Great news! Hastings Borough Council have been granted £24.3 million from a government levelling up grant to help communities boost their local economies, create jobs and help them build back better from the pandemic.
It is exciting to know that another £80 plus million will also be invested through match funding, providing a sum of over £100 million to be invested in our town.
The money will be spent in a number of areas and I particularly like the idea of making more of our 1066 heritage. Hastings’ Norman castle is visible but inaccessible. Making the most of our place in English history and making an internationally significant visitor attraction could benefit the wider area and increase visitor footfall to Hastings.
There is also an emphasis on training and jobs connected to the green economy and an aspiration to make Hastings a green garden town. The Town Deal has highlighted opportunities to regenerate the town centre, hopefully delivering a mixed-use of new homes, commercial opportunities and leisure facilities.
The Council’s vision of creating “Green arteries buzzing with biodiversity will connect our old Norman harbour of a town centre to its nationally recognised countryside parks, seafront and urban parks.” seems at odds with selling off and building over our ever decreasing leisure spaces and playing fields. The Council must put a greater emphasis on building new homes on brown-field sites and creating homes in urban areas, where empty shops suck the life out of town centres.
What the Council must undoubtably avoid is watching Town Deal money disappear down the black holes of bureaucracy and consultancy.
I’m not sure how familiar the public is with a ‘not-for-profit’ economic development company called Sea Change Sussex. It may have had some successes here and there but for Hastings it has been an unmitigated disaster. £millions of public money wasted on missed opportunities and mis-management. Although Hastings Borough Council have a seat on its board, they seem powerless or disinclined to do anything about their failings.
Sea Change Sussex have been responsible for; the complete disaster of a road scheme which was supposed to take traffic pressure off The Ridge; incomplete business parks with no prospective occupiers; projects repeatedly delivered late and environmentally sensitive areas in St Leonards turned from countryside into to barren, empty wastelands.
The Queensway Gateway road scheme, or as some call it ‘the road to nowhere’, has failed to unclog one of our town’s main arteries. Whoever is responsible for this farce must be brought to account. Sea Change Sussex is an embarrassment. It hasn’t created the jobs it promised and hasn’t delivered on the most important road scheme we have in our town.
Unlike Sea Change Sussex, the Town Deal must deliver, and it must especially deliver on the jobs it promises.