Foreshore Trust under fire over amusement plans – but who and what is The Foreshore Trust?

Controversial plans to develop and extend the amusement park on the Stade have put the Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Trust under the spotlight.

The Foreshore Trust is a charity which manages land from Rock-a-Nore to Bulverhythe on behalf of the public and there has been criticism over its response to the planning application by Michael Lee that would see significant expansion of the leisure facilities on the Stade.

A petition with more than 1,000 signatures and outlining objections from Hastings and St Leonards Coastal Users Group (CUG) has been presented to Hastings Borough Council which has delayed what was expected to be approval for the development as a result of technical issues with the application.

The Foreshore Trust earns an estimated £1.4 million a year and while its trustees are members of HBC the Trust should act independently of the council and heed the advice of the Coastal User’s Group.

Earlier this year many local people thought the Foreshore Trust should have stepped in to provide the cash required to buy Hastings Pier and keep it in public ownership and it was criticised for acting too slowly.

But who are the trustees? And what is the Foreshore Trust and what does it actually do? Here’s what we found out from Hugh Marriage who was a trustee of the Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Charitable Trust  for five years from 2006 to 2011, and chaired the Board of Trustees for much of that time.

During this period the main work of the trustees was to recover over £1m lost as the result of charity abuse, they had to re-structure the charity so that HBC could again become the trustee; appoint the UK’s first charity Protector, build a multi-sports area on the foreshore and clear the way for the Jerwood Gallery to come to Hastings, partly on Foreshore Trust land.

Once his work was complete and he stood down from the Foreshore Trust Mr Marriage wrote a ‘brief history’ that goes some way to explain how the Foreshore Trust came in to being

On 14 February 1589, Queen Elizabeth I granted to “the Mayor, Jurats, and Commonalty of the Town and Port of Hastings, in the county of Sussex, and their successors, besides certain lands and hereditaments in the parishes of St Clement and All Saints, Hastings, all that her parcel of land and her hereditaments called the Stone Beache, with the appurtenances in Hastings aforesaid, in the said county of Sussex, and all messuages, houses, edifices, and buildings whatsoever, with the appurtenances, in and upon the aforesaid parcel of land called the Stone Beache …”

The beach had not always belonged to the Crown. It was originally given to the Church of All Saints in Hastings by Janneta Clyve (or Clyffe) in return for an ‘obit’ – the saying of prayers for her soul. But obits were banned as superstitious and a 1461 statute of Edward IV required land given for superstitious purposes to be forfeit to the Crown.

Some time before 1827 a portion of shingly land to the west of the Priory Water, beyond the parish of St Mary-in-the-Castle, which had once been covered by the sea, was occupied by smugglers and other adventurers, who built several tenements on it. They hoisted an American flag, called the place America and “behaved in a lawless manner”. After public criticism of the Corporation for inaction, they were eventually ejected. This event is commemorated each year as part of the Hastings bonfire celebrations.

Not long after, work was started to create St Leonards, and the builders blew up and destroyed a large rock known as White Rock and replaced it with a sea wall and a road. In about 1869, a company was formed to build a pier opposite the old White Rock. For a nominal sum they obtained some land above the high-water mark from the Corporation and, for £100, some land below the high-water mark from the Commissioners of Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues.

Around 1888 Hastings Corporation entered into a dispute with the Crown about the extent of the Corporation’s (and the Crown’s) land. The result was that, in 1893, as part of a compromise deal, the Corporation agreed to purchase the beach for £400 “UPON TRUST for the common use benefit and enjoyment of all Her Majesty’s subjects and of the public for the time being for ever”.  Further conveyances in 1925, 1933 and 1934 have added to the Trust’s land.

The 1893 conveyance appointed the Corporation as the Trustee but did not provide any powers of management of the Trust land – hence the need for the Hastings Borough Council Act 1988 which conferred on HBC, as successor to Hastings Corporation, limited powers to use specified areas of land for public purposes, including car parking, a boat compound, religious and cultural activities and police and emergency services; and to let and develop specified areas of land.

The land covered by the 1893 conveyance was between the high and low water marks.  The build-up of the beach over the years has resulted in Trust land now including an area of promenade (with adjacent car parking facilities) which runs along the length of the seafront next to the main road.

Following a January 2010 public consultation on the Stade, as required by the Charity Commission… the Trustees obtained an Order from the Charity Commission to enable a land exchange with HBC which was completed in May 2010. The result was that the Trust now owns the whole of Pelham Place car park; and the Jerwood Gallery was able to be built on the land which HBC acquired from the Trust in exchange. The adjacent Trust land was then converted into a high-quality open space.

During this time, the Trust was working with Hastings Old Town Residents Association to create a multi-games area on the Stade, close to Arnold Palmer Putting. The Pelham Playa was named and opened formally in October 2010.

