Observer column: 18 December 2015
This week, we got a small piece of good news for Christmas: we've been awarded £50,000 following our bid to the Coastal Revival Fund, which will contribute to the cost of refurbishing Bottle Alley. That will include concrete repairs, redecoration and cleaning the glass 'bottle panels'. The work will start in January. We'll also be installing new lighting, hopefully colour-changing LEDs co-ordinated with the LEDs around the pier. When this is done, we'll be looking to establish a regular 'art market' along there.
The Coastal Revival Fund money does however come on top of the £500,000 from our successful bid to the Coastal Communities Fund, which has contributed to the restoration of White Rock Baths by The Source as an international-standard BMX and skateboard centre, opening in February, along with improvements to the promenade around the pier. There will be new surfacing, a decked area with a kiosk at the eastern end of the baths, a new kiosk on the upper promenade by the weather station, and even palm trees. There will also be a public wi-fi network installed along the seafront and town centres. Funding from Hastings Council, East Sussex County Council, and the Foreshore Trust, have all helped with this too.
And then there's the pier itself, refurbished thanks to over £12m in Heritage Lottery funding, with match funding from Hastings Council, other grants, and local people through community shares.
Five years ago, this area was shabby and derelict. The pier was burned-out and still in the ownership of a Panamanian company who cared nothing for Hastings. White Rock Baths has been closed for years, and all attempts to bring it back into use had failed. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Pier Trust, The Source with its proposal for White Rock Baths, and regeneration work by Hastings Council, this area will be substantially renewed, bringing tourists along the promenade towards St Leonards. And we've not forgotten the seafront mini-tram idea either. We have a bid in for European funding to develop that project - we'll hear whether that one's been successful in the new year.
It doesn't stop there. We're working with local residents' groups, local businesses, and other public bodies to look at the future of White Rock Gardens, and how that can be transformed too. And we're about to begin consultations with local residents and businesses about the old bathing pool site at West Marina, and what might be possible there. And, of course, Grotbusters will be keeping up their efforts, making sure buildings all the way along the seafront are kept tidy and well-maintained.
Next week, we'll find out how much government grant we're going to get next year. We know it won't be brilliant news, and that central government funding will continue to decrease. While that will affect the range and extent of services the council can provide, with some good ideas and ambition, some imaginative income generation, and a programme of bids into external funding programmes, we can keep on improving Hastings, making it more attractive to those who live, work and visit here.
So season's greetings to everyone reading this; I hope you're able to enjoy whatever festival it is you're celebrating at this time of year. And I hope that next year there will be more good news to pass on.