Observer column 29 September 2023
A stormy winter ahead?
It was great to visit the 350th anniversary celebrations held by Hastings Quakers last weekend. And especially as they have now reopened their warm and welcoming Friends Meeting House which had been closed since the flood last January. There had been a lot of damage to the ground floor, even though it is up a step from South Terrace. Of course we all want to feel confident this will not happen again, but are still waiting for the independent report into the causes of the January 16th flood, which will contain recommendations on future resilience measures.
The delay in this report isn't acceptable. And it seems that it is because Southern Water has been dragging its feet and has not provided the evidence requested by our consultants.
Not only does this leave businesses, residents and community organisations in the town centre unsure of their position, it is also delaying our ability with key partners at ESCC Highways, to redesign the streetscape. With £10m funding allocated from the Town Deal for our Garden Town project, this is critical. The work has to be done within three years, so we need that report urgently.
This and many other concerns about how Southern Water are operating in Hastings will be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting on Monday. You can read our report online and attend the meeting, which starts at 6pm. And you can ask questions too on any issue.
We will also be considering the potential grant available for management of the Country Park Nature Reserve. Finding a long term sustainable way of securing this really popular park, and at the same time improving the bio-diversity are just two of the issues being discussed at Cabinet. I will also ask what more can be done to improve public access to the park, as at present its not easy to get to without a car.
Other items for discussion include how we manage our reserves, which are there to protect us from rainy day events in future. But they are running out because of the housing crisis and the costs of temporary accommodation. A third of our budget (over £5m) is now being spent on this, totally unsustainable.
So as we approach winter, we have to ensure that our wonderful town can withstand the storms ahead. For this we need reliable information about the risks of flooding, we need a guarantee of funding for our cliff top country park, and we need to ensure we don't run out of reserves. Should be an interesting meeting on Monday. Do come along or listen in.
Council Leader's column