EVIDENCE GATHERING FOR OUR CASE
Our joint meeting with the Department for Transport (DfT), East Sussex County Council and others – including Network Rail and the Highways Agency – took place on the 21st February.
It was a meeting where supporters of BHLR set out their stall, and where those of us with different ideas of the best ways of bringing benefits to the towns tabled alternative ideas. The meeting was expertly chaired by the DfT who fielded relevant experts.
Since then all parties have been sifting through past published material and studies around meeting the needs of Bexhill and Hastings, and sharing these with the Department for Transport.
The next stage for us is to refine the measures which make up our alternative strategy to the BHLR and to meet with the DfT on the 15th March to present these for discussion.
PROFESSIONAL HELP AND FUNDS
There will be seven of us at the meeting: Chairman Nick Bingham, Gillian Bargery and Derrick Coffee. Our expert professionals will include Dr Judy Clark – a long standing Hastings Alliance member, Keith Buchan, transport planner: Professor Alan Wenban –Smith, urban and regional planning consultant; and Mark Sullivan, planning consultant. The last three have much experience of the BHLR scheme and a good knowledge of the area and we have commissioned them in the past. Our recent fund raising drive has allowed us to engage them again and we look forward confidently to our meeting. In just seven weeks, we have raised £1,700 pounds from our members and well wishers in large and small amounts, and a grant of £2,000 from Lush cosmetics ‘Charity Pot’ fund for local environmental campaigns. We thank all donors for their generosity and support over many years.
We have worked very hard in the last few weeks to research and develop our ideas on alternatives – and they are looking increasingly viable. Although they haven’t been welcomed by the supporters of BHLR, we think that ministers will be looking for value for money through adopting a well timed package of schemes that are not, as we believe is the case with BHLR, going to risk millions of pounds worth of public funds.
Aside from our efforts or those of others, we note the good news that measures other than transport related ones can boost communities in the shape of the fast broadband that is on schedule to arrive in Bexhill, Hastings and St Leonards this Spring with the help of £10.6m from government.