Hastings Borough Council Leader’s report April 2018

To comment on any of the items below or obtain further information, please contact Cllr Peter Chowney.


New Threats to Hastings Fishery

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been something of an embarrassment for those of us who have advocated staying in the EU. The biggest problem for our local fishery is, in my view, the UK government’s policy on the allocation of UK quota. The under ten metre fleet that makes up over 90% of the fishing boats, which fish sustainably, gets less than 10% of the quota, with the rest going to unsustainable factory trawlers. But the EU allocation of quota and territorial fishing rights is unfair too, which has made most fishers ardent Brexiteers.

So our local fishery welcomed the Brexit vote and the government’s commitment to restoring territorial waters to UK fishing boats, while recognising that quotas would still be needed. But now the government has agreed that the CFP will continue to apply through the Brexit transition period, during which the UK will have no say over the way the CFP is applied.

That’s particularly worrying for our local fishery, as during that period the EU is planning to introduce a ‘landing obligation’. On the face of it, that sounds like a good idea. It’s intended to end discards, so all fish caught will have to be landed. But what it means in practice is that when any species quota is reached, the fishery will have to shut down for the rest of the quota period, because they won’t be able to guarantee that they won’t catch any more of that species and go over quota. This is further complicated by the way it applies across the whole quota area – it could mean that even though Hastings fishers stay within quota, going over quota in Eastbourne would mean our fishery had to close.

With the UK not party to negotiations around this in the run-up to it being introduced, this could be catastrophic for our local fishery. But now, all fisheries are worried about what the government’s commitment really is to restoring UK territorial rights to UK fisheries post Brexit, and whether they’ll simply negotiate that away in the overall Brexit trade negotiations. As this week’s issue of the industry magazine ‘Fishing News’ said, “The government’s reputation now, in the eyes of the fishing industry is in tatters and it has lost the trust of the industry”. In my recent discussions with Hastings fishery representatives, that’s certainly their view too.


Bohemia Quarter


Over the next few years, we’ll be embarking on a major redesign and redevelopment of White Rock Gardens, the White Rock Theatre and Summerfields Leisure Centre, and the ‘Bohemia Quarter’. This will probably be the biggest public space redevelopment in Hastings since the last war, and would mean new, modern facilities for sport, leisure, and culture, developing this space to complement Hastings Pier, and become a new destination for our town. I did my Observer Column on this last week, which you can see here.

After the creation of a ‘masterplan’ last year, the process moves on to a more formal stage, through the creation of an Area Action Plan (AAP), for Bohemia Quarter and the town centre. Work on this has already begun, with public consultation beginning over the summer

So watch out for the AAP consultation when it emerges later this year. This could be one of the most exciting projects we’ve seen in Hastings for a generation, creating a new cultural, leisure and tourism destination, something quite special for visitors and local people alike.


Ashdown Forest update

Last month, I reported on Wealden Council’s blanket objections to all planning applications that result in additional traffic movements in all councils within fifty miles or so of the Ashdown Forest – which includes Hastings. They have also threatened to seek judicial review of any applications that are approved.

Wealden Council are right that air pollution is damaging Ashdown Forest – there’s proof of that. But whether the additional car movements generated by one house being built 30 miles away in Hastings contribute to that is, to say the least, questionable.

Leaders of eleven affected councils (including me) have written to Bob Stanley, leader of Wealden, expressing in strong terms our dissatisfaction with their actions. These are mostly Tory councils, but also includes Crawley and Brighton (both Labour) and Eastbourne (Lib Dem). The affected councils have taken a common view on this and are still going ahead with processing smaller applications (for one or two dwellings), but larger applications are on hold. There is a risk to that, because developers could appeal on the grounds of ‘non-determination’, which could land the councils with bills for legal costs, if the developer wins.

The government has now got involved, as Wealden’s actions are preventing the development of thousands of new homes across the south-east region. Technically, they probably could take planning powers away from Wealden, on non-determination grounds. But the problem doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved anytime soon.


Community-Led Local Development

CLLD is an EU-funded scheme, with the Hastings version called CHART CLLD, with CHART standing for Connecting Hastings and Rother Together. That’s tautological of course, but anything that’s EU funded has to have a tortured acronym. It’s been a complicated scheme to sort out, with the original Hastings Council bid approved three years ago. But now it’s soon to be officially launched, after the council elections.

The CLLD programme will fund measures to link people in deprived communities to jobs, skills development, and entrepreneurial activity. The programme is aimed at wards in the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in Hastings and Rother. So the programme will focus on the following wards: Ore, Tressell, Baird, Hollington, Wishing Tree, Castle, Gensing, Central St Leonards, Sidley, and Central Bexhill. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that, because it’s focussed on specific neighbourhoods, so in some cases it won’t be targeted on the whole ward, although in practice a lot of the funded projects are unlikely to be that specific.

The total EU funding for the programme is £3.7m, with another £3.7m in match funding.

There will be four main packages in the programme, which are:

• Developing physical assets of value to local communities;
• Enterprise and business support;
• Community development and capacity building;
• Employability support.

