Press Releases: week beginning 31 March 2014
Rail Summit: words are great, action is even better
Council Leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch, has been giving his reaction to the 'Hastings Rail Summit' which took place at Sussex Coast College on Monday, 31 March.
"It was very encouraging indeed to see so many senior rail industry officials in Hastings, with not just the Secretary of State for Transport here, but the managing directors of the Southern and Southeastern train operating companies, and the route managing director of the south east for Network Rail.
"It was equally good to hear an 'absolute commitment' being given to move the electrification of the Hastings to Ashford 'Marshlink' line being moved up the agenda.
"Rail is vitally important to Hastings, both for our residents who use our three routes for commuting, business and pleasure, and for visitors who contribute so much to the local economy.
"So I am keen on seeing Hastings being given the importance it deserves by all rail industry partners, and I look forward to seeing improvements not just on the Marshlink line, but on the other routes too. A direct, fast train service between Hastings and St Pancras via Ashford in 68 minutes would of course be fantastic. Equally important are good, reliable, fast services to Charing Cross, Waterloo East, London Bridge, Cannon Street and Victoria, and, of course, to Brighton and Gatwick Airport too.
"I am absolutely committed to getting the best possible rail services for our residents and visitors. I look forward to working with our rail industry partners and the government to ensure that there is not just an absolute commitment to talking about improving our train services, but an absolute commitment to delivering them."
Home Office Minister visits St Leonards
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker visited St Leonards on Monday, 31 March to learn more about the work being done locally to tackle the harmful effects of excessive drinking.
Hastings was selected by the government as one of the 20 Local Alcohol Action Areas (LAAAs), a new project that aims to combat drink-fuelled crime and disorder and the damage caused to people?s health.
Launched in February, the LAAA national scheme involves local agencies, including licensing authorities, health bodies and the police, working in partnership with businesses and other organisations to address the problems caused by alcohol.
The Minister said:
"I am delighted to have the opportunity to visit Hastings to find out more about the work they are doing as a Local Alcohol Action Area to tackle the problems caused by excessive alcohol use.
"The coalition government is taking a wide range of action to tackle alcohol-related harm, which is thought to cost society around £21 billion a year.
"We have already given local areas the power to restrict the sale of alcohol in the early hours and ensure those who profit from a late night licence help pay towards the costs of policing.
"I am also pressing the industry itself to take more responsibility for the problems that inappropriate use of their products cause."
Council leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch added:
"We are very pleased to have been declared a Local Alcohol Action Area and look forward to learning from other areas and from government thinking. We have our own initiatives, like our Reduce the Strength campaign whereby off-licenses have agreed to amend their licenses guaranteeing they won't sell beers and ciders over 6.5% - the drink of choice of street drinkers that others may be able to learn from."
Chief Inspector Paul Phelps, District Commander added:
"I am really pleased that Hastings has been identified as one of the twenty Local Alcohol Action Areas. This will allow us to further build on the foundations laid through the Community Alcohol Partnership."
Bathing water quality on the agenda
Our Cabinet had the quality of the sea bathing water firmly on the agenda at the meeting on Monday, 31 March.
Although water quality has improved steadily over recent years, under a new more stringent European bathing water directive Hastings beach is at risk of failing to meet the new standard set for 2015.
Councillors had conducted a comprehensive scrutiny review of bathing water quality and Cllr Judy Rogers who chaired the review reported back to the cabinet.
Cllr Rogers told the meeting:
"This is obviously a serious issue for a seaside resort like us. Even though we know the quality of the water has improved, the last thing we want is to have to tell people they should not go into the sea, which could happen if we don't meet the new standards."
The scrutiny review heard from representatives from Southern Water and the Environment Agency, and received a presentation from the Clean Seas Please campaign - a joint effort by Hastings Voluntary Action and Rother Voluntary Action funded by the Environment Agency.
Councillor Rogers continued:
"One of the causes of the problem is the Alexandra Park stream outfall, which discharges right in the middle of Hastings beach. An extension of this, so that it discharged far further out into the sea, would be the most reliable way of improving our bathing water quality, but this is likely to be both very expensive, and take a long time.
