To comment on any of the items below or obtain further information, please contact Cllrs Tania Charman and Peter Chowney.
Borough Council election
Hastings Borough Council elections took place on 3rd May, with Labour gaining two seats: one from Conservative (St Helen’s), one from Independent (Castle) and losing one to Conservative (West St Leonards). So Labour gained one seat overall, and the make-up of the council is now 24 Labour, 8 Conservative. That’s the highest number of seats Labour has held on Hastings Council.
Labour achieved 50% of the total vote, which was a very good result for us considering there were four political parties standing in each ward (apart from Old Hastings). The highest percentage share was achieved in Braybrooke, with 64% of the vote. The largest numerical majority was achieved by Kim Forward, in Gensing Ward.
Because of ward boundary changes, these were ‘all-out’ elections, with all 32 seats up for election, so there were a lot of new councillors elected: 9 new Labour councillors, 7 of whom are women. The Conservative group includes two new councillors, one of whom is a woman.
In two years’ time, we revert to our usual pattern of elections by halves, once every two years. That means one councillor in each ward will be up for election (there are 16 two-member wards). The one up for election in two years’ time will be the one who polled the fewest votes in this all-out election.
I’d like to thank everyone who voted Labour, giving us a continuous majority on Hastings Council that will, by the next election in 2020, have lasted 10 years. But whatever you voted, we will do our best to represent you.
We will now work to put our manifesto into practice. A copy of the summary manifesto was delivered to every household in the borough, but if you missed it, you can see it here.
Some time ago, we proposed the idea of a sustainable seafront transport link, in the shape of a mini-tram along the promenade, from the Old Town to Grosvenor Gardens. Work was done to investigate the potential route, and whether it would fit between the seafront structures. The idea was first put forward before the pier opened, but was put on hold at the time, pending further research on potential usage, and whether there would be enough year-round demand to pay for it. To fund that developmental work, we applied
for an EU ‘DESTISMART’ grant for developing sustainable transport solutions. That grant programme was repeatedly delayed – by several years in the end. However, we have finally been awarded the DESTISMART funding, for £133,000, so will now be able to research and develop a detailed business plan, carry out potential passenger and use surveys, and investigate potential capital funding.
The proposal is for a ‘trackless tram’ to run along the seafront promenade. The best we’ve seen so far is a lightweight electric vehicle manufactured in the UK by Severn Lamb, in Warwickshire (see picture). It would carry around 30 people, although there are options to extend that with additional carriages. This would help connect the Old Town to the pier, as well as encouraging tourists to explore areas beyond that, including St Leonards town centre and Grosvenor Gardens. But it would also be an all-year-round practical transport option, running all the way along the seafront. The tram would run on tyred wheels rather than rails but would follow a defined route marked by electronic transponders, which would guide the vehicle.
This makes it suitable for areas that are busy with pedestrians, as happens with modern tramways in busy city centres. The vehicle would travel at relatively slow
speeds (16 kph maximum), but as any cyclist will tell you, it’s quicker cycling along the seafront cycle lane between Hastings and St Leonards than it is to drive, even when there are no traffic queues – if you’re a quick cyclist! We would operate two of them, so the service could run half hourly at busy times, with both trams running.
We did consider running the tram along the road, but this is much more difficult. It requires different licences and requirements for a road-going vehicle, would contribute to traffic congestion, and would itself get caught in traffic congestion on busy days.
Work on developing the proposal will begin when we get the DESTISMART money, later in the summer. It could also involve bringing a ‘test’ vehicle to Hastings, to see how it works in practice.
As you might have heard, Channel 4 is planning to move its headquarters out of London. But as well as a new headquarters, they’re also planning to set up two ‘satellite’ regional studios. They have asked for bids for locations for both the headquarters and the satellites, stressing that they want to be in areas where their presence will help regenerate the economy, but also where they will be able to find the right premises and workforce.
So Hastings has put in a bid for one of the satellite hubs. It’s a long shot – there are many other towns and cities bidding for this too. But the bid that’s been put together does look convincing. It’s led by Hastings Council, with Locate East Sussex, University of Sussex, University of Brighton, Sussex Coast College, Team East Sussex (the local ‘federated’ part of
the Local Enterprise Partnership), East Sussex County Council, and Rother District Council as partners.
The bid is called ‘Bringing Television Home’ an allusion to John Logie Baird’s first TV broadcast experiments in Hastings. It stresses the cultural and creative economy in Hastings, and how that’s already regenerating the economy, as well as all the quirky, independent, and eccentric aspects of the town. But it also makes the point that there are premises already here that they could move into, in the university buildings that will be vacated by Brighton University when their campus here closes next year – premises with almost new, state-of-the-art TV studio and recording facilities.
One of the wonderful things about the bid process has been how so many people working in the creative and media sectors locally have come forward to help with the bid, to be included in the process and provide quotes for the document. That in itself was worthwhile, bringing together people working in the creative and media sectors we’d previously know little about. How many people knew the director of ‘Peaky Blinders’ lives in Hastings, for example?!
