Tuesday, 6 January 2009

We survived the French, the Students and Tourists but the Recession is Doing Us In

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;

  1. The West Hill and Hastings Castle - kite flying, picnicking, a touch of history, and some ice-cream eating.

  2. Norman Road for its fabulous antique, quirky and gift shops, plus lovely little cafe's and restaurants.

  3. 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.

  4. The East Hill and the Firehills for their wonderful views, walks and barbecue areas.

  5. 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


smilernpb said...

I love Hastings! Have been a follower of your blog for sometime (I used to live in Bexhill from erm 1991 to 2000). I am really amazed that so much has closed in the town, I remember it being a nightmare to get from Bexhill anyway along the sea front way, and I definately remember the high parking costs. What's left in the shopping centre? How come Sussex Stationeers has gone???

I spent some lovely times at the Smugglers Adventure, Sea Life and on the beach, not forgetting the arcades. I am wondering if the location of all the college party nights out (Bexhill College) have closed - JR's, Cloud 10 (as it was called then with it's sticky floors) and the nightclub at the end of the pier.

Richard de pesando MA(RCA) said...

With a bit of luck, the Woolies is going to be a Primark - that's the rumour I've heard, it will really help to keep that section of town alive - although I've already managed to get into an argument about it...


One thing that would really help is if everyone who has a stupid yellow 'No To The Jerwood' poster in their window is forced to take them down - at gunpoint is needed...

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with your comments but maybe, having only been here for two years, you don't realise the outside advertising that is already being done. I travelled on the underground the week befroe christmas and counted at least 6 ads for hastings.

Yes the council could do more, like gritting the pavements, grr fell over this morning, but it is also the towns responsibility to promote it.

So many times I hear people running the town down rather than talking it up that I wonder why they live here in the first place.

To answer Smilernpb:

Saturdays/cloud 10 (you young-un!)is now Georges and does a disreputable trade still.

Sussex stationers has gone as the lease is up on the building, There have been rumours that they will be taking over the peterlords round building that has just been vacated by the Clarks shop.

Jr's went years and years ago, it is now Cosmo chinese buffett.

As for the peir, don't get me started, an absolute disgrace that it is being allowed to fall down and that the blooming council wont buy it for the town. After all they are supposedly spending £1.6mil on helpping local businesses so why not a local business and tourist attraction?!

As For Richard, I quite agree, get rid of the posters. It may mean that the coaches have to park elsewhere but they can still drop the visitors off in the Old Town. Positive action on this issue please.

Sorry rant over!

I spend my life defending this town. I have tried living elsewhere but just always end up back here. Yes it can be gloomy but where else will you find leatherclad hairy hells angels sitting next to a mad jack eating ice cream?

Anonymous said...

Of course the other point I had, but completely failed to mention is; why don't you "kill two birds with one stone" Increase your income and ability to sort out the local problems by standing for councillor.

tattyhousehastings said...

Hello, welcome to Smilernpb and all.
Yes - let's form a pro-Jerwood campaign, also discovered that Hastings is not counted as Rother for free entry to exhibitions at De La Warr this week (bah humbug!).
Seriously - think I'm a little DFL for people round here to vote for, even if I do seem to have unlimited ideas. Oh, and Anonymous you're right about the tube - haven't been on it for months - am even missing it a bit now.

tattyhousehastings said...

Oh, and Richard - people will always want to argue with you...livens up the day!

depesando said...

I was heavily involved in local politics when I spent 4 years in Liverpool, and worked as campaign and press manager for my local green party - producing all the leaflets and campaign material - we did really well and now have 2 full time councilors....but I couldn't stand all the personal politics and empire building that went with it - it was a nightmare...and you know how I like a good argument, but NEVER AGAIN!

We need a new Hastings Handbook.

tattyhousehastings said...

We do need a new Hastings Handbook and you and I would be perfect writers...if only someone set one up!!
I adore politics, but got really burnt out by drug/treatment/local agenda's in North London before leaving work. There is a limit, and empire building was actually my personal enemy too, or rather those who did it. That with spending public money ineffectually...ooh I could go on.

Anonymous said...

Being a DFL (thought you hated that phrase?!) shouldn't stop you becomming a councillor, most folk in hastings aren't actually from hastings.

And no-one can miss the tube, not unless they are certifiable!

Want to make a stand for hastings, join all the local art groups and folksy type groups, they are fun and already have a foothold here so you can fight with them? FOSMIC is a good one that needs help again, thanks to local council not actually using StMarys properly.

tattyhousehastings said...

Hmm, sadly just because I don't like being a DLF doesn't mean others don't think it!
Do I know you Mr or Ms Anonymous? Have a feeling am about to be pulled in line again!

Anonymous said...

Ah don't worry about it, the best thing about Hastings is that it's made up of folk from all over.

It would be a bit of a boring place without the different cultures and opinions that have come here.