Today, it was Cllr. Peter Chowney and Ruby Cox, the Labour candidate for the Tressell and Old Hastings division on East Sussex County Council, who were out on our walkabout. We looked at the ‘top end’ of Tressell ward: Clifton Road, Coghurst Road, Percy Road, and Greville Road. We also ventured in to Travellers’ Lane, and Church Street.
Clifton Road Development Sites
We started at the bottom of Clifton Road, by the fenced-off site on either side of Church Street. This site has planning permission for redevelopment, but is one of the many sites across Hastings where permission for housing development has been given, but the site remains abandoned and undeveloped. Unfortunately, there is little the council can do about this. In theory, it could be purchased through a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), but this would not necessarily be successful (a court has to decided whether the CPO can be approved) and it’s an expensive business – the council has to compensate the landowner for the full value of the land. What’s needed is a ‘use it or lose it’ approach, where councils can compulsorily purchase land and get it developed at zero cost, deducting the costs from the compensation payable. Until that happens, the housing crisis is likely to be made worse by developers sitting on land and refusing to develop it, preferring to keep it as an ‘appreciating asset’ that increases the value of their company. For this site, there might be some action we can get the council to take to remove the ugly Herras fencing, which can only be erected temporarily while a development is taking place – which clearly it isn’t. But that doesn’t solve the bigger problem of land going to waste because of irresponsible developers.
The former care home at the bottom of Clifton Road is however now being redeveloped. This received planning permission for conversion to accommodation for single people with shared facilities, which, if it’s well-managed, will provide much needed affordable housing.
Percy Road and Coghurst Road
From here, we walked up Percy Road, which was looking OK, but there was some litter, particularly outside one property. We reported this on My Hastings, so it should be cleared up pretty quickly. Then it was Coghurst Road, where we reported on our last walkabout here an area of footway, which is in very poor condition, and is dangerous, with the tarmac loose and crumbling. East Sussex County Council sent an inspector out to look at it, but they said it wasn’t bad enough to be repaired. It’s difficult to imagine quite how bad a footway has to be before it actually is repaired. The neglect the County Council shows for roads and footways in Hastings is scandalous. This year, they refused to raise their Council Tax precept by the maximum amount because they said they had enough money in the budget now to provide all necessary services. In which case, it’s time they started repairing the potholes in Tressell – and everywhere else!
Clifton Road and Travellers’ Lane
We then walked along Victoria Avenue, which used to be in Tressell ward but is now in Ore ward after a boundary review, then Clifton Road. The road surface here is unusually good – the whole road was completely resurfaced a couple of years ago. The road looked clean too, with no obvious problems. We did take a look along Travellers’ Lane, an unadopted, unsurfaced road leading to two bungalows. There had been a problem with knotweed at the bottom of the gardens of a couple of houses here (the houses themselves are in Victoria Avenue), as well as other dumped rubbish and abandoned cars. After action by Hastings Council, the rubbish and dumped cars were removed and the knotweed cleared. It’s still not the tidiest area, with a wall now having collapsed, but it’s better than it was.
Back at the bottom of Clifton Road, we walked up Greville Road. Kerbstones seem to be a problem here, with many of them loose and some missing altogether. There’s no sign of the missing kerbstones, so they have presumably been stolen. This seems odd, as the ones in Church Street (see below) are still there. This is again the responsibility of East Sussex County Council, and is a frequent problem in this area resulting from poor maintenance over many years. We will report them, but can’t guarantee that the County Council will do anything about it.
At the top of Greville Road, we walked back along Church Street. This road is now little more than a footpath along the edge of Speckled Wood. The houses here were demolished in 1959 as part of a slum clearance programme, although the road is still used by houses in Greville Road for access to the rear of their properties. The kerbstones from the old Church Street are still visible along here (you can see them in the picture) – arguably in better condition than the ones in Greville Road! Further along, there’s a small tool store used by Ore Community Land Trust, for the volunteers who look after Speckled Wood. Beside this is quite a large area where volunteers have experimented with methods to remove the knotweed that infests the woodland. Here, they’ve simply cut it down and burned it on site (it’s illegal to remove it unless you’re a carrier licenced to handle it) and continue to cut back new shoots as soon as they appear. After a couple of years, they do seem to be getting it under control, but it is a very labour-intensive process.
At the end of Church Street, we were back at the bottom of Clifton Road, where we started – just as it started drizzling with rain. Next week we’ll be out again, probably around School Road, Sandown Road and Oakfield Road, and a bit more besides.