Press Releases week beginning 25 May 2020
Keep Hastings safe: council urges respect for the safety and wellbeing of others
Hastings Borough Council is repeating its position, following the government's continued easing of lockdown, that the town remains closed to tourists and residents are still urged to stay home and stay safe as much as possible.
To back this message up the council's public toilets and other amenities like tennis courts remain closed.
The council pushed this message - through its social media, its resident's email newsletter and via a press release - at the end of last week to stop the town's open spaces being overcrowded over the bank holiday weekend making social distancing impossible, and to deter visitors to the town bringing with them potential risk of infection. With last night's government announcement of further easing to lockdown measures the council will be repeating its messaging for the coming weekend.
The council's priority is to keep residents safe.
Council leader Kim Forward said:
"We know a large number of people support our position, and the town remained quiet for much of the bank holiday weekend; though Monday was busier than we would have liked. Thank you to those people who are taking their own safety seriously, and also being considerate to the safety of others. You are helping keep Hastings safe.
Deputy leader Colin Fitzgerald said:
"It has been well documented that Hastings has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country. This will only remain the case if we are careful and responsible. We have had reports over the weekend of people defecating and urinating in the town's open spaces because the toilets are closed. This isn't acceptable at any time, but it especially not during a global pandemic. Our toilets being closed is not justification for this behaviour. We are all accountable for our actions.
"The council has made very clear its position and the fact that the toilets are closed. People need to plan accordingly, and we're clear: we are still not ready to welcome tourists to our town. We know this is not ideal but again we believe this is the right thing to do to safeguard residents. Opening the toilets would also mean drawing away our limited cleansing resource from essential services like the crematorium and street cleansing operation towards cleansing public toilets."
Kim Forward added:
"Like other councils, we were not consulted about this, nor previous, easings of the lockdown measures announced by government and the impact on our town.
"We have been clear that we will review this position weekly as events move on. Our decision may change depending on the success of the government and NHS's track and trace system which is launched today, and the development of a county wide plan to manage further outbreaks. We will be working with Public Health and the County Council to help develop the local outbreak control plan - as it is the government's intention that future lockdowns will be managed locally. We will be closely monitoring the progress and effectiveness of these new systems and will keep a close eye on the 'R' rate.
"Our position is driven by putting residents' safety first. I've said this before and I will say it again:at the end of all of this it will be impossible to know if we overreacted, if we were too cautious. But it will be obvious if we weren't cautious enough."
Council invited to apply for £82k grant to help reopen high street safely
Council invited to apply for £82k grant to help reopen high street safely
Hastings Borough Council can claim a grant allocation of up to £82,026 from the government's new national Reopening High Streets Safely Fund to get people back to work and customers back to the shops.
The fund, announced on Sunday 24 May, is to help councils in England support the recovery of high streets. It is focussed on the introduction of safety measures, in line with recent government guidance about adapting public spaces for social distancing, to support businesses to re-open safely.
The government has announced that more non-essential retailers - such as shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets - will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June with five Government tests to be met first. This gives them three weeks to prepare.
Businesses will only be able to open from this date once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.
The council can make a claim for the grant from 1 June 2020 to cover money it pays out on activities the government has decided will qualify. The grant comes with strict conditions about what the funding can and cannot be used for. For example, it cannot be used to provide direct financial support to businesses to make adaptations to premises, purchase PPE, purchase goods or equipment or offset wages or other operating costs. It is intended to support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and barriers, all of which must be temporary.
Kim Forward, leader of the council, said
"As we enter this new phase of shops re-opening, our priority will be, as it has been throughout this pandemic, the safety of our residents. Although we are grateful for any funding we receive to help our town recover from this crisis, especially given our challenging financial position, this money won't go very far across all of our shopping areas to help support the reopening of our local businesses and high street.
It is also unfortunate that there are some rather rigid and limiting rules about what the money can and can't be used for and a lot of bureaucracy and form filling conditions normally only seen with schemes of millions of pounds! We will do all we can to make the money go as far as possible to help make our high street as safe as they can be.
"The first we heard about this scheme was on Sunday, during a bank holiday weekend, so we are working to understand the guidance and consider how best to use this fund. It is an example of the additional unplanned work that we are having to undertake whilst keeping our services running, protecting residents, supporting businesses and taking care of our staff.
"As soon as we know more we will let you know. Our website and social media channels will carry the latest information."
Hastings Borough Council works with local partners to establish a scheme for active travel in Hastings
Hastings Borough Council is working with East Sussex County Council to identify the way funding can be used across the town for emergency 'active travel' measures.
The Secretary of State for Transport recently made available £250m for local authorities to use to implement emergency 'active travel' measures to encourage cycling and walking. Measures such as temporary cycle lanes, widened footways or road closures to provide greater space for people to move around to support social distancing.
Hastings Borough Council was one of several organisations consulted by the County Council, who were given a tight timescale from government to collect feedback.
East Sussex County Council is still awaiting confirmation from government on the amount of funding that will be allocated for these measures.
Cllr Colin Fitzgerald, deputy leader of the council, said,
"We have submitted a list of potential ideas to East Sussex County Council, who are now reviewing this and hope to get back to us by the end of this month.
"We were already working on developing a strategic network of cycle routes as part of our local plan development and our ongoing work to tackle climate change, that will link local communities with key services in the town, so this new funding from the government is very welcome. We do hope that East Sussex County Council decide to go ahead with some of the 'quick win' schemes we have proposed."
"There is also a huge amount of environmental benefit in improving our transport system. Investing in active transport infrastructure will make it easier for people to cycle/ walk to and from work. Walking, cycling, electrification of transport, opportunities for car-sharing and improvements to public transport are all essential in helping to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and helping us tackle the impacts of climate change in our area."