If you turn off Springfield Road, into Buchanan Gardens, you get to a small junction in the road. That’s where it all began for me writes James Dee.
That is, roughly, the site of the old maternity unit at the former Buchannan Hospital. Many of my friends can recall this hospital, and our parents remember fondly the warm and professional service they received there. It was with great sadness that in 1992 the hospital had to go. But, it was a time for regeneration and adaption – out with the Buchannan and in with The Conquest.
This change has been happening in Hastings and St Leonards, gradually, for some time. I can still remember walking through Hastings town centre as the builders, masons and handymen constructed Priory Meadow shopping centre; I remember The Stade undergoing it’s redevelopment and the Jerwood Gallery rising out of the old coach park; I remember seeing Hasting Station transformed into a glass metropolis along with the glistening facades of SCCH and The Station Plaza.
This town has had a great capacity to grow, adapt and build in new circumstances. Now it finds itself in a position where it must reinvent itself once more. As holidays abroad seem to get cheaper and ever more easily accessible, the choice of a trip to a coastal resort like Hastings is becoming less attractive. We are lucky that we have innovative communities who put on great shows like Jack in the Green; Hastings Old Town Carnival; the various food and drink festivals and Pirate Day, but the week-long summer holiday to Hastings is proving less enticing than it once did.
As a community, we need to decide what the future of our town will look like and what we want from it? We must decide how we keep attracting visitors to our area. As a town, we must never be limited by what is, we must always reach for what ought to be. The proposed marina development gives us that opportunity to reinvent ourselves once again.
Growing up as a born and bred Hastonian I believe there is one quality above all others that universally unites our town – ambition. No problem is ever too difficult; no challenge is ever too great. We never baulk at the idea of hard work or perseverance. Us Hastonians roll up our sleeves and get on with the job – and time and again we have come out on top. The proposals for a multimillion-pound harbour development in Hastings Old Town attracted a range of responses last autumn, and I understand why.
The plans are not clear, the challenge is a daunting one and the benefits against the risks are not yet known. However, we should not, as the Green Party has decided to do, cast aside these proposals. We should work on them, develop them and get the plans in place our community wants. When an investment on this scale is presented to our town we should not dismiss it out of turn, but welcome the sign of support and confidence in our town and work to make it a success.
This is a controversial proposal, but the plans so far presented would bring in 1,000 new homes; 1,000 new jobs and add £26million per year to our local economy and see an investment of over £500 million in our town.
A marina hub that would bring tourism, social housing, new bars and restaurants is surely an idea we should not shirk from. This is the time when our ambition is called for. We must now take this idea and run with it, draw up plans that will work, and unite as a town to see this investment through.
One of the many joys of living in a seaside town is the fact that it keeps changing – it keeps having to reinvent itself. Whether this was the transformation following the steady decline of tourism in the Victorian era, or rebuilding after the effects of the Second World War, or even the renewal of the Buchanan Hospital from its medical form to much needed housing.
We now find seaside towns at a fork in the road – regenerate or bust.
It is time for the ambitious and innovative to step up and forge a new way forward. Hastings and St Leonards can be at the forefront of this next chapter of coastal regeneration, and show the rest of the UK what a future town on the rise looks like.
It’s time to unlock our ambition and build that harbour of the future.
These links may be of interest
- More information on the Maria development proposal can be found here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-41126000
- More information on the Council consultation into the town centre development can be found here https://www.hastings.gov.uk/planning/policy/emergingpolicy_guidance/action/
- Green Party opposition to Marina development can be found here https://hastings.greenparty.org.uk/news/2018/02/24/green-party-opposes-hastings-harbour-quarter/