Hastings Council Leader’s Report: October 2019

Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019

Every four years, the government publishes its Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). This uses a range of measures, including unemployment, child poverty, income, health, housing conditions and education, to give an overall deprivation ‘score’. These scores are calculated for each neighbourhood (known as a Lower Super Output Area) in England – these are quite small, with around 34,000 of them in England, 53 of them in Hastings. This week, the latest figures were issued.

The IMD figures show how each neighbourhood in the country compares to all the others. So it’s not an absolute measure of deprivation, it’s a measure of how we’re doing compared to everyone else. On the overall ‘rank’ measure at a local authority level, Hastings has fallen from the 20th most deprived local authority in England, to the 13th most deprived. Within Hastings, 70% of our neighbourhoods are relatively more deprived than they were in 2015, with 16 in the most deprived ten percent in England. The neighbourhoods where deprivation has increased most significantly are in West St Leonards. The neighbourhoods showing the biggest decreases in deprivation are in the West Hill area.

Overall, the difference between the most deprived and least deprived neighbourhoods has slightly decreased. In 2015, our most deprived neighbourhood was Broomgrove Estate, the 89th most deprived in the country. Our least deprived was the neighbourhood around Little Ridge Avenue, the 25,585th most deprived. In 2019, these are still our most and least deprived neighbourhoods, but are now ranked 147 and 23,407 respectively. Most increases in deprivation are in the previously less deprived neighbourhoods. Decreases in deprivation are most pronounced in neighbourhoods around Hastings and St Leonards town centres.

But the overall trend is still in the wrong direction – made worse by the fact that the IMD tends to underestimate deprivation in coastal towns, because it includes air quality and access to open spaces (which includes beaches) in the individual measures.

It will require more research to get to the bottom of which measures are having the most significant impact on the IMD for Hastings neighbourhoods, but it’s not difficult to understand why deprivation has continued to increase here. Underinvestment in transport infrastructure, with slow journey times to London and pretty much everywhere else, put off major employers from relocating here – we know that from national surveys Hastings Council has commissioned in the past. Coupled to that, a lack of affordable housing, nine years of austerity and the early roll-out of Universal Credit in Hastings have forced people into homelessness and poverty – we need to be given the opportunity for all our citizens to thrive, and end the poverty and deprivation that has blighted the most deprived parts of our borough for too long. There is an online interactive map, where you can see the overall IMD results and rank for every English LSOA, with the map for 2015 shown alongside. You can even look at the results and ranks for individual measures within the IMD. You can find that here:

http://dclgapps.communities.gov.uk/imd/iod_index.html

There’s also quite a nice map showing deprivation as coloured bars, so gives a good overall view across the country, here:

https://parallel.co.uk/imd/#9/52.454/-1.828/0/32

Recycling and Waste: Where It Goes

At the Joint Waste Committee last week, we received a useful report about waste destinations in East Sussex. All the household waste collected in Hastings is now collected by Biffa, so that means recyclates, residual waste (black bags and bins) and garden waste. It’s passed on to East Sussex County Council, who are the waste disposal authority. The mixed recyclates from the green bins and pink sacks are dealt with by ESCC’s contractor Viridor, a recycling company based in Crayford, Essex. All the waste collected at the Civic Amenity Site (the ‘tip’ off Bexhill Road), residual waste, and bulky waste (including flytipped bulky waste) is dealt with by Veolia, ESCC’s main waste disposal contractor.

The pie chart above shows overall where all the waste collected in East Sussex goes. All the residual waste from black bins & bags goes to the Waste to Power plant in Newhaven, where it’s incinerated, and the heat used to generate power. By far the largest part of residual waste is food, with over a quarter of all residual waste made up of food that has never been cooked or used – it’s just bought and thrown away. About a quarter of the residual waste is material that could be recycled, if it was put into the green bin/pink sack instead.

However, there is still 4% of total collected waste that goes to landfill (outside the county). This is bulky waste items – furniture that can’t be reused, but predominantly mattresses, which are too big to fit into the incinerator. There are proposals to require mattress manufacturers to pay for the end-of-life recycling costs of their products, in the same way that electrical equipment manufacturers do. But for now, mattresses all go to landfill.

Green waste (from brown bins or collected at the tip) goes to a composting facility at Whitesmith, near Lewes, and is sold as organic compost for horticultural and agricultural purposes.

The mixed recyclates from the green bins/pink sacks go to Viridor’s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Crayford. Some pretty sophisticated machines here separate all the materials, through various optical and mechanical processes. Only about 5% of the collected recyclates is unusable. About half of the recyclate is paper and cardboard, with just over a quarter glass. The rest is mostly plastics. Viridor do export some separated recyclates – although they don’t reveal exactly where they go. But they do this because there are not enough reprocessing plants to recycle the separated products in the UK – they do use UK facilities where they have capacity. What they don’t do, they say, is export unseparated recyclates. Jaguar Landrover buys our aluminium cans, where they’re made into engine or body components. So consider that when you recycle a drink can – it’s going to end up as part of a new Jag!

