Hastings town centre is in a bad way - the 'gateway' to the town from the seafront is almost empty, more shops are closing this week and it has lost its way. The first view of the town from the sea used to have a Clarks shoe shop in a gorgeous old round building on the right, and a curtain shop in another round styled bulding on the left. Clarks has moved to the shopping centre, and the curtain shop is closing down.
Further along towards the old town, Woolworths has gone, Sussex Stationers and art shop is going this week; even the cheap/pound shop has closed down. It's left a non-seaside adult amusement arcade, a couple of banks, cafe's and charity shops. And a real sense of sadness and defeat. We lost our lovely toy shop, Gamley's about six months' ago now, the local yarn shop a year ago, and many of the smaller post offices, including a key one in the Old Town a few months ago.
We're all playing the who is next game in terms of retail Monopoly, and are, of course, really sad about the people who are losing their jobs. But the other crucial side effect for a town like Hastings, which is always on the edge of being up and coming, is the feel and look good factor. If we want to attract investment in to the town, and new people who will visit and spend money we need it to look the part, and actually be the part. Right now if a young family or a couple down from London/up from Brighton etc popped down for the day and did not make it to the Old Town or the newly lovely Norman Road I'm not sure they would be back. But do we tell anyone where these places are? I can't count the number of times I've directed people to the old town, and told them where to park. I've also had a number of conversations with visitors who are delighted to discover there are other, better hidden bits of town.
So, what do we do? Is town then just for the locals to do their business; banking, shoe repairs, video hires, visit the library and do some shopping? If it is, and it will always need to partly do this we, as a town need to urgently look at transport costs; both public and private. Car parking is annoyingly expensive for a quick visit to the town centre, I'd love to see free parking for an hour to encourage local 'pop-ins'. And as for the bus fares; well its about two pounds each way to the centre of the town from here, which is about two miles away. With two people, that is a four pound journey one way. Day rider tickets are available and are actually not too expensive at just over three pounds for unlimited bus rides. But come on Hastings, if London can do a £1 ticket to ride, surely we can too. It would help the student trade too, as I know many of them arrive with a limited budget, thus leaving more money to spend in cafe's and shops.
Hastings needs to advertise itself; we need the Whitstable effect; but we need to direct people to our lovely parts of town. My top town lovelies (below) would be fantastic in a little booklet; or posters on the London/Brighton train. Or, goodness, imagine on the tube.
How about these top spots in town;
- The West Hill and Hastings Castle - kite flying, picnicking, a touch of history, and some ice-cream eating.
- Norman Road for its fabulous antique, quirky and gift shops, plus lovely little cafe's and restaurants.
- The Old Town, more cool and quirky shops, junk, cafe's and bars plus not forgetting the gorgeous, often missed All Saints Street for authentic fifteenth century buildings.
- The East Hill and the Firehills for their wonderful views, walks and barbecue areas.
- The little 'bohemian' area at the bottom of the town centre, by Trinity Church with some unusual shops, lovely coffee shops, and modern bars.
Any more ideas, course we've also got the Stade, the Museum, the Smugglers Caves, the Aquarium, the penny slot machines, and that is even without mentioning the beach?
What should Hastings do next?hastings town centre - Google Search