  Further updates will be sent to keep you informed as things progress.”

Why the short notice? Who knows? Maybe it is a way of ensuring comments are kept to the minimum? 

Don’t let that happen – get your comments in before the deadline.

St L Church 25_02_19 (17)
St L Church 25_02_19 (8)
St L Church 25_02_19 (3)
St L Church 25_02_19 (1)

Town Fund

HUDG, led by Chris Lewcock (former Chair), have put in a £2.5m detailed proposal to the Town Board in an attempt to secure funding for a significant renewal project for St Leonards centred around the now disused St Leonards Parish Church.

Essentially the proposals include bringing the church back into use as a “Science on Sea” museum, stabilisation of the cliff behind the church, creation of a new public plaza, and completing the long abandoned site on Undercliff with a small housing development.

Further details can be found in the Hastings Online Times article which can be accessed via the following link:

https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hot-topics/home-ground/science-on-sea-a-flagship-proposal-for-the-town-deal

Proposed Changes to the Planning System

Is the problem of too few houses being built really the fault of our, admittedly less than perfect, planning system?

According to recently published statistics it would appear not. On average across the UK the success rate for planning applications is 86%. Also across the UK over 400,000 houses with planning permission remain unbuilt, many of which have had permissions in place for over three years.

See the Guardian article for more details:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/07/number-of-unbuilt-homes-with-planning-permission-hits-record-levels-lga-says

LGA housing spokesman Cllr David Renard has said:

“The planning system is not a barrier to house building. The number of homes granted planning permission has far outpaced the number of homes being built. No-one can live in a planning permission, or a half-built house where work on a site has begun but not been completed. Councils need powers to tackle our housing backlog and step in where a site with planning permission lies dormant and house building has stalled. If we are to solve our housing shortage, councils need to be able to get building again and resume their role as major builders of affordable homes.”

Perhaps more and better resources should be allocated to speeding up the current system, with penalties in place for those developers who unjustifiably fail to deliver, and powers granted to local authorities to take over and complete stalled developments? Why go to the disruptive trouble and expense of building a new machine when the existing one can be modified?

Hastings Online Times has also published an article giving the individual views of two members of HUDG:

https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hot-topics/local-government/analysing-the-governments-proposed-planning-reforms