Improve Hastings - what would you do?

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Richard
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Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby Richard » Fri Mar 09, 2018 6:11 pm

People complain about some aspects of Hastings:

1. The failed projects (Observer Building, The Pier, University College, Bottle Alley)
2. The Roads / Trains.
3. The lack of much Industry /employment
4. The gentrification of the old town and St. Leonards
5. People who are either grossly obese, begging, lazy or have no passion or motivation, doing drugs.
6. Incompetent and mistrusted Council / leadership.

We can't do much about the slow trains in and out of Hastings to Tunbridge Wells as the bridges and track (single in places) are old Victorian structures and would cost many millions to improve.
It is a tourist town (as well as benefits and beggar town) yet locals complain bitterly about gentrification and DFL's. Do they just want visiting tourists?
The Uni-College is wasted because there is insufficient student-demand and the developers of the Observer building have used that (lack of rental to students potential) as an excuse to stop work. More likely funding has hit other problems also.

That's my take, locals love the place but Hastings is seen by many to be failing to move into the 21'st century and drags its feet yet, on the back of well-intentioned schemes and 'pie-in-the-sky' dreams.
What would you do, huge amounts of money would probably not be the answer and what priorities would you give to any named improvements?

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seahermit
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby seahermit » Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:40 pm

I am sorry but this is not at all accurate. The line from Hastings to Charing Cross is not particularly slow, 1 hour/40 minutes, and people do manage to commute (I have known a few).

The only single track is on the Ashford line and that route to London is actually much faster than the other one. Not long ago there was a promotion for a through-ticket to St Pancras (are they still doing that?) and I knew someone who got to St Pancras from Hastings in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Whilst widening the track would require some new bridges etc., there have been several feasibility studies and the outlay of a few millions would be vastly outweighed by the benefits of faster access to London. Replacing old Victorian bridges is actually quite straightforward these days, especially on a simple twin-track line. Often a new bridge is built around the old structure (before those bits are quickly demolished) and I think it was in Herne Hill that the line was closed for a mere 48 hours whilst final girders were bolted into place. Look at the other engineering feats being carried out on Crossrail - in the middle of a congested city. The issue is not about the amount of money but whether the investment would currently be justified for a town which is deprived and not ready for a big influx of commuters and new residents.

There is nothing wrong with improving an area (gentrification?) if it is done sympathetically and is not forcing people out of areas they have lived in long-term. The trouble is that developers and landlords have too much power when pursuing greater profits and tenants, either business or residential, have less protection and stabilty than used to be the case. The Council's attitude seems to be hoping that the druggies and tramps will just go away (or be swept away) instead of trying to deal with the root causes of the problem.

It largely boils down to bad planning and management, nothing to do with money. What is wrong with Hastings being a tourist town, not one offering a lot of employment in other industries? Plenty of English towns have a thriving economy based on hotels, restaurants and entertainments for visitors. But instead of that, Hastings Council promotes office blocks in Havelock Road (some still largely empty) and extensive university facilities (for a small town population with social deprivation and economic problems).

Also there are artists, musicians and writers everywhere in Hastings, one of the major attractions for visitors. Why is the Council not heavily supporting this creative culture with a really good arts centre - spaces for exhibitions, drama, concerts, art studios etc. (as in Tunbridge Wells, Brighton etc.)? Instead, the pier is largely devoid of entertainment facilties and the splendid Observer building, with numerous large floors and right in the centre of town, stands empty.

Until local politicians take more responsibilty and make more intelligent decisions, Hastings will remain as it is.

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Richard
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby Richard » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:21 pm

There are 8 tunnels between Hastings and Tonbridge, some track is single according to railway men I have spoken with and bridge reinforcement would involve very expensive work needed in order to meet much higher speeds.
One hour 40 minutes is seen as a negative by businesses wishing to attract more customers.
The only way to increase speed is by extending the HS1 from Ashford to Hastings, fast 'Javelin' trains to Hastings is what Amber Rudd has been campaigning for.
Certainly St Pancras to Hastings would be feasible in little over one hour.

Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, said: “Securing this fast service, to bring journey times between our area and London down by nearly 40 minutes to just over one hour, has been a top priority for me since 2010.
This is an essential project for Hastings, Rye and the surrounding area. It will bring enormous benefits to our communities, it will boost growth and regeneration, and it will offer people much greater opportunities for work and travel.”

I am not sure if this project is still on the cards.

