2 October 2018
First, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the cabinet today.
Hastings Green Party welcomes the news that the proposal to build a huge marina complex and over a thousand homes on a platform in the sea at Rock-a-Nore has been withdrawn by its sponsor, the Hastings Harbour Quarter company.
We have been at the forefront of mobilising opposition to the scheme, including handing the council a petition signed by 1100 people, protesting the proposals in July – which is why I am speaking to you today.
We are pleased to have been able to give a voice to local people’s concerns and will continue to be vigilant in watching out for any new proposals that may come forward.
In the hundreds of conversations we have had with local people on this proposal, it’s been clear that many people do not feel they have a voice or any say over development plans, and I would urge the council to explore more creative and open ways to involve local people in co-creating a vision for our town.
The council’s initial interest in working with the Hastings Harbour Quarter company on the marina complex highlights a democratic deficit. All major council decisions are taken by just the eight members of the cabinet. We are overdue a return to the committee system of government where more councillors have a say in the running of the council. This is one of the first things that the Green council administration instituted in Brighton when they held power, and it is still in place today. We need a broader, more participatory form of democracy here in Hastings than Peter Chowney’s definition, given to Chandra Masoliver in her article in Hastings Online Times. “I have already given you my definition of democracy: you elect people to make decisions.” A rather limited and limiting definition, as I see it! Just 3169 signatures are needed on a petition to oblige the council to hold a referendum on whether to change to a committee system, which would at least allow more councillors to be involved in the decisions that are made.
I have watched with interest the spin the council has been putting on this announcement claiming that the development was ‘rejected’ because it didn’t meet the council’s requirements. But the decision taken at the cabinet meeting last September was unanimous in allowing this destructive development to take the next step towards trying to seek public money for the company to do feasibility studies. It is a relief that the relevant government departments had enough sense to realise how destructive this proposal could be and refused any public subsidy being given to the developers.
The report to cabinet back in September stated that council had to be seen to be ‘up for development’. It should have been clear from the start that this proposal was absolutely the wrong plan in the wrong place and no amount of requirements would have made it acceptable. As our petition stated ‘The site is completely inappropriate for such a massive development’.
In his September 2017 Observer column, Peter Chowney made the statement that among other requirements,“[the marina development plan] must have a zero carbon footprint, generating all its energy from sustainable sources.” Nowhere in the 11 September 2017 report to cabinet is there any mention of zero carbon development. I look forward to seeing this requirement being made for all new developments across the town.
This is the sort of vision we should be aiming for here in Hastings. How about aiming to be the first climate-positive seaside town in the UK, setting an example for other seaside towns to follow? We should be setting measurable goals for reducing our carbon footprint across the town and making clear commitments in focusing local training and education opportunities towards low-carbon jobs.
This case highlights how important it is for the council and this town to have an open debate about our future vision so it is clear to everyone what type of development is welcome and what is not.
As a start, a clear vision and framework should be put in place for the precious and unique heritage and landscape assets of our town. To kick-start the shaping of this framework, the Hastings and St Leonard’s Society is hosting a discussion on whether Hastings should start the process of seeking UNESCO world heritage status for key landscape and heritage assets. Hastings Green Party first proposed this idea last spring as part of a more positive vision to counter the destructive harbour proposals, and it has captured people’s imagination. I would invite you all to come and join in the discussion at 6.00 pm on 19 October at the Brighton University’s Priory Building.
Gaining UNESCO heritage status is a long and complicated process, but it involves the kind of vision for this town that we can all be proud of.