Observer column 14 April 2023
Pace and focus
A town like Hastings has so many contradictory facets. Parts moving forward fast, almost defining how we want our future towns to be. Others stuck in a past full of struggle, unable to move on for lack of opportunity.
We appear in the lists of the best places to live and visit, and the worst.
We embrace our local seaside environment, our clean air, our weather! But our buildings take a battering, and we can't fix them fast enough.
The council is pushed and pulled to respond to all this, and as we have got smaller as a result of nationally imposed austerity, we have still tried to do everything. Because we care so much about those who live and work here. But that has to change, or we, and our wonderful town, won't survive.
So the plan for the next year, starting now, is clear. We tackle the housing crisis and the climate emergency. We try to stop homelessness and flooding. We make the town a nicer place to live for everyone.
We said we would build 500 new homes by 2025, and thanks to a range of public private initiatives, we are well on the way. 200 this year, another 150 next. And these will go to people on the housing list and local first time buyers. We said we would reduce homelessness, so we are buying 50 houses which will house around 300 people. We are restoring dilapidated Victorian town centre buildings and building attractive new prefabs that go up fast and efficiently. We are supporting families in crisis to help them avoid a housing crisis. And we will do all this fast.
Affordable homes need to be cheap to live in, so as well as low rents and shared ownership, we will ensure lower energy bills. The 500 new homes and our conversions and flat-packs will be as energy efficient as we can make them. So, no gas but instead solar panels and ground source heat pumps, ultra-tight insulation, bike racks and EV charging points. I am delighted how major private sector builders have signed up to this approach, as well as social housing providers (housing associations we used to call them).
So with pace and focus, this council is changing Hastings fast, changing it for the better, both for all of us and for the world. We can't do it all anymore, but we must do what really matters better and faster, and we will.
Council Leader's column