Core Strategy Issues & Options
13. AREA STRATEGY (A): BEXHILL AND THE FRINGES OF HASTINGS
13.1 Bexhill is a medium-sized coastal town with a population estimated in mid 2006 of some 41,635 persons.It is primarily residential in character with an established employment, shopping and service centre role, although the extent of this is influenced by the larger nearby towns of Hastings and Eastbourne.
13.2 In terms of the overall strategy for Bexhill, in looking up to 2011, the Local Plan states:
13.3 Taking a longer-term and broader view of community needs suggests that the vision for the town may be elaborated upon to include health care, leisure and cultural development, education and safety aspects. These are introduced briefly below.
13.4 Access to health care is particularly important given the demographic profile and the heavy reliance on Conquest Hospital at Hastings. Bexhill Hospital itself provides out-patient and day surgery facilities as well as elderly rehabilitation services and a mental health unit.
13.5 The town benefits from some significant public open spaces, notably The Down, Egerton Park and Broad Oak Park, as well as the seafront itself. The creation of the "Countryside Park" at Pebsham, extending to the edge of Hastings, has potential for a range of recreational activities as well as access into the rural fringe.
13.6 A 'Seafront Strategy' has been prepared. There may be a need for further provision for active sports, including playing pitches and for new swimming facilities.
13.7 The De La Warr pavilion is an iconic building and can provide a focus for cultural development. The desirability of a quality hotel to complement and support its role is recognised.
13.8 Access to high quality education is integral to the regeneration agenda.The new Bexhill College site provides modern facilities, while the merits of rationalising the presently split High School sites are widely accepted. There is a current County Council proposal for this.
13.9 Primary and 'early years' school provision is also important as a focus of neighbourhood communities. Capacity needs to managed and increased in the right areas to provide for planned housing growth.
13.10 While Bexhill is a relatively safe place to live, there are certain concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour that affect people's enjoyment of the town.While much of this is outside the scope of land use, it may be influenced by "spatial" strategies for vulnerable areas such as the town centre and seafront.
13.11 There may be need to develop policies for particular geographic areas which have well-defined needs. As well as the town centre, a holistic approach may also be taken for the Sidley area, including ensuring that nearby development assists in tackling socio-economic issues.
13.12 Most of the countryside around Hastings, as well as some edges of the built-up area of the town, lie within Rother District. This includes ribbon development along the A28 and the A259 and along lanes that extend northward off The Ridge.
13.13 This countryside is subject to various pressures. Some parts are particularly vulnerable to encroachment by urban activities, which can be both passive, like walking, and intrusive, such as vehicles, both on and off the highway.
13.14 Generally, countryside adjacent to larger urban areas is seen as a resource for residents, for informal recreation as well as providing "visual relief".
13.15 There are also development pressures, although these have largely been resisted to date, primarily because the High Weald AONB abuts much of the northern edge of the town.
13.16 The uses of these areas are relevant to the future of Hastings itself. Hastings Borough Council is consulting on the future of the town over the same period as the consultation on this document. Please refer to the box opposite to see how you can obtain a copy of, and comment on, Hastings Borough Council's document
Future development options
13.17 The draft South East Plan identifies Bexhill, and Eastbourne/Hailsham, as the only locations in the eastern part of the Sussex Coast between Eastbourne and Rye where there is scope for strategic greenfield expansion.
13.18 The figure of 200 dwellings a year in the coastal parts of Rother (i.e. Bexhill and Rye) over the period 2006 - 2026 (see section 11) stemmed from the consultation by East Sussex County Council in autumn 2005. That document concluded that:
'This (level of housing) would require new land allocations for an extra 1,000 new homes on top of existing Local Plan commitments.
Although these additional new homes could be provided at north and/or west Bexhill, this depends on the prior development of the new Bexhill-Hastings Link Road and other transport improvements. Some opportunity may also exist on the western fringes of Hastings at Wilting for a mixture of housing and commercial development, but only if a new railway station is provided.'
13.19 This figure is additional to the outstanding commitment for over 1,000 new homes as part of major mixed-use allocations to the north east of the town, as contained in the Local Plan.
13.20 Three alternative approaches to growth have been identified below as possible ways of accommodating the order of development being proposed in the South East Plan.
13.21 The options allow some flexibility in the scale of growth, but the locations are more related to varying underlying visions and rationale for development.