The funding is made available through a grants programme, where organisations will bid to deliver projects with specific outcomes in the target neighbourhoods, to fit to one or more of the work packages. The council(s) will be able to bid for money to run projects itself.

Bids for funding will open when the project launches in May, with project delivery beginning later in the summer. The programme will go some way to replacing activity the council used to carry out in the more deprived wards before 2010, albeit for a limited period, when mainstream government activity was available for such purposes,


Social Lettings Agency

At its last Cabinet meeting, Hastings Council approved a ‘relaunch’ of the Social Lettings Agency. This programme was introduced a couple of years ago and allows landlords to lease their property to the council for three years. The council then uses the property to house people who have been accepted as ‘priority homeless’, so they don’t have to go into temporary accommodation. During the three-year lease period, the council carries out all minor repairs, manages the property, selects the tenants, and takes care of administrative arrangements such as tenancy agreements. The owner gets a fee that’s less than they would get if they were to let the property themselves, but without having the responsibilities of being a landlord.

The SLA had taken on 45 properties, but had been put on hold, pending changes to the way the government funds payments for housing priority homeless households. Now that’s been sorted out, the programme is being relaunched, and will be looking for new property owners to lease their properties. The scheme is particularly attractive to ‘accidental landlords’ who have inherited a property, and don’t want to sell it, but don’t really want to be landlords either.

The SLA will also be developed as the agency that will take on properties that the council acquires or builds through its new housing company. In effect, the council is re-creating a housing management function that it used to have before it transferred all its housing stock to a housing association and wound up its property management department.

Hopefully, the scheme will now expand, and limit the need to use bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless households, putting them into secure, affordable rented accommodation instead.


Healthy Hastings and Rother

In Hastings, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) funds a programme of intervention through Hastings Council, with the programme agreed jointly between the CCG and council. This is very unusual, and doesn’t happen in many other councils, but does give HBC the opportunity to create programmes that address problems the council has to deal with, particularly relating to housing, homelessness, and addictions.

The programme is currently funded until 2020, with over £2.7m available, and has been running for a couple of years. Some of the projects funded include:

  • ‘Let’s Get Moving’, a social-prescribing fitness programme available to GPs for people whose health is suffering because of obesity and lack of physical activity;
  • Health and Wellbeing Hubs, a programme that will allow existing community centres to get involved in new health and wellbeing services;
  • Health Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (HIDVA), to promote earlier identification of domestic violence in hospital admissions and outpatients;
  • Specialist Nursing Service for rough sleepers, the street community and people living in temporary accommodation;
  • Rough sleepers and street community hub, a weekly multi agency hub in St Leonards to improve access to services and support for rough sleepers and the street community;
  • Healthy Homes programme, to reduce fuel poverty in owner-occupied and private rented homes and support the enforcement of housing standards;
  • Community Adult Learning, providing bespoke and targeted community adult learning for lone parents, people with poor physical and /or mental health, care leavers, long term unemployed people and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

This approach represents a broader approach to ‘healthcare’ than is usually recognised by CCGs, addressing issues which are known to contribute to ill health and that, if not addressed, would place additional burdens on the NHS. But it also provides much-needed support for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. We’re hoping that the programme will continue beyond 2020, but that will depend on the levels of NHS funding available locally.


Harbour and Marina Proposal

A quick update on this: nothing more has happened. Council officers accompanied the developers to a meeting with government officials to request government funding for feasibility and associated studies. But as yet, no decision has been made.

However, there is quite a bit of fake news circulating about this, so for the record (again):

 

  • No decision has been made. The council is at the moment neither supporting nor opposing it, but needs more detail before making anything resembling a decision;
  • The Council is not funding any feasibility studies, nor anything else associated with the project;
  • The project is at this stage only conceptual – we have no idea yet what it would look like, or what it would involve;
  • There are a number of demands that would need to be met before considering whether to support it, including a requirement for at least 25% social rented housing, no loss of car parking, no interference to the fishery (and the support of the fishery), and no interference or damage to businesses or attractions along Rock-a-Nore.

There has also been talk about how the development, by its mere presence, will spoil the ‘ancient’ area along Rock-a-Nore. So it is perhaps worth noting that it really isn’t that ancient. Just fifty years ago, the area would have been unrecognisable. Many of the buildings that were there then have gone, and many of the buildings that are there now have been built since the 1970s, including the fishmarket, fishery offices, the two fish shops at the front of the fishmarket, the Shipwreck Museum, the Sea Life Centre, the Ice House flats, the souvenir shop, the telehoist workshop, the Stade Café, Stade Open Space, Jerwood Gallery, and the Stade Hall. Even the net shops are effectively modern replicas, as all the wood they’re made of has been replaced over the years several times.
As a busy, working urban area, it’s been subject to continuous change over 1,000 years. Those changes will continue for the next 1,000 years. Whether a harbour is part of that remains to be seen. But this certainly isn’t the first proposal for a harbour (there have been at least five since the original harbour silted up 700 years ago), and it probably won’t be the last.


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Hastings and Rye Labour