Press Releases: week beginning 20 October 2014
Council welcomes independent Reports into Rocklands planning and licensing issues
Hastings Borough Council has welcomed independent reports into the planning and licensing issues concerning Rocklands caravan park, situated right next to the council-owned Hastings Country Park to the east of the town.
A landslip in February occurred at the southern end of the caravan park, which revealed some unauthorised developments that had been hidden from public view. As a result, a number of local people raised concerns about the granting of planning permission and enforcement procedures.
Because of these allegations, Hastings Borough Council appointed an independent expert, Tezel Bahcheli Ltd, to review and report upon the Council's planning procedures. This report has now been published at www.hastings.gov.uk/countryside_nature/naturereserves/ecclesbourne_glen/.
The Council also appointed an independent expert in caravan site licensing issues, RH Environmental Limited, to review the arrangements at Rocklands, and this has also now been published at www.hastings.gov.uk/countryside_nature/naturereserves/ecclesbourne_glen/.
Importantly, the planning report notes that the consultation process was undertaken within the scope of national and local consultation requirements.
However, the report does make the following general comments and recommendations:
- The Council should have required a higher standard of information to support the planning applications. It appears to me that the misgivings about the Council processes and procedures could have been avoided if accurate and detailed information was submitted and could be relied upon. It may also have avoided the accusations of deliberate falsehoods being levelled at the applicants
- Although the plans were simplistic and contained errors, I do not believe the applicants sought to obscure the scale of the building from the planning department
- In general, the Council could have responded in a more receptive manner to complaints made by members of the public and could have been more consistent, decisive and thorough in their responses. Members of the public and the applicants felt they had been provided contradictory information
- Some members of the public have not helped matters by pursuing a personal campaign against the applicants and the Council. The Council must operate within a legal framework and planning best practice
- The Council could consider a review of its internal consultation mechanisms. It could also consider a change to its delegated agreement, to ensure that identical proposals for previously refused applications should be considered by committee
- There is also a case for considering a review of the procedures for signing off delegated reports. The Council needs to apply consistency in the application and interpretation of planning policy
Council leader Cllr Jeremy Birch welcomed the findings. He said:
"This report is thorough, and highlights a number of areas where, clearly, the council could have acted differently.
"Additionally an independent Environmental Health Officer reviewed the operation of the caravan site licence and has produced a report which we have also published.
"I am determined that we will learn the lessons of Rocklands, and I have asked that a full report on all of the issues identified by both independent reviews be brought forward to the next possible Cabinet meeting, on December 01, and I will want that report's recommendations to be adopted.
"I have also asked Tezel Bahcheli Ltd to now look at links between planning and the implications of the caravan site licence surrounding Rocklands. We will publish this additional information as soon as we can.
"I have also arranged for a geotechnical survey to be carried out on Ecclesbourne Glen to investigate what might be done to stabilise our land, and what this might cost. This is likely to involve further topographical work, and possibly digging boreholes, to produce a model of what had happened, and what might happen, so that we can evaluate the options. Because of this it is likely to take some time but, again, we will publish this report when received.
"The planning report does conclude that the current actions the council is taking are appropriate - allowing time for the Rocklands owners to bring forward a fresh planning application to regularise the building that has been put up not conforming to the existing planning permission. The report recommends that any enforcement action should only be taken if a new application fails.
"The Council has taken a robust view of the issues raised by events on the site and intends to address them in a transparent way."
Gala Concert raises the roof and over £2500 to aid Hastings, Sierra Leone
Sussex Brass, African drummers and the RoCoCo choir joined forces on Friday evening to lift the roof off St Mary in the Castle and raise much needed funds to support the Community Health Centre in Hastings Sierra Leone. Nearly two hundred people attended, enjoyed an African supper and were treated to a wide variety of music focussed on an African theme.
Richard Homewood, Chair of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link said: "This is an amazing result and we have to thank those who attended for their generosity in supporting this event to raise funds for the community in our Twin Town. There was singing, clapping and dancing in the aisles and I think everybody had a wonderful time. The money will help us provide much needed equipment and resources to keep the Community Health Centre going when the focus of the government and other agencies is clearly on trying to tackle the Ebola crisis on a larger scale.