"Whilst we will still look to see if that is needed in the longer term, we are supporting quicker solutions from all the partners. The Environment Agency are investigating 'wrong connections' where some houses have their plumbing wrongly connected, discharging foul water into the stream. The council is looking at removing the build up of silt in the stream's catchment area.
"Similarly, Southern Water are doing work in this area, as they explained to the review team. They have work is underway to deal with 'dual manholes', where surface water and foul sewers run alongside each other causing contamination at times of very heavy rain.
"It was very good to be able to quiz our various partners during the scrutiny review, and although there is still a lot of work to do, I am optimistic that we will now meet the new targets."
Council Leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch, added:
"This was an excellent scrutiny review, and shows just how a good review should work. Review team members were able to as detailed questions and probe officials from partner organisations in a way that we just can't do here in cabinet.
"St Leonards beach hits the new standards but Hastings beach which is monitored right by the outfall won?t unless all these measures are taken. As part of the package we will be discouraging bathers from swimming near the outfall and instead urge them to use Pelham Beach 100 metres to the east which is where the lifeguards are and where more people use the sea . We are looking at moving the water sampling point further east to Pelham.
"Bathing water quality is a key economic issue for our town. We know our sea is fine to swim in and enjoy but we will be doing everything we can to make sure everyone knows it by hitting the EU standard."
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery wins Heritage Lottery Fund support for First World War project
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery has received £34,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project 'Hastings Remembers; - a five year programme of First World War centenary activities which will take place across the town. The project will focus on the impact of the war on our local communities, starting this Spring and running throughout the centenary period until December 2018. The starting point will be the Museum's own collections, but it's hoped that the project will uncover all those personal and family stories that bring history to life and make it so fascinating.
The project will give local people the opportunity to contribute to exploring this shared history. There will be lots of volunteer opportunities, with training provided in key skills areas such as doing oral history interviews, using social media and leading workshops. The museum?s project team will be out collecting stories, looking at documents and photographs and helping local people find out the part their ancestors played in these world-changing events. There will be key exhibitions at the Museum, as well as a number of pop-up exhibitions and events in community spaces. A Young Cultural Curators programme will enable young people with a keen interest in history to gain key skills and experience to use as they develop their careers. There will also be lots of resources and activities for schools and other educational or leisure groups.
The First World War changed the world for everyone, and people from Hastings and St Leonards were a part of these major historical events from the start. Did you know that a local soldier won the Victoria Cross, or that the guns from the Battle of the Somme were so loud that they could even be heard in Hastings? Or that the town was a staging post for soldiers heading to the Front, or how women were encouraged to support the war effort? There are so many wonderful stories to uncover and share, to give understanding and value to the contribution local people made one hundred years ago.
Commenting on the award, Cllr Emily Westley, lead member for leisure and amenities, said:
"We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It provides us with a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages to explore this important part of our national heritage and really give it local significance. We hope the whole town will get behind the project and come forward with their own family stories to build up a complete picture of the experience of the town during the war years."
Easter Family Fun at Hastings Museum!
The Museum's popular Easter Egg Hunt is back!
Search around the Museum for clues and solve the puzzle to win a chocolate Easter treat! All you need to do is pick up a trail from the Museum reception and get hunting.
The Easter Egg hunts runs from Saturday, 05 to Sunday, 20 April, Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am to 5pm and Sundays 12noon to 5pm. Both the activity and entry to the Museum is free.
Please note that this is an unsupervised activity and children under 13 should be accompanied by an adult.
For more information about events at Hastings Museum visit www.hmag.org.uk
How green is our valleyAt the Cabinet meeting on Monday, 31 March, it was agreed to explore the setting up of a community interest company to carry on the development of the Combe Valley Countryside Park.
Cllr Emily Westley, lead member for leisure and Combe Valley Countryside Park's management board's chair, explained:
"The future of local authorities' funding for the park is becoming uncertain, so we need to develop plans which reduce the park's dependence on this.