13.22 The option of some development being located on the fringes of Hastings, possibly instead of some suggested for Bexhill, is the main reason why Bexhill and the Hastings fringes options are considered together.
13.23 Consideration has been given to an option of no growth of Bexhill, which would be the case if the Link Road were to be substantially delayed or abandoned. However, this is not pursued as it would not be consistent with the South East Plan. Also, the Link Road has 'in principle' support by Government for both its construction and funding, and is critical to delivering existing development commitments in the Local Plan, and to the strategic priority to regeneration.
13.24 Nonetheless, in view of the outstanding procedures to be completed for the Link Road, the following options are all qualified by an expectation on the Council's part that this level of housing growth must be subject to confirmation of timely Link Road construction.
Option 1 - Maintain Bexhill's role:
13.25 The current Local Plan strategy, expressed by Policy DS2, places a focus on Bexhill for significant growth in the district, primarily through the major urban expansion to the north east of the town for 1,100 dwellings and some 4,800 sq.m. of business floorspace.
13.26 This should meet development requirements up to around 2016, but a further similar-sized major urban expansion, or couple of somewhat lesser extensions, would be required later in the period of the Core Strategy under this option (i.e. 2016 - 2026).
13.27 Areas to be investigated would be to the north and west of Bexhill.
13.28 This approach closely reflects Government's "sequential approach" to the location of housing. It would maintain the current strategy in terms of the split between development at Bexhill and other parts of the district.
13.29 This option involves less development than Option 2.It may mean similar or less development than Option 3, and a prospect of at least some development to the west of the town.
Option 2: - Expansion of Bexhill's role
13.30 This proposes more significant planned growth at Bexhill, such that the town develops in a way that makes it a stronger centre for jobs and services, with a clear independent identity.
13.31 This would likely involve development to both the north and west of the town over a 20 year period, linked by a new orbital road as an extension of the "country avenue" that is part of the planned major developments north-east of Bexhill.
13.32 It would mean that the town becomes more self-sufficient in jobs and have a wider range of services. It would accelerate significant new retail and commercial activity in the town centre.
13.33 It would provide the means to ensure that Bexhill is not over-shadowed by adjacent larger towns, nor develop a more dormitory function.
13.34 Significant new development could be planned comprehensively and reinforce ambitions to re-balance the demographic profile, attract younger people through job opportunities and high quality infrastructure whilst retaining the town's distinctiveness.
13.35 The risks are in the ability to increase wider accessibility and local infrastructure to support increased development, and especially in attracting sufficient jobs to complement housing growth.
Option 3 - Coordinated development at Bexhill and on the edge of Hastings
13.36 Rather than focus on Bexhill simply in terms of its own urban needs and potentials, a further alternative approach would be to focus development around Bexhill and Hastings in a manner that seeks to maximise their combined potential for regeneration whilst retaining their distinct identities.
13.37 This would likely involve significant new development on the western edge of Hastings (within Rother District) as well as at Bexhill.
13.38 It would take advantage of the Link Road and look to achieve improved connectivity between the towns and with the wider sub-region and prioritise development for economic purposes, including education/training as well as for new businesses.
13.39 The investigation of locations for development would mainly focus on areas to the north of Bexhill, together with locations to the north west of Hastings.
13.40 The latter would specifically look at the development potential of the Wilting Farm area in conjunction with a new railway station.
13.41 Land south of the Battle Road and straddling the District boundary may also be considered.
13.42 The establishment of the Countryside Park would be critical as a "green heart" and to maintain the distinct identities of the towns.
13.43 This option recognises the "urban geography" and functional ties between Bexhill and Hastings especially in economic terms. It would square well with the sub-regional strategy to support the economic regeneration of Hastings/Bexhill, building on the work of the Hastings and Bexhill Task Force. It would readily facilitate a holistic view of the needs and opportunities of two towns, with close co-operation between the respective Councils.
13.44 It is noted that this option aligns more with that being proposed in the Hastings Borough Council consultation document (see page 30 above) in that it envisages Hastings and Bexhill as part of a 'thriving conurbation'.
13.45 Perhaps the risk in focussing on the relationship of Bexhill to Hastings is in diminishing the town's individual status and its links to Eastbourne and adjacent rural areas.
13.46 Option 3 and Option 2 are likely to be more compatible with lower levels of development in Battle and Rye and the rural parts of the District. However, much more detailed work is required to be able to better quantify the potential of the respective areas.