Future of popular West Hill Cafe at Hastings could soon be decided

Hastings Borough Council is currently examining bids to take over the running of a cafe on the West Hill which has some of the best views in Hastings.

The West Hill Cafe, close to the rocks and Ladies Parlour has stunning sea views across the Old Town, seafront, harbour and Hastings Country Park. Yet, to much local annoyance, it remained closed throughout the summer last year during a dispute between the Council and a tenant and fell into neglect.

The Council called for proposals to be submitted in March asking for plans to include an imaginative vision for telling the story of nearby Hastings Castle, in the future of the building.

The deadline for proposals was at midday on Monday June 3. A Council spokesperson said: “The call for proposals for experienced operators to submit their proposals for the redevelopment of the West Hill Cafe, including an interpretation experience to tell the story of Hastings Castle has closed. The proposals will then be assessed. More details will be published on the Town Deal blog in due course.”

Back in March, Council leader Julia Hilton said: “Transforming the café and castle area into a leading destination is the flagship project of the Hastings Town Investment Plan. I am looking forward to seeing proposals that will engage the community in developing an exciting vision for the transformation of the West Hill Cafe site, that tells the story of this key part of our history. This aims to drive a step change in the south coast's visitor economy and ensure that our town once again becomes a 'must visit' destination.”

A Council spokesperson said, at the time: “The council would like to appoint an experienced partner within the Cultural Assets sector, to develop, build, operate, and maintain the West Hill Café as a quality food and beverage facility as well as using this as a springboard for innovative education and experience telling the story of Hastings Castle.

Proposals should also incorporate access improvements to Ladies Parlour, with improved setting and landscaping of the surrounding castle grounds, acknowledging and enhancing the existing biodiversity of the site.

“The aim is to secure the most suitably qualified organisation or consortium whose proposal delivers a vision for a world class visitor attraction at Hastings Castle, an outstanding design scheme for the site, a detailed construction cost plan, a commercially sustainable business plan and comprehensive biodiversity enhancement strategies.”

But many local people were opposed to the idea of an organisation or big company taking over the West Hill Cafe and said they would prefer it to be taken on by a local person and run as a cafe, not a visitor experience.