"In 2013 the park's management board appointed Groundwork Trust to develop options for the future management of the park. This work was paid for by Groundwork Trust, who has drafted a new 'master plan' for developing activities in the park. This will form the basis for seeking grants as well as creating new assets within the park, such as a visitor centre which can then help produce further income.
"Groundwork Trust outlined three options that were available, and recommended the formation of a community interest company as the most effective way of taking the management of the park going forward. This is relatively straightforward and cost-effective to set up and run, gives flexibility, and allows us to safeguard funding and other assets. The aim is for the company to be self-funding from next year.
"I'm especially excited because this approach should make the management of the park less bureaucratic and much more accessible to local residents.
"I believe the Combe Valley Countryside Park has a great future, and I am very pleased indeed that our cabinet has voted unanimously to continue the discussions with Groundwork Trust. I think there is a clear way forward, and look forward to the continued development of this 'green lung' between Hastings and Bexhill, with the active involvement of the local community."
Councillors show their support for English Tourism Week
The Mayor of Hastings and the deputy leader of the council visited tourism businesses in Hastings on Thursday, 03 April to highlight the third annual English Tourism Week which runs from 29 March to 06 April.
Around 100 million domestic overnight trips are taken in England by residents of Great Britain every year, generating a total of £17.3bn in 2011. Some 873 million day trips are made each year with an estimated value of £39bn and England welcomes over 25 million international visitors per year.
Cllr Peter Chowney, deputy leader and lead member for regeneration said of tourism in Hastings said:
"Tourism in Hastings supports 14.1% of jobs (including self-employed) which equates to an incredible 5,209 actual jobs in the town and it’s worth £245 million a year to the town’s economy.
"Already this year, Hastings Adventure Golf and the Trampolines at Pelham Place have achieved one of the best starts to the season ever. With the start of the holiday season just around the corner, we are looking forward to welcoming visitors from home and abroad for a fantastic stay with a spectacular mix of attractions and entertainment on offer."
Visit www.visit1066 country.com for details of accommodation, attractions and events.
Previously empty property in St Leonards brought back into use to provide stable and affordable housing for twelve local young people
Local charity, YMCA DownsLink Group (previously known as Sussex Central YMCA), is completing refurbishment work on a previously empty property in Chapel Park Road, St Leonards. Nine young people aged between 18 and 35 have already moved in to the newly refurbished self-contained flats. Three more flats will be revamped ready for new tenants by the beginning of summer.
In 2012, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) awarded a contract to YMCA DownsLink Group to bring empty properties across East and West Sussex back into use. The 'Empty Homes' scheme allows the charity to lease empty properties from private landlords. These properties are renovated to a high standard, with the aid of a grant, and let to young adults in housing need.
The house in St Leonards is one of six properties in the Hastings area that currently benefit from the scheme, creating housing for 33 young people. YMCA DownsLink Group aim to grow this number significantly as part of plans to provide housing for over 200 young people across Sussex by April 2015.
YMCA DownsLink Group is working in partnership with Hastings Borough Council, who refer tenants and link the YMCA with landlords, to deliver the Empty Homes project. Locally, Empty Homes is providing an alternative housing option for young people who might struggle to access the private rented sector as well as improving the local area. Young people entering the scheme receive full housing management support and are not required to provide an upfront deposit or references from previous landlords.
YMCA DownsLink Group CEO David Standing said:
"The YMCA DownsLink Empty Homes project in Hastings has been a very successful partnership between the YMCA, the HCA and Hastings Borough Council. Providing housing opportunities to young people is a key part of the charity's aims and allows us to invest in Hastings and develop services that meet the needs of local communities"
Council leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch added:
With a shortage of quality housing it's very exciting to see this project putting empty properties back into use and providing new housing for local young people.
"The scheme will not only give much needed accommodation to young families and people in housing need but it will also help private landlords to refurbish and utilise their properties fully. We look forward to working with the YMCA in the future and reducing the number of empty homes in our town."
Landlords interested in discussing this opportunity should email Gregory Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01273 222550.