Hastings Council call for proposals on future of the West Hill Cafe

The future of the iconic café is looking brighter after owners Hastings Borough Council eventually evicted the lease-holder after a long-running dispute and took back control of the building.

The West Hill Café, close to the rocks and Ladies Parlour has stunning sea views across the Old Town, seafront, harbour and Hastings Country Park. Yet, to people’s annoyance, it remained closed throughout the summer last year.

People criticised the state of the building, which was then described as looking 'shabby and uncared for’ with the frontage having become overgrown with weeds.

Now the council has plans to include an imaginative vision for telling the story of nearby Hastings Castle, in the future of the building.

A Hastings Borough Council spokesperson said: “Following the Expression of Interest launched in October last year, 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.”

Cllr Julia Hilton, Leader of Hastings Borough Council, 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 Café 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.”

Details for the Request for Proposals, including the prospectus and the supporting documents, can be viewed here. Full details can be found on the Town Deal blog page here

Any questions or clarifications should be sent to [email protected] by 12 noon on 6 May 2024. Submissions are open from now until 12 noon on 3 June 2024.

In 2021 Hastings was one of 101 UK towns to receive a share of the Government’s Towns Fund to kickstart the regeneration of the town with funding of £24.3m. Earlier this year the Town Deal Board approved the project’s business case and the council has allocated £3m of Town Deal money to invest in the project to improve the café as an interpretation facility with food and beverage provision and access to Hastings Castle with modest improvements within the castle itself. The council issued an Expression of Interest to gauge market interest in October 2023 and following a positive response, the council is now looking for experienced partners to help delivery the project.