Today, Ali Roark and Cllr. Peter Chowney met Ian Sier from Ore Community Land Trust in Speckled Wood to discuss their plans and take a look around. Then we went on to School and Sandown Roads, and investigated a problem in Halton Terrace that had been reported to us by a local resident.
Ore Community Land Trust has recently installed a shipping container on their land in the woodland, which is just behind Ore Village Green. This will be used as a volunteer centre for people working there. It’s looking a bit tatty at Rthe moment, but they’ll be repainting it. Ore Community Land Trust have been organising volunteers to work in the woodland, maintaining paths and other structures. They’ve recently been successful in getting a grant to repair some of the steps, too. They own a couple of small areas of land and are hoping to acquire more, but much of the woodland remains in private ownership, although is protected open space in the council’s Local Plan (and will remain protected in the new Local Plan that’s now being prepared). To find out more about Speckled Wood, see our Speckled Wood page. We then explored the woodland with Ian, who showed us areas that volunteers had recently cleared of knotweed (there is a lot of knotweed there!) and a bridge they’d recently replaced after it was vandalised. Although a bit muddy, Speckled Wood looked rather lovely in the Autumn light with the stream sparkling in glimpses of sunshine and the turning colours of the trees bathing the valley floor in a warm glow. There are a lot of fungi growing down there too now, so a good place to go for a stroll if you’re a fungus forager. It is legal to pick mushrooms in the wild (they’re just the ‘fruit’ of the fungus, the actual plant is a much larger network of fibrous ‘mycelia’ underground). But don’t be tempted to eat them unless you really know what you’re doing – some fungi are extremely poisonous and can easily kill you. The Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) is particularly nasty, leading to liver failure and a slow, painful death over several days. I didn’t see any of those in Speckled Wood, but you can’t be too careful.
Old London Road and ‘Grotbusting’.
From here, we walked down to Sandown Road and School Road. The part of Old London Road from Ore Village Green to School Road isn’t in Tressell Ward, it’s in Ore Ward, but we did spot a couple of buildings that could do with ‘Grotbusting’, so I’ll pass those on to the Ore Ward councillors so they can investigate that. For those of you not aware of what Grotbusting is, it’s a term derived by the late Jeremy Birch, the former leader of Hastings Council (ie before me) to describe enforcement action taken by Hastings Council to require owners of eyesore properties to improve their appearance. The programme achieved major improvements to the seafront before being rolled out to other parts of town. Technically, it involves taking action under improvements of the Town and Country Planning Act 1998 to improve properties that are ‘detrimental to the visual amenity of the area’. Hastings Council has issued over a thousand of s.215 notices – which is, we believe, more than any other council in the country.
School and Sandown Roads
There’s a small public garden at the top of School Road, which was a requirement under the planning permission for Solle Mews. It’s clean and tidy, but the planting is being overwhelmed by weeds, notably brambles and sycamores. The area is maintained by Southern Housing Group, who own the system-built housing in Solle Mews. We’ll get on to them to see if it can be improved.
School Road was looking clean and tidy, which is definitely an improvement, it never used to. It’s good to see the old chapel on the junction with Sandown Road finally being refurbished too. It has been used as housing for many years, but had fallen into disrepair. At the bottom of School Road, we cut through the area of unadopted land that’s used as an informal parking area, as parking space in these narrow roads is at a premium. I did once investigate the possibility of the council acquiring the land and building a proper, surfaced residents’ car park, selling permits to local residents to recover the costs. But as far as I could make out, most people seemed to prefer as it is, where they can use it for free, even if it is a bit muddy. A few years ago, a survey was carried out of local residents by the county council to assess whether they wanted residents’ parking introduced. This means parking spaces are reserved for local people, but they have to buy a permit to use them. In the end, there was only a majority in favour for a short section of Sandown Road. That was a few years ago though – if you live there and think residents might want it introduced in School Road and the rest of Sandown Road, let us know. We also met one of the council’s street wardens there. She was investigating an abandoned car, which is using up a parking space in the informal car park. As it’s unadopted land, there’s no landowner to do anything about it, but the council can in some circumstances get the car removed – she said that was what they were intending to do. Sandown Road also seemed in good order – no litter, no obvious damage to the roads or footways, but let us know if we missed anything.
From here, we had a quick look at a problem in Halton Terrace, which a local resident brought to our attention. The road here has a very wide, sloping verge, which leads down to a footway running along the ends of the gardens of houses in Hardwicke Road. Much of this path has a fairly high wall alongside it, forming the rear boundary of the gardens. At one point, this wall is collapsing, and indeed has collapsed. It certainly looks dangerous, and someone (presumably the county council as the highway authority) has put some barriers along there (see picture). In places, the wall has been removed completely, and replaced by fencing. Considering this, and the fact that the wall looks different for the different Hardwicke Road gardens, it seems likely that the condition of the wall (which clearly isn’t good) is the responsibility of individual property owners. But if the footway is owned by East Sussex County Council as a highway, then ESCC do have a responsibility to make sure it’s safe. That could mean making property owners make the wall safe, although that could be done by simply demolishing it. There would be no requirement to replace it with anything, although most people would probably want some kind of a fence along their property boundary with the road. Anyway, we’re investigating this. Tania Charman is looking into it as the county councillor, finding out whether the footway is maintained by the highways team, and I will try to find out from the Land Registry who owns the wall. I’ll also get the building control team to have a look at it – Hastings Council can take action against the owners of the wall if it constitutes a dangerous structure.
And that was about it for this week. Next week, we’ll be doing our walkabout in the Tressell part of Old London Road, from School Road down to Ashburnham Road, as well as High Bank, North Terrace and Robertson Hill, if we have time. Please leave a comment if you have anything to add.