Press Releases week beginning 12 March 2018
Hastings residents and visitors to enjoy more freedom
Hastings Borough Council has renewed its leisure management contract with East Sussex-based Freedom Leisure. Current operator Freedom Leisure formally marked winning the new five year contract at an event held in the town's Summerfields Leisure Centre last Thursday (8th March), where staff were formally notified and informed of exciting new plans.
Cllr Andy Batsford, the council's lead member for leisure, was at the event, and said:- "Leisure is vitally important for our residents and visitors, and I am delighted that we can continue the fruitful partnership we have enjoyed with Freedom Leisure.
"The new contract builds on this, and includes free swimming for all over 75s and under 8s and for some under 16s, the recruitment of an active communities officer to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents, a new climbing wall, a new inflatable for our swimming pool, new gym and fitness equipment at Falaise and Summerfields, and improvements to the café at Summerfields.
"My family are regular users of Summerfields, and it was good to meet the staff there last Thursday. I am passionate about improving the health of our community, and I want everyone to share this passion!"
Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Freedom Leisure managing director, added:- "We are delighted to retain the leisure management contract here at Hastings. Our staff do a tremendous job, and retaining the contract is a tribute to the staff, and their hard work.
"We've been in Hastings for over 12 years, and have seen a 15% increase in users since then, with over 4.6 million visitors to our centres here in that time:- and we are teaching over 1000 children to swim each week.
"With Hastings Borough Council we have invested over £2m in our facilities here, and I am so pleased to be able to continue this partnership.
"And we also look forward to playing our part in the future of the Bohemia area, whose development is now being planned. In particular we are keen to help the council develop options for a brand new leisure centre in the area, which promises to be very exciting indeed."
A 'humbling' experience for Hastings teachers
A group of 14 teachers have just spent 10 days in our Twin Town in Sierra Leone, building on longstanding friendships with teaching colleagues in their link schools.
The group was led by Isabel Hodger, one of the Education Liaison Officers for Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link ably assisted by fellow teacher Mandy Hinxman.
Mandy said 'In a world of inequality it is refreshing to see the determination and perseverance of the passionate youngsters in our partner schools and how collaborative projects can help to begin to enhance teaching and learning for all children.'
The group was chaperoned by Yvonne Johnson, who grew up in Hastings and Freetown in Sierra Leone and is now one of a large group of Sierra Leone ex pats now living in the UK and supporting the work of the Link.
British Council grants enabled the visits to take place. Teachers in both UK and Sierra Leone studied courses and set up joint projects. The Sanitation Super Heroes project run by The Baird teachers Emma Hughes and Laura Renesto encourages children in both countries to create their own avatar to decorate toilets, to reinforce the importance of washing hands after toilet and playtime and before eating.
Alice Hillen, teacher at St Leonard's Academy said of the Sierra Leonean children "Seeing their enthusiasm for learning has been one of my best teaching experiences. It has strengthened my belief that all children, regardless of circumstance, deserve an education which fosters their ambitions'.
Isabel and Mandy visited schools and brought messages and work back for schools in the UK not represented this year. Isabel also ran a Maths workshop with the help of Chloe Hinxman, teacher at Chantry Primary School. Aaron Kamara, one of the link teachers who attended the workshop wrote 'Today's lesson was fantastic. 100% class participation again, especially when implementing the brilliant ideas from the workshop. Bravo for making the work easier with the help of the activities.'
Teachers also had the opportunity to explore some of Sierra Leone's Western Peninsula. They visited the beach, and the big market in Freetown, as well as having a tour of Hastings Village.
Faith Rew, teacher at Guestling Bradshaw CE Primary School said "An incredible experience. Everyone was so welcoming. But what stands out for me is that children are so happy but they have nothing".
The visit was a huge success, with many new friendships made, and lots of ideas for developing partnerships further. Wendy Parker, teaching assistant at Christchurch said, 'This was an incredibly humbling and inspirational experience. Never to be forgotten.'
The group of teachers was also accompanied by Christine Boulton-Lane, chair of the Link's Health Sub-Committee who worked with local health workers to improve healthcare facilities. Richard Lane assisted Isabel with further work on the Schools Sanitation Project and Yvonne Johnson visited organisations working to support victims of the mudslide with donations from the Church of the Good Shepherd, supporters of the Link's projects. Further reports on these activities will follow.