The history of the Trust in respect of its management during this period is as follows:

  • In 2007 the Charity Commission proposed a new scheme to transfer the trusteeship back to Hastings Borough Council.
  • At the Charity Commission’s request, in May 2009 and as a pre-requisite for the new scheme, the trustees selected a Protector for the Trust, Christopher May.
  • The Commission launched a public consultation in December 2009: this finished on in January 2010. The Commission’s proposed scheme contained the safeguards of a Protector; an annual public meeting; and public documents on the governance of the charity.
  • At the end of March 2010 the Commission asked the trustees for a financial appraisal of the proposal and some alternative options. A report prepared by the Trust’s financial adviser was sent to the Commission in May 2010. Broadly this said that the Trust would continue to make a substantial surplus for charitable activities in Hastings if the trusteeship were returned to the Council; but, because of the additional overheads involved, would probably operate at a loss if the Trust remained independent of the council.
  • In July 2010, Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, put down a Parliamentary Question to the Chair of the Charity Commission about the consultation, for answer by 27 July. On 26 July the Charity Commission wrote to the Trust’s legal advisers saying that they proposed to make the new scheme as drafted, with some additional safeguards. The trustees welcomed this.
  • The independent trustees’ last meeting was held on January 12 2011 in Hastings. The next day the Charity Commission sealed the Scheme to make Hastings Borough Council the trustee in all respects, and appoint the Protector.
  • The inaugural meeting of Hastings Borough Council’s Charity Committee was held on January 25 2011 with the Protector present.

The governing documents of the Trust are:

  • the conveyance of 8 September 1893 between Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Sir Robert Nigel Fitzhardinge Kingscote, the Board of Trade and Hastings Corporation;
  • the Hastings Borough Council Act 1988;
  • from 2006-2011, a Scheme of the Charity Commission dated 22 March 2006 which amended certain provisions of the 1893 Conveyance and, in particular, appointed trustees to act in place of Hastings Borough Council and made the Trust a registered charity;
  • a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 13 January 2011.

It is important to note that the charity was created by the 1893 Conveyance so has therefore been in existence since that time.

Who’s who and what does it do?

According to the Hastings Borough Council website Councillor Sue Beaney chairs the Trust and Councillor Andy Batsford is vice-chairman the other councillor involved is former Mayor Judy Rogers.

https://hastings.moderngov.co.uk/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=172

One of the areas of the Trust’s activity is in the provision of its Small Grants Fund.

Grants are designed for voluntary and community groups offering a service within Hastings and St Leonards.

Around £60,000 is available this year for small grants of up to £5,000 each. The programme opened for applications on April 16 and remains open for application to be submitted until June 14.

The Foreshore Trust Grant Advisory panel will be meeting in July 2018 to consider the applications and make their recommendations for funding. Final decisions will be made by the Charity Committee in September 2018.

The main aim of the Small Grants Fund is to support smaller voluntary and community groups in carrying out activities that enhance the quality of local residents’ lives and increase their involvement in the community. The fund can also help with capacity building of smaller voluntary and community groups so as to strengthen their ability to carry out their work.

Priority is given to projects aimed at generating or sustaining activity run on a voluntary basis for the benefit of groups often excluded from mainstream activity or communities experiencing the effects of multiple deprivation.

The priorities for the Foreshore Trust as a charity is as follows:

  • the prevention or relief of poverty;
  • the advancement of education;
  • the advancement of health or the saving of lives;
  • the advancement of citizenship or community development;
  • the advancement of the arts, cultures, heritage or science;
  • the advancement of amateur sport;
  • the advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity;
  • the advancement of environmental protection or improvement;
  • any other purposes currently recognised as charitable and any new charitable purposes which are similar to other charitable purposes.

 

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One thought on “Foreshore Trust under fire over amusement plans – but who and what is The Foreshore Trust?

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  1. The Foreshore is held in Trust for benefit of the people of the Town and others. It cannot be reduced to commercial space and needs more that financial protection. It is a place of rhythm and beauty where land, sea and sky meet. It has healing properties enjoyed through stillness, art forms, playing and walking. The balance between commerce and community regeneration on the one hand and enjoying the powerful presence of the natural world on the other each need to be held in balance. If the present legal entity cannot strike this balance, it is a matter for .the Charity Commissioner and, on appeal, for a First Order Tribunal.. Appointing only one Trustee (the Council) and only one Whistle Blower seems inadequate to afford the necessary protections, particularly when the Whistle Blower is chosen on the basis of accountancy rather than on any environmental qualification. The requirement to listen is important but may not be strong enough in a powerful economic climate determined to reduce all value to that of material value and finance.

    Bill Bullin

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