With the summer holiday season ending the town seems to have benefitted this year from ‘staycations’. Covid-19 has made many people holiday on the English coast instead of risking travel abroad. The seafront in Hastings and St Leonards has been busy and visitor numbers have been strong.
If Hastings and St Leonards are to recover quickly from the financial difficulties caused by Covid-19 we need to make the best of our town as a tourist destination. The question we need to ask; is the Council doing enough to attract tourism to the seafront?
If you walked along the seafront in Hastings over the past few weeks, it seemed little out of the ordinary was provided for visitors and tourists this summer.
Perhaps you would like to rent a beach hut? If you visit Hastings Council’s website to register an interest to rent a beach hut you are greeted with the message, “there are currently no vacant units available for hire and all waiting lists for beach huts and chalets are closed as they are full.”
Over in Bexhill-on-Sea, Rother District Council were putting up as many beach huts as they could, maximising income and doing their best to meet demand. Why haven’t we done the same here?
The responsibility for what is allowed on our beaches falls to the Foreshore Trust. Most of the seafront land and beaches between Rock a Nore and Bulverhythe is owned and run by them.
The Foreshore Trust wields huge power in a seaside town like ours because it controls the seafront and what can be done on it.
The Foreshore Trust is supposed to be legally independent from Hastings Borough Council but in effect it is controlled by them. Three Labour councillors act as trustees, along with one independent ‘protector’.
The Trust admirably distributes any surplus income, after expenditure, to charitable purposes within the borough, however, they don’t seem to be particularly proactive at providing new or interesting facilities on the foreshore for visitors.
Many people found it baffling that the Foreshore Trust didn’t buy the pier when it was virtually being given away. Would it not have been sensible for the Trust to have purchased the pier at a snip, lease the deck out to events and entertainment companies (like the owner does now), and use ALL the rental profit to maintain the pier structure? It would also have kept ownership and control of the Stirling Prize winning pier within the town.
The Foreshore Trust needs to be fit for purpose and proactively make best use of the seafront for the benefit of everyone. I would suggest the Trust needs a root and branch reorganisation to make it more effective and independent.