Worries over visitor centre plans

While Councillor Street’s assurances are welcome (Rye and Hastings Observers, April 10) there are still many areas of concern about the proposed visitor centre at the eastern (Firehills) end of the country park.

It appears that Hastings from the outset had a brief for views from the centre. This ruled out an alternative site a little further inland which would be further away from nearby residents and would have reduced overlooking and noise problems. It would also be more sheltered from the strong winds, be close to a suitable car park and have more safe space away from traffic.

Councillor Street says the building will operate only from 9am to 5pm. Unfortunately that cannot be guaranteed. The restricted hours were imposed by Hastings planning committee on the advice of the planning officer. She reported that other uses within and outside the building had been suggested, but as the ideas had not been developed and because of concern from local residents the hours of opening would be limited to 9am to 5pm until such time as more specific plans have been identified. Will Hastings undertake to make the restricted hours legally binding for the future?

An attachment to the revised Planning, Design and Access Statement says, ‘The future purposes of the space captured the imagination with everyone envisaging an open air theatre, weddings and parties…’. This may just be an aspiration of those closely involved, but it’s in the planning application documents and your correspondents were right to draw attention to it. Those ideas could well be revived.

Likewise the proposed, but currently withdrawn, iron signage could be revived as an advertising consent application.

My understanding is that the out-of-hours activities and alternative uses for the site and building formed no part of the public consultation.

It is easy to see why local residents (and many from Hastings too) have been worried by the proposals. A brief for views which can already be seen easily from the ground suggests uses other than display space. Hastings will need to finance the centre. It must be tempting to find commercial uses for the building to pay its way.

I, with the chairman of the Fairlight Residents’ Association and another resident, were to have met Councillors Street and Poole and a Hastings official this week. Hastings has postponed the meeting until after the general election saying I have raised too many issues for the proposed meeting format. The postponement is regrettable as these matters need to be resolved. Fairlight needs a good working relationship with Hastings to safeguard both a precious asset and residents’ well-being. There is only one chance to get this right on such a sensitive site.

Andrew Mier

Chairman

Fairlight Parish Council