All the specialist materials collected at the tip (apart from bulky waste and mattresses) are recycled or dismantled. Furniture is ‘upcycled’ or reused where possible, metals go to a company in Lewes (MJD Light Ltd), who also dismantle and recycle fridges, freezers and other electrical goods, lightbulbs, and fluorescent tubes.

That’s a very brief overview. If you’d like to see the full report, you can see it on the agenda on the Rother Council website, agenda item 9 (Rother are the lead authority for the joint refuse collection contract that covers Rother, Wealden, and Hastings):

https://rother.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g187/Public%20reports%20pack %2027th-Sep-2019%2014.00%20Joint%20Waste%20Committee.pdf?T=10

Food Waste Collections

At the moment, our refuse collection contract does not include food waste collections (although the contract does allow for this to be added if needed). There is some talk by the government about requiring all councils to collect food waste separately. However, I don’t support that – here’s the reason why…

From a sustainability/carbon footprint point of view, it doesn’t much matter whether you burn food waste or whether you collect it separately and anaerobically digest it, the amount of carbon released is the same, eventually. If it’s sent to the incinerator in residual waste, the carbon in the food is oxidised to carbon dioxide straight away – part of the natural carbon cycle, it’s not putting fossil carbon into the atmosphere. The heat produced is used to generate electricity. If it’s collected separately, it goes to an anaerobic digester, where it’s fermented by anaerobic bacteria (ie ones that don’t need oxygen to grow) to produce methane, which is collected and burned, and the heat used to generate electricity, producing carbon dioxide. That leaves you with a ‘digestate’ residue, which has to be chemically detoxified (anaerobic bacteria have a weird metabolism that produces chemicals that are toxic to animals) and pasteurised to kill the bacteria (a process that requires the digestate to be heated to sixty degrees on two or three separate days). This pasteurised digestate can then be used as a soil improver, where it will eventually get broken down by aerobic bacteria to release carbon dioxide.

It is true that some of the carbon in the digestate could be locked up in the soil for a few years, and the digestate does help to address the problem of soil degradation that’s also environmentally damaging. But the additional processes involved in food waste digestion (the extra lorries needed for collection, transporting to the digester, producing the detoxification chemicals, pasteurising the digestate, transporting the digestate to its destination etc) all use additional energy or fuel to make them happen. So it seems unlikely that the overall carbon footprint of separate food waste collections is smaller than simply collecting food in residual waste and incinerating it. Indeed, food waste collections might have a significantly higher carbon footprint. So far, I’ve seen no definitive research that confirms or disproves this, but for now, it seems to me that separate food waste collections, and the significant extra costs that entails, isn’t really worthwhile – the money would be better spent on stopping people wasting food in the first place.

Car Free Day

Sunday 22nd September was International Car Free Day, which was celebrated in Hastings as part of the ‘Sustainability on Sea’ festival, with a road closure from the pier to Warrior Square.

Despite the damp weather, quite a few people turned up, to enjoy various events and activities. I drew on my 50 years of gardening experience to do a talk on how you can best use your old glass recycling box to grow fruit and vegetables. It was the first time I’ve ever done a talk on horticulture – I participated in a panel discussion too.

Making the seafront car-free remains an ambition, but one that could potentially be achieved. Although controversial, the Hastings to Bexhill link road, and the Queensway Gateway Road when it’s finished, would mean that the A259 trunk road could in effect be routed away from the seafront. It’s a distant possibility at the moment, and would probably need changes to national policy to achieve it, but it’s something I would be prepared to push for, along with better walking and cycling infrastructure and better, subsidised bus services that would reduce car use.

Anyway, our first Car Free Day gave us all something to think about, and made people realise how pleasant a car-free seafront could be. And well done to the organisers who put this on, on a minimal budget. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again next year.

Homelessness Strategy

Under the Homelessness Act 2002, all local housing authorities are required to have a Homelessness Strategy. Hastings Council has now published an updated draft Homelessness Strategy, which is on the council website for consultation.

The strategy has three priorities:

  • Reduce rough sleeping;
  • Minimise the use of emergency accommodation;
  • Adapt the service to meet local needs.

Since the original strategy was published, homelessness has increased dramatically in Hastings, and throughout the country, with numbers presenting to the council as homeless increasing six-fold since 2010, rough sleepers increasing thirteen-fold. Over the last three years, the numbers of households presenting as homeless has stabilised, but the time they’re spending in temporary accommodation has continued to increase significantly, and is now well over six months. This is because there is little or no social rented housing available, and rents in the private sector are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Private sector rents are now around 25% higher than the Local Housing Allowance (the amount allowed for rent in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit). Although the costs of temporary accommodation are significantly higher than rents, tenants don’t have to pay them – these are paid by the council and by government grants.

By far the largest cause of homelessness is now s.21 ‘no fault eviction’ notices served on tenants, which allow landlords to evict tenants for no reason. These are being used increasingly, as landlords seek to sell off their homes as the value increases, or re-let the property at a much higher rent.

