Hastings Local Plan Update (2 April 2021) – Beyond the Consultation Stage

The Local Plan by its very nature is a somewhat fragmented and complex document. Policies and site allocations tend to be dealt with as separate issues, but of course they are not. It is time for some joined up thinking.

Obviously the Council has some difficult issues to resolve in looking forward to 2039, but it is disconcerting to find that at times, in the past, they have chosen to ignore their own policies. Will the current crop of policies and objectives enshrined in the Draft Local Plan suffer the same fate? Policies need to be clear, decision making consistent, and outcomes measurable, but above all the Council need to be seen to respect those policies, both in their own proposals and in dealing with planning applications by others.

Examples of the Council’s past selective approach and lack of consistency are many but a couple will suffice to make the point:

A policy to protect and enhance existing green space is apparently to be flouted by their proposal to build on a recreation ground at Bulverhythe, and potentially at White Rock. Yet “loss of green space” is quoted as one of the reasons for refusing permission for four houses on private land elsewhere. Surely it is time for some consistency?

A policy to adopt measures to ensure a carbon neutral future are apparently to be flouted, again at Bulverhythe, by a “maybe we will, maybe we won’t” approach to adopting renewable energy sources. What value is the intention to achieve a carbon neutral goal if the Council do not follow their own policies?

Many residents have commented on the Draft Local Plan including Nick Chitty whose personal views can be read here and should be read alongside the Draft Local Plan.

Initial reports from the Council suggest they have received over 1000 comments, but it is unclear whether this figure relates to the number of comments received or to the number of people who have commented.

It remains to be seen what notice, if any, HBC take of these comments. If the still unpublished 700+ comments on their White Rock Master Plan are anything to go by, then one might conclude that little or no notice will be taken.

 

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 welcoming civic space in front of the station, which at the moment is just a figment of the Council’s imagination.

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