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Richard
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby Richard » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:05 pm

Hi, seahermit, you said the following:

"Look at the other engineering feats being carried out on Cross-rail - in the middle of a congested city. The issue is not about the amount of money but whether the investment would currently be justified for a town which is deprived and not ready for a big influx of commuters and new residents."
This rather depends on who is footing the bill, absolutely regeneration would certainly occur in Hastings, if only commuters could access the coast here in around an hour.
The commuting time from London always dictates the price of property in outlying areas.
In the 1980's property prices in Brighton were on a level with Hastings and after fast rail links they have shot up. Gentrification is not about sympathetic consideration to locals it is about opportunities and it has never stopped some London streets, formerly existing in extreme poverty, from turning into expensive enclaves with the old squalid housing swept away or re-developed and improved.
There is a dearth of cheap property in London and a good supply of relatively quite cheap houses in Hastings. Not just commuters (based in Hastings) going to work in London, but businesses also would relocate and enjoy cheaper premises and employ a local work force.
Not everyone in Hastings is too stupid to take advantage of such opportunities, many are hard-working and can be trained.
Shorter commuting times would be a 'win-win' situation' therefore.

Certainly Cross-Rail (formerly Rail Track) spends many many millions on major projects and restoration of infrastructure, where it can justify the expense in terms of greater revenue generation, but sometimes government may offer subsidies or grants.
Rail track have the same mentality as Hastings council, if they can get funding from elsewhere they may well implement improvements, otherwise they can't just find / borrow money from nowhere and have tight budgets to meet.

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Richard
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby Richard » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:13 pm

Also you said:

"It largely boils down to bad planning and management, nothing to do with money. What is wrong with Hastings being a tourist town, not one offering a lot of employment in other industries? Plenty of English towns have a thriving economy based on hotels, restaurants and entertainments for visitors. But instead of that, Hastings Council promotes office blocks in Havelock Road (some still largely empty) and extensive university facilities (for a small town population with social deprivation and economic problems). "

I agree, nothing wrong with a holiday or retirement town but Eastbourne and Bexhill are surely in that category already, are close by and have much to offer.
The Office Blocks in Hastings are there if commuters can be brought in by faster rail-links.
The University building was a miscalculation of student demand and 'mickey-mouse' courses were offered that are worthless and geared up to take advantage of government funding, revenue from fees and the hopes that an influx of students from further afield would improve the local economy.
Many areas in London still suffer inner-city deprivation, much like in Hastings and also I agree that is something that either gentrification of government intervention should address.

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seahermit
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby seahermit » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:29 am

Well, Richard, I am afraid that I find your arguments confused and in some respects just not true! And I have long felt that this whole argument for a high-speed line was somewhat spurious and smacked of a politician’s cherished “prestige” project. The attainable journey time from Hastings to London is already only a bit over an hour and Amber Rudds’s ambition (“to bring journey times between our area and London down by nearly 40 minutes to just over one hour, has been a top priority for me since 2010) is not therefore going to impress any doubters. Nor am I convinced that a high-speed line would necessarily “boost growth and regeneration” – there are many factors involved in how an area develops, one being proper management and planning by the local authorities and that is one thing which has been singularly lacking in Hastings area for a number of years.

The idea that regeneration is automatically going to start when commuters can travel faster to London is just simplistic. There are (or were) numerous areas outside London (e.g. Medway towns) which were within easy reach of London but for many years they were pretty deprived and cheap to live in. Again, it depends on many factors.

Nor is it true that “businesses also would relocate and enjoy cheaper premises and employ a local work force”. Why has none of this already happened? There are a number of new office blocks and also trading estates in Hastings area but businesses have noticeably failed to move in from outside and there is a great lack of career jobs for skilled workers. Part of the reason is that employers have difficulty finding workers with suitable skills in Hastings area.

I’m afraid that I don’t agree either with your statement that “In the 1980's property prices in Brighton were on a level with Hastings and after fast rail links they have shot up”! In ALL of Brighton? Brighton has always been a very mixed town and in some of the more run-down areas property prices may well have been comparable to Hastings ones – but large areas of Brighton have always been much smarter and more expensive to live in, probably because the Brighton Belle slashed journey times from the 1930’s onwards! Not from the 1980’s …

Finally, I am confused by your reference to “Crossrail (formerly Rail Track)” – as far as I know, Railtrack was the precursor to Network Rail and was dissolved a number of years ago. It had nothing at all to do with the Crossrail project to put a new line across London – the project may or may not have started when Railtrack was in existence but that is completely irrelevant.