"Our thanks must go to Buckswood School who hosted the event, to our former Chair, Roger Mitchell who organised the event (as well as playing in Sussex Brass), and of course the musicians who all gave amazing performances."
The Link has a continuing programme of fund raising events, a quiz night and a recent Jumble Sale raised over £1,000 each and a group of Link supporters are due to make a parachute jump (as soon as the weather permits!)
Richard added: "We are continuously looking for new ways to raise funds to help our friends in Sierra Leone at a time when they desperately need it. I am sure nobody can fail to be moved by the tragic events unfolding in West Africa. Having visited Sierra Leone several times in recent years, I know what a difference every penny we raise can make to their lives in difficult times"
You can donate on line at https://www.charitycheckout.co.uk/1127137/ebola or by post, cheques made out to HSLFL and sent to HSLFL Treasurer, 33 Senlac Way, St Leonards, TN37 7JG.
Jaws n Claws at Hastings Museum
Phil, the Jaws n Claws Ranger will be bringing his collection of amazing animals for a special activity day at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery during half term on Tuesday, 28 October.
Cllr Dawn Poole, lead member for leisure commented:
"Our activity days are really popular. It's a great way to entertain the children in half-term and with a good mix of activities, there's something for everyone and all ages are welcome."
"Come along to find out all sorts of fascinating (and some disgusting) facts about Phil's animals. You will even have a chance to hold them! Visitors will also be able to get their hands on some of the Museum's natural history artefacts and have a go at a range of craft activities."
The event is free and there's no need to book - just turn up between 10.30am and 3.30pm. The final Jaws n Claws session will start at 2.45pm.
Hastings Museum is looking for Young Curators!
Hastings Museum and art Gallery are looking for young people to become part of their 'Young Curators' project.
Cllr Dawn Poole, lead member for leisure explained:
"If you are aged between 14 and 19 with an interest in history, art and design or science and want to find out what goes on behind the scenes at a museum come along to the Young Curators Cafe at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery. It's a free workshop where you can meet museum staff and take part in hands-on challenges!
"This is a fantastic opportunity for young people who are considering further study or a career in the museum and heritage sector. You'll have the chance to get involved in real life projects at the Museum, which will be really useful for CVs and personal statements.
"The Young Curators programme is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Museum's Hastings Remembers: Local Stories of the First World War project, and we hope that it will develop into a group that gives young people a real say in what the Museum does."
The Young Curators Cafe is on Thursday, 30 October from 10am - 2pm and is free. Refreshments are provided but bring a packed lunch. For more information and bookings email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Museum on 01424 451052.
Hastings Herring Fair Returns
Now in its third year, Hastings Herring Fair will take place over the weekend of 01 - 02 November, between 11am and 4pm at the Stade Open Space, Hastings.
Run by the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) the fair aims to promote the undervalued but versatile fish herring and the fact that the Hastings fishing fleet have been recognised by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for their sustainable fishing methods. Locally herring, Dover sole and mackerel have all been awarded MSC certification.
Cllr Peter Chowney, FLAG chair commented:
"We are very pleased to be able to fund the third annual Hastings Herring Fair. The purpose of the fair is to promote the local herring industry and showcase the herring which is so abundant at this time of year.
"The whole event will be held undercover and stalls will showcase herring filleting, cooking, pickling and smoking. There will also be a programme of cooking demonstrations, wine tasting and talks in the Classroom on the Coast.
"The Fair starts with the Hastings Catch Gourmet Dinner at Webbe's Rock-a-Nore on Friday 31 October. During the fair fresh herring will be available to buy so that visitors can create their own dishes with Hastings' own herring recipe book. Local wine, cider and other food produce and gifts will also be on sale."
"With so much on offer, this promises to be another great fish festival in Hastings."
There will be a host of musical entertainment including Hastings Shanty Singers, Gadzooks, Rattlebag, Jiggery Pokery, The Equatorial Group and a barn dance with the Sugar Loaf Band. Radiator Arts will also be holding children's drop in workshops.
To book the Hastings Catch Gourmet Dinner telephone Webbe's directly on 01424 721650.
For full programme details of this event visit www.hastingsfestivals.com