We’ll know whether we got through to the next round later this month. If we do, Channel 4 will pay us a visit, and we’ll hear who has been chosen later in the summer. As I said, it’s a long shot, with so many others bidding too. But whatever happens, it’s generated a lot of local enthusiasm, and spawned a new creative network that could be useful in the future.
This has been another project that has taken a long time to come to fruition. The proposal to build a ‘straw bale’ construction visitor centre in the Country Park was approved more than three years ago, but escalating costs and difficulties finding a contractor who was able to do straw builds delayed the project. The project was to be funded in part by an EU grant from a fund called UPSTRAW, which originally provided £226,000 towards construction costs. Council funding came from the sale of Warren Cottage in the Country Park.
Because of underspends elsewhere in the UPSTRAW programme, a further £176,000 has also been made available by the EU for construction costs, leaving £117,000 to be funded by the council (in addition to the proceeds of the sale of Warren Cottage).
One of the problems has been that straw bale building is not done by larger building contractors. Rather, it’s carried out by small, specialist
artisan builders. So a consortium of small artisan builders has been brought together to take on the contract.
There will be a special Cabinet meeting on Monday 21st May to discuss this, and whether to approve the final scheme. You can read the report that’s going to the Cabinet meeting here.
Community Led Local Development
This scheme was especially complicated because it involved two different EU funding streams, each with its own, and different, set of rules. Finally, all the agreements have been signed, and the funding will arrive shortly. The official launch of the scheme was delayed because of the election purdah period.
The scheme funds employment and community development initiatives in the most deprived neighbourhoods in Hastings and Bexhill, with around £7m in funding available. As a reminder, the programme comprises four ‘work packages’, which bids will be assessed against. These are:
1. COMMUNITY ASSETS: investment in physical assets for employability and community benefit;
2. ENTERPRISE AND BUSINESS SUPPORT: stimulating local entrepreneurship and business growth;
3. COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND OUTREACH: work with local communities and organisations to build confidence and capacity;
4. EMPLOYABILITY SUPPORT: direct support to the most vulnerable unemployed/economically inactive CHART residents to get jobs.
The first round of bids will be for larger projects, of over £1m. A bidding round for smaller projects will follow later. The bids are assessed by a community-led panel (which Hastings Voluntary Action have set up). The council can (and will) be submitting bids for these larger projects.
Over the next few months, as bids are considered, we’ll know exactly which projects are going to be funded.
And yet another complicated EU funding scheme. In this case, it provides around £1m to fund projects that support the local fishery, following on from the very successful FLAG 1 that also funded around £1m of local fishery projects, from a fish smoker to safety equipment on fishing boats.
The list of FLAG 2 projects is now taking shape. Around a quarter of a million pounds’ worth of projects have been approved so far. These are:
• A replacement ice maker for Hastings Fish Market;
• A research project on supporting sustainable cuttlefish stocks;
• Aspiring Chef’s Academy, to train local students in fish cookery;
• An additional net flaker (ie net folder – these were fitted to most fishing boats in the first FLAG round);
• Boat repairs and health and safety equipment for boats;
• Developing a Hastings Fish brand.
Projects in the pipeline include:
• Winch hut improvements;
• Mini Digger, for levelling shingle;
• Replacement vehicle barriers (at rear of Stade Open Space, to Lifeboat Station),
• Fish Market improvements;
• New CCTV and LED lighting;
• Collaborative Health and Safety training and equipment;
• Additional bulldozers for shingle clearance;
• Hastings Fishing Fleet history project;
• Improvements to Rock-a-Nore car park.
And finally, it’s worth noting what a fabulous May Day celebration we had this year. May Day Bank Holiday is always the busiest day of the year in Hastings, with both the bikers’ events and Jack-in-the- Green. This year, with warm, sunny weather, the town was packed. Around 45,000 bikes came to Hastings, and during the morning there were 5,000 people per hour arriving at Hastings Station. Overall, it’s estimated that there were over 100,000 visitors in town for the events that day. It was quite possibly the highest number of visitors ever seen in Hastings.
And remarkably, it was one of the most peaceful and trouble-free May Days in recent years. The police recorded only minor incidents, much less of the drunkenness (particularly amongst children) that had been seen in past years, and no traffic accidents involving serious injury.
Let’s hope this is a precursor for a busy and successful summer!
Tania and I were re-elected as the Tressell Councillors in the Hastings Council elections. The results were:
Peter Chowney Labour Party 659 (32%)
Tania Charman Labour Party 628 (31%)
Patrick Millar Conservative Party 217 (11%)
Terry Keen Conservative Party 208 (10%)
Catherine Taylor Green Party 130 (6%)
Christopher Whitrow Green Party 77 (4%)
Phil Broad Liberal Democrat 69 (3%)
Oliver Maloney Liberal Democrat 42 (2%)
That means Tania will serve a two-year term, until the elections in 2020, and I’ll serve a four-year term, till 2022.
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