Today, we were noticed. The ‘money’ men arrived in town.
Those (wo)men who relish rising, in the guise of regeneration for the good of humanity, to the challenge of raising £500m of tax payers money to finance their latest scheme – those who exhibit megalomaniac egoistical behaviours in feeling compelled to grow their wealth by invading unchartered territories, measure their worth by the size of their bank account and finally, live their lives to further enhance their off shore tally, ignoring that their invasive plans may not be to the wishes nor in the interests of the majority of those tax payers. They can’t possibly conceive of, and have no interest in a community that has other interests, other values, a more altruistic muse. They come, bearing gifts they think we should want, and maybe, to our own design, we might. But, without considering that we are a creative brood, thinking and critical, with our own ideas of what might be beneficial for the town, they foster upon us an idea conceived out of the desire for maximum profit, their profit, with little thought to local values and local needs.
It seems that, at this little pinprick on the map, the people are having too much fun. There is too much joviality and all of it virtually non-taxable. Pirates, bogeys and bonfire men, women and children all rejoicing in life, beyond the reach of the fiscal arm, living and celebrating community by means that are mostly outside of the great capitalist system – they’ve not yet found a way to charge the public for attending a parade.
The people are too self-composed and content, thriving within their own identity, resisting much of the ‘great’ system, turning their backs on the call of the wasteful consumerist con; laughing at the contradictory concept of a rough terrain vehicle that is gleaming pearly white and renouncing the celebrity status fantasy induced by stars and spangles on long nail extensions. Somewhere, there is a people who are resisting, and remaining mostly impervious to the invasive temptations and dictates of the mainstream media. And they think those people need help. Ha!
And, all that… Until today. Today, they’ve offered us regeneration, hoping we have forgotten the pipe dreams fallen by the wayside the last time we were offered a new lease of life, in the guise of a shopping precinct and car park. We sucked up the dream (or it was sucked up for us) of prosperity and fruitful futures for our children and they left us with a capitalist temple in exchange for our central green space and community hub that was the cricket ground: a gift that drained all of the life blood out of the surrounding streets, rendering them charity shop havens. They left us with global institutions that offered up hegemonised lifestyles and minimum wage retail jobs for our youth, keeping them just above the poverty line but maximising profits for the major chain stores that have been here, and stayed, for a while.
Not really experienced to give a fair critique, as I tend to avoid it whenever I can, I’m assuming Priory Meadow shopping centre has failed in its intent to regenerate us as, according to the sales pitch for the marina development, we are still lacking. We are still lacking, yet, who is answerable when such grand promises go unfulfilled? Those that were truly regenerated from the last scheme are so long gone. Can it really be that ‘industry, education, jobs and tourism will flourish’ better this time?
They offer us more homes, more parking, moorings for 600 water craft. How exciting. A waterside apartment. I’m sure we’d all like one of those (for 5 minutes) so we can live near our boats and pop out for a jaunt whenever the weather is fine. What, there aren’t enough for us all to have one each? Well, who will get one then? Local people, you say? Is the boat included? Of course, you can’t live there and earn enough money, locally, to pay for it. The local economy is terrible for that kind of lifestyle – unless you’re a property developer – preferably in to mariners.
And please, before you think Monaco or Abu Dhabi, please visit the wind tunnels and stagnant waters of the soulless urban barnacle clusters that are Brighton and Eastbourne marinas.
They are promising ‘preservation and enhancement’ despite the constant flux of 2,600 extra cars (pearl white for her to get to the nail parlour and black tinted glass for him to go and do ‘business’). Are they promising to preserve the history that is Rock-a-Nore road and the winch road behind? No doubt we’ll be promised that one of the last beach launched fishing fleets in the country, the fish market, the museum, the small local family business fish retailers and the net huts will all be preserved, with an aside that they’ll sit, smack bang, in the middle of the one way system for residents (and tourists… will there be tourist parking on the new complex?) to access their des. res.
And, included, at no extra cost to you madam, your own little oasis of even more capitalist temples of global retail institutions. Will this retail competition from global businesses preserve the friendly, non-‘gastro’ , independent pubs and little boutique shops scattered across the old town?
As for the boast of preserving the cliffs, who could assume to be so powerful as to stop the rain from falling out of the sky? I believe a basic lesson in the geological structure of the local area may be beneficial before running off to central government for financing.
Geographically, to site 1300 homes in an area that is already so densely populated, one assumes high rise buildings. The only possible opponent in the vicinity against which to pitch that megalomaniacal need to compete, to be bigger, to dominate, even (or especially) over nature, would have to be the cliffs themselves.
A tower of concrete going head to head with a tower of sandstone and clay – I imagine there is no competition and the sandstone and clay will come tumbling down, especially once they start pile-driving the sea floor to lay the foundations for The Phallus and the arc (not Ark – that’s another story of local catastrophe) with its curvature of the spine, that for me, and in the true style of Hastings’ fun and joviality, although with foreboding of the devastation that will be created, will now be known as… The Kraken.
500 million pounds. Imagine. Just to regenerate Hastings. I’m not sure it would be enough to fully realise a ‘state-of-the-art’ marina and there would be compromises, however, if we thought about what a 21st century regeneration might look like, I’m sure we could be far more creative and relevant Should it be an urbanisation of more of the same: retail outlets and chain store coffee shops offering chain store R&R? No – how is this regeneration when we constantly hear reports that the high street stores are struggling, profit margins are down and people are spending more and more online? How are the investors expecting to get that huge return on their money?
Why doesn’t someone (someone who knows how to raise £500m) make a real investment in the future of Hastings? Why can’t it be non-destructive? Imagine piling that money into digital businesses – we’re a town of creatives – imagine a hub for digital illustrators, film makers, game designers, VR developers – attracting young working professionals to the town – upskilling our own young people. Did you know that the UK creative industries generate £87.4bn a year (http://www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk/uk-creative-overview/facts-and-figures)? Couldn’t we plan for a slice of that instead? Surely, something more creative, both in conception and in practice, would be a better regeneration for the town. Rather than perpetuating the low skilled jobs for low level pay and the brain drain that happens in this town when our brightest go off to university and never really come back. Give us an honest regeneration that offers a real future with some real ‘state-of-the-art’ concepts .
£500m on a prescribed, publicly funded development that seems only slightly relevant to locals in exchange for a scarred, irretrievably ruined place of natural beauty and scientific interest doesn’t sound ‘state-of-the-art’ in this day and age. Haven’t we seen it all before?