Almost 30 years after the site was cleared there are now some solid plans on the table for the redevelopment of the former bathing pool site at the west marina in St Leonards.
At its cabinet meeting earlier this week members agreed to recommend that Hastings Borough Council works with developers County Gate/Sunley to develop a plan that includes holiday cottages, beach chalets, restaurants and cafes, artists’ studios with ‘shop window’ retail spaces, and a slipway with boating facilities.
In the local plan the main part of the site, outlined in red, is earmarked for development for mixed housing and leisure. HBC has been looking for a developer to work with to develop the site, to make it a ‘destination’ a location that will bring visitors along the promenade to the western end of the town and visit the new attractions that will be developed there.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting council leader Peter Chowney explained that new housing would fund the leisure aspects of the development. The council had received proposals from other potential developers but most of those proposals involved housing but little in the way of leisure development that is required to turn West Marina into a true ‘destination’. County Gate/Sunley, however, did come up with ideas that were closer to meeting HBC’s objectives for the site.
At its meting on Monday the Cabinet agreed to work with County Gate/Sunley as they develop their proposals further.
Mr Chowney said: “In particular we’re interested in how the housing could be fitted in. We also want to explore further the possibility of using the old Stamco site, now owned by Aldi, and the Ministry of Defence site which may no longer be needed by the MoD. As the MoD have a programme of disposing of its surplus sites, we are contacting them to find out if this could be included in the development.”
The old Stamco site and MoD property could form part of the redeveloped area.
If the redevelopment was to include the Stamco and MoD sites Mr Chowney says it would be much easier to create a viable scheme.
“In the end, it may not be possible to come up with a scheme that delivers a high quality leisure development because the land values mean that too much housing has to be included to allow a proper leisure destination to be created. In that case, we would not go ahead with permanent development now, but would instead look for ‘meanwhile’ uses of the site until land values increased sufficiently.”
The site has been vacant for some 30 years and the council has looked to develop it on a number of occasion over the years. Cabinet members heard that with changing economic circumstances, improvements to property values and a number of reports and investigations to ‘de-risk’ the site, the opportunity is now available to develop it. Plans include 152 residential units, with 25 per cent of those being affordable homes.
Officials reported to cabinet that: “The actions taken over the last three years have managed to identify, engage and retain the interest of major development companies resulting in a viable and attractive proposition to transform the West Marina site into a destination point in line with the objectives of the seafront strategy, provide enhanced leisure opportunities and see much needed investment in the area.”
In addition to the bid from County Gate/Sunley the council also received a bid from a company called Charterhouse which members rejected. In a report from Peter Grace, HBA’s Assistant Director Financial Services and Revenues members were told: “While the Charterhouse scheme incorporates a large proportion of commercial space, it was considered that there was not a strong mobilisation strategy for this element and a lack of diversity of commercial uses. Further, the scheme is suggesting a ten per cent affordable housing provision which is below the policy compliant requirement of 25 per cent and also solely on a shared ownership tenure.”
There was a public consultation more than two years ago about the future of the site and councillors were told on Monday that as a result of that consultation the council has been particularly conscious of the need to incorporate leisure facilities and leisure opportunities along with retention of the play facilities as well as mixed commercial units in order to encourage and enable art and cultural enterprises to flourish in the locality and make the area a destination in its own right.
Local borough councillor Karl Beaney told Hastings In Focus: “This part of town has suffered from a lack of investment over many years so I welcome the decision that the cabinet has agreed a preferred bidder for this prime site, whether HBC’s cabinet has made the best decision we will have to wait and see.
“I’m not privy to the presentations made by all the shortlisted developers, these were only made available to cabinet members, so I look forward to seeing the plans fromCounty Gate/Sunley.
“I do have serious concerns about having a high number of residential units on the site and I hope the developers will work with the Council and local residents to ensure a high quality development is realised with a good mixture of residential and commercial elements that make West Marina a ‘destination’.”