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Richard
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby Richard » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:16 pm

Yes, seahermit, slip of the mind, Railtrack was the precursor to Network Rail, not Crossail which was clearly a different beast, being owned by TFL.
Network rail is the re-incarnation of Railtrack and is owned / run by the government.

The rest we clearly disagree on different points of view.

You stated:

1. "The attainable journey time from Hastings to London is already only a bit over an hour."

I disagree with you, it is a lot over one hour, the only solution is with Amber Rudd pressing Network rail to implement high speed via Ashford.
Because Rudd is Home Secretary and Network rail is government run we may see results eventually but the time-table (pun) is a few years away yet.
(The Battle route won't ever be funded owing to huge costs for upgrading along a minor line)

2. "The idea that regeneration is automatically going to start when commuters can travel faster to London is just simplistic.
There are (or were) numerous areas outside London (e.g. Medway towns) which were within easy reach of London but for many years they were pretty deprived and cheap to live in. Again, it depends on many factors."

Of course and some of these Medway towns look run down and full of Chavs, have a long muddy river stretch and appear dead, dull and boring.
Why would anyone choose to live in such places, unless they had roots or decent jobs? There may be more salubrious parts around but they will be less easy to reach and command higher prices.


3. "There are a number of new office blocks and also trading estates in Hastings area but businesses have noticeably failed to move in from outside".

You might as well say 'why did the University-College close?'
Bad planning, likewise the above,
Because the rail travel times are not yet reduced and Hastings council got the funding for office blocks ahead of the high-speed rail timing.
However, large companies like Saga have already moved across
Primark is moving into Priory Meadow so they believe they can find local workers and have faith in the local work force. Priory Meadow management do a reasonable job of attracting boutiques and chains, the council should look to seek their guidance.

It is happening just don't expect a rush until rail times improve and then Hastings will be transformed, don't hold your breath - it will take another 30 years!

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seahermit
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby seahermit » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:32 pm

I thought you would come up with some powerful counter-arguments but you seem to be conceding quite a lot of what I said!

New office blocks and over-provision of university courses were of course bad planning - that was my whole point and why I think Amber Rudd's ideas will never happen. Not in their present form anyway, nor in the current climate whereby Hastings has a great number of other problems which are not being addressed.

Priory Meadow is an interesting indicator of the uncertainty and lack of continuity which have for long dogged Hastings. There has been a high turnover of shops and chain stores - one large unit just inside the main entrance from the pedestrian square used to be Next, was something else before that, has had a couple of new incarnations since then. Numerous other units have changed hands more than once. Not a good sign. Means that trading is difficult and shops do not necessarily stick around when profit margins are low. Contrast that with Eastbourne's Arndale Centre - undergoing a massive expansion.

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Richard
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby Richard » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:59 pm

The rail idea promoted by Rudd is related to other problems, of which Hastings has plenty, in the sense that much faster train links would encourage commuting, jobs and hence improve the economy.
We could then promote Hastings with office space to accommodate firms seeking lower rent and other benefits.
The rail link is the biggest factor needed to help solve the current stagnation and it must happen eventually, maybe not for a few years as these things do not happen overnight.

Twenty three Arndale Centres have been built in the United Kingdom, it is a chain and Arndale Centres attract a great deal of criticism as they often involved demolishing old buildings – particularly Victorian buildings – and replacing them with modern concrete constructions in a brutalist style.
"There are people today amassing stupendous fortunes by systematically destroying our historic centres," wrote architectural writer James Lees-Milne "Eventually, all the buildings of the area – good, bad and indifferent – are replaced with chain stores, supermarkets and blocks of flats devoid of all distinction, and all looking alike."
Whether the new Arndale is profitable or destructive to Eastbourne’s independent businesses or economy, will only be determined with time.

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seahermit
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Re: Improve Hastings - what would you do?

Postby seahermit » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:26 pm

I'm sorry but this is just nonsense. There are many coastal towns which do not have fast rail or road links to a big metropolis, yet they have perfectly well-functioning economies and a decent quality of life for the inhabitants. It is bad planning and unaddressed long-term social issues which have caused Hastings' problems. The reason that the fast rail-link has not so far materialised is because common sense has prevailed - few politicians or business leaders are going to commit heavily to a fast rail-link to a deprived town which has little to offer them and does not seem to have the will or the nous to pull itself up.

Whether the Arndale Centres attract criticism or not is quite irrelevant and ignoring the point - the fact is that they mainly succeed from a business point of view, whereas the Priory Meadow centre has had much more difficulty. There simply is not the same level of wealth in Hastings. Hence a steady turnover of businesses ever since I have lived here.


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