To reduce the length of stay in expensive and unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation, the council is now buying properties in Hastings to use for temporary accommodation, reducing costs significantly, as well as leasing them from private owners through our Social Lettings Agency.

Hastings Council has taken the lead on several projects across the county to reduce rough sleeping, including the Sussex Rough Sleeping Prevention Project and the Hastings and Eastbourne Rough Sleeping Initiative. This is a government-funded project, which has led to the biggest intervention in preventing rough sleeping, with 270 people prevented from rough sleeping, and 44 rough sleepers moving into permanent housing within the first nine months of operating. It has also provided temporary accommodation where the needs of rough sleepers can be assessed, and some permanent social housing accommodation for the most entrenched rough sleepers. The project also includes intensive support to help rough sleepers deal with addiction problems and help them maintain a tenancy, so they don’t end up on the street again. Funding for this project, however, ends in March next year, if it’s not renewed by the government.

The numbers of rough sleepers on the streets have not, however, declined much, as the overall numbers ending up on the street continue to increase. Many rough sleepers are transient, particularly in summer – over 90% of the rough sleepers in Hastings had no connection with Hastings before they arrived as rough sleepers. People living in caravans have also become an increasing problem. At Sea Road for example, six caravans have been removed over the past year and 24 occupants of caravans there have been re-housed.

So there are big challenges, and the problems aren’t getting any easier to deal with – nor are they likely to until national policy changes. Rent controls and an end to ‘no fault’ evictions would help, but what’s really needed is much more social rented housing, owned by councils or housing associations. Until that happens, homelessness will continue to be a big problem.

To see the draft Homelessness Tragedy and comment on it, go to:

https://www.hastings.gov.uk/my-council/consultations/draft-homelessnessstrategy/

Cornwallis Street Car Park Proposal

At its meeting on Monday, Hastings Council Cabinet will consider a proposal to advertise Cornwallis Street Car Park as a development site for an 80-bed hotel. This has been triggered by an approach from a hotel chain who would like a hotel there – however, the council has to now advertise the site, to see if there’s any other interest from other potential hotel providers. The proposal is for the council to develop the hotel ‘to order’, and lease it to the hotel chain, so we would retain the freehold of the building and the land. This would result in a net gain in income for the council, after taking into account the costs of borrowing to fund the project, and the loss of car parking income.

This car park was earmarked for redevelopment in the Hastings Local Plan, agreed back in 2015. However, it was originally proposed as a housing development, but for only ten homes because part of the car park is in a flood risk zone. A development of that size would require no affordable rented homes. It’s also a policy in our local plan to develop new hotel accommodation wherever we can.

Loss of the 30 spaces in the car park has to be considered too, although there is plenty of parking in the Priory Meadow car park across the road, as well as on-street parking too.

Hastings is desperately short of hotel accommodation – Bournemouth has 23,000 serviced bed spaces, Brighton also has 23,000, Eastbourne has 7,000, but Hastings has fewer than a thousand. During our many, increasingly popular, festivals, all our hotel accommodation is often full. Tourism is still the biggest sector of the local economy, but is dependent largely on day visitors rather than people staying overnight, or staying for a few days. Because people staying overnight spend significantly more money (on food and restaurants especially), that means we tend to have a ‘low value’ tourism economy, with low-paid jobs. More hotel accommodation would help to improve that, particularly through ‘mid-range’ hotels such as the one that’s approached us with the idea of a hotel in Cornwallis Street.

The plan is still some way from being agreed, however. After advertising the site, Cabinet would then have to consider whether to go ahead with the proposal, and the building would then have to be designed and would be subject to the usual planning processes and consultation.

You can see the full report on the Cabinet agenda here:

https://hastings.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g3742/Public%20reports%20 pack%2007th-Oct-2019%2018.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10

Old Town Hall

After well over a year of trying to find an occupier for the Old Town Hall, there is now a report on Monday’s Cabinet agenda to sell the building. As it’s a listed Asset of Community Value, any decision to sell the building could be delayed by six months if a local community group puts in an expression of interest to acquire the building – the six-month delay allows them time to raise the money to buy it.

However, the council is still open to offers to lease the building too, and the proposed sale has provoked a couple of new interests in leasing it, from local voluntary groups. However, we can’t simply leave it there empty, so we will have to consider all possible future options, including sale.

Some improvements to the building have been made to make it a little easier to run – for example, the lead roofing (which was constantly being stolen at considerable cost) has now been replaced by zinc – this took a long time to get approval for, as it’s a grade II listed building. The thermal efficiency of the building has been improved a little too. However, it’s still a difficult building to manage and run, and it can’t be divided up internally (because of its listed status). Also, its asset of community value listing means that it should continue to be used for something to which the community has access (although this could be as a retail business).

Details of the proposed potential sale are in the Cabinet agenda, which you can view here:

https://hastings.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g3742/Public%20reports%20 pack%2007th-Oct-2019%2018.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10

That’ll do for now – if you’d like more information on any of this, leave a message on 01424 451066, or e-mail at cllr.peter.chowney@hastings.gov.uk

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