Find out more about the Friendship Link and the work it is doing in Hastings, Sierra Leone at the website: https://www.Hastingshastings.org.uk/about/
Ground-breaking at the Country Park yields archaeological remains
Archaeological monitoring was part of the ground-breaking for the new country park visitor centre last week and it didn't take long for some prehistoric remains to be found. Councillor Colin Fitzgerald, lead member for the environment said, "These stone tools will be among the first to be displayed in the new visitor centre. We are looking forward to the start of our eco-friendly build, and later, welcoming regular and new visitors to the improved facilities. The Visitor Centre will offer visitors to the park the opportunity to learn about all the park has to offer (past and present), to take part in events and activities and to relax and enjoy the amazing views over the English Channel. The Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group, HAARG, will continue to investigate the site before building work commences."
The monitoring was supervised by the County Archaeologist, Greg Chuter. Hastings Country Park contains a large number of archaeological remains, some of which are from early prehistoric hunter/gatherer communities, which is why the county archaeologist was asked to be part of the project undertaken by Hastings Borough Council. Excavation of the area for the new visitor centre has now been completed. The Council is hoping to start building the new centre in the summer.
A key feature of the new visitor centre is that much of the building will be constructed using straw bales. This has been chosen as a sustainable and energy efficient way of creating the building, and European Commission funding has been secured from the Interreg North West Europe programme to help fund the centre. Councillor Fitzgerald remarked," It's interesting to speculate as to how similar the use of mud and straw for building would have been for the prehistoric people who left the stone tools here."
Help Hastings Country Park plant a new hedge
The Hastings Country Park local nature reserve has had 750 native hedging plants generously donated to create a new hedge line. They are looking for willing volunteers to help them carry out this exciting project, no special skills needed and all tools and training supplied.
Join Hastings Council country park ranger Nick Hennessy on Sunday 18 March, 9am - 1pm. Meet at the Coast Guard Cottages, just down from the main car park and visitors centre. Follow the road towards the sea from the visitors centre and you will see the Ranger van. Councillor Colin Fitzgerald, lead member for the environment remarked, "It's a great opportunity for some fresh air and exercise in our wonderful country park. I hope our green fingered community will get behind this scheme, but if your fingers are not so green, training will be provided!"
Get fit, meet new people and have fun in the award winning Country Park. This will be a great undertaking and it will look fantastic when finished.
Tea and refreshments will also be provided.
Hastings WiFi gets further lift
The West Hill lift in Hastings now has free WiFi, joining the existing network of WiFi hotspots along the town's seafront and from the station to the pier.
Cllr Kim Forward, lead member for tourism at Hastings Borough Council explained :- "We are proud of our WiFi network here in Hastings, and of our 127 year old West Hill lift, which runs through a tunnel from the seafront to Hastings Castle. By providing WiFi in the tunnel, passengers can surf as they ride in the lift, helping them plan what else to see and do in our busy town.
"We believe this is the only funicular in the country to have WiFi installed, and certainly one of the only places where Victorian carriages enjoy 21st century connectivity. The national train operating companies may boast about WiFi being installed in their modern fleet, we're proud to boast about it being available in some of the oldest working railway coaches in the country."
Hastings Housing Company acquires first property
Hastings Housing Company, wholly owned by Hastings Borough Council, has acquired its first property.
Managing director Andrew Palmer explained :- "This is a really important moment for us, we are now a housing company in more than just name. The property we have bought, in Waldegrave Street, is a valuable town centre asset, and is the first of many, we hope.
"In this case, we bought the property from a local company, Lets2Share, allowing them to invest further in the town, and they will continue to manage it. In future, though, as we expand our portfolio, we will be managing the properties ourselves."
Leader of Hastings Borough Council, Cllr Peter Chowney, said :- "Setting up the housing company was a key priority for us, and I am delighted that it is now a fully-fledged going concern.
"It makes sense for the council to invest in property, as it will help provide revenue through dividends from the company that can be reinvested in our services.
"It also helps ensure that good quality, well maintained, rented accommodation is provided in Hastings.
Luca Venditto, of Lets2Share added :- "We are delighted with this deal. We have built up an extensive portfolio in Hastings, and by selling this property to the housing company we are able to invest further in the town. By immediately leasing the property back we can still offer it to our clients, so it's a great deal, in every respect. We are very pleased to work in partnership with the council's housing company and hope to work with them more in the future."