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meeting

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THIS WEEK MP Huw Merriman, public meeting over closure of Pevensey Bay Library, details announced


FEATURE TIME TO LAUNCH TABLOID JOURNAL: Death of Pevensey Bay Library much exaggerated


BUSINESS POST OF WEEK: Castle Inn, Pevensey Bay: Under New Management party

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IMAGE CREDIT: Jan Barron, Beach Tavern 2015

Perhaps Ray Foss, the owner of the Beach Tavern site in Pevensey Bay, would like to tell us what he proposes to do next with the site.—Bay Life, 3 September 2017

People walking past the site are beginning to comment are they not?

What we are seeing is an overgrown frontage that is starting to climb the walls with the place looking unkempt and an eyesore.

If nothing is done soon, then people most likely, rather than just cosmetic concerns every day, are likely to do something about what they are seeing, are they not? At some point we are going to be talking about an environmental hazard are we not?

In the village we now have a feasibility plan for 12 fabulous beach huts, we have the inkling of the birth of a new business quarter and we have number of other interesting initiatives.

The initial plan for Beachlands, for example, has been re-discovered as the work of one of the eminent provincial architects of the 20th century, T Cecil Howitt. The notion that the development was to have been ‘ a modern town in its entirety’, has sparked interest well beyond Pevensey Bay.

Interest has come not just from fans of early modernist architecture, but also from the heritage industry.

It will be interesting to see if the gateway to the planned modernist town at the dual carriageway at Marine Avenue will attract heritage lottery funds to restore original signage and perhaps something at the gateway to mark the significance of Beachlands in the story of early social planning and modernist architecture in this country.

Bay Life has talked to Ray Foss, and without question he is not just a successful businessman, he is a decent bloke who cares about this community.

Since he now has a family home here, perhaps he is beginning to see that the monstrous three storey luxury flat complex that he planned, was about the least appropriate development for the location that could have been envisaged.

The development would have dwarfed the location.

At a meeting held over the plan at Wealden Council on Thursday 20 July 2017, not a single councillor voted in favour of the development.

There is an opportunity to develop something on the site that would tune in to the community.

The site is not just at a pivotal point in the village, it is at the axis of the village and a cornerstone site of some description, as people approach from the west (which is virtually everyone on foot).

There is an opportunity to create something economically viable which will win approval.

A mixed, two storey development with small retail units on the ground floor, would attract immediate interest from both business startup and businesses looking to relocate, in the view of Bay Life.

We now have a number of such companies queuing up to find such space.

We are moving into times in which small coastal communities are coming to be seen in a new light. These new times are partly the result of the fact that more people now are holidaying in this country.

The caravan business is booming with a shift to mobile homes becoming dwellings for much of the year.

The NCC (the UK trade body for the tourer, motorhome,caravan holiday home and park home industries) on 21 February 2017 reported that leisure vehicles sales in the UK had risen by by 25% in a year.

They said that there had been “a healthy 11.4% increase in new touring caravans, caravan holiday homes and motorhomes in the UK during 2016, caravan sales in this country are up by 25%.”

The Coastal Communities Fund, established by the Government to support initiatives in coastal towns and villages across the country is a major initiative.

The Fund is a UK-wide programme designed to support the economic development of coastal communities by promoting sustainable economic growth and jobs.

All projects funded are expected to deliver an outcome where coastal communities will experience regeneration and economic growth through projects that directly or indirectly create sustainable jobs, and safeguard existing jobs.

On 3 April 2017 there was a £40 million cash boost for the coast.

Two days ago (1 September) a £500 million regeneration plan for Hastings seafront was unveiled.

On 2 February the £13.2 million award for the county from the Government’s Local Growth Fund is planned to create 1,000 new jobs and new development at Sovereign Harbour.

Anyone who thinks that the little ripples of economic regeneration that are now beginning to happen in Pevensey Bay are not linked to this wider picture in some way, is not looking.

At the Beach tavern site, prestigious flats above the development as a single storey, may also be much more welcome to Wealden Council, given the context of the calls for growth with economic regeneration in small coastal communities.

Replay the webcast of the meeting about the application and you will see that this point was made.

The point is carefully contextualised, so the comment (quite rightly) did not have any bearing on the decision made by the councillors, by Kelvin Williams, Head of Planning and Environmental Services for Wealden Council.

Why not build an appropriately sized room on the ground floor for a library? With a community interest company running the library, with shared responsibilities between East Sussex County Council, the Parish Council and the community, and you have a ready made client before you have begun to build.

It was precisely for this kind of purpose that the Localism Act of 2011 was written.

How does the Ray Foss Library sound on the ground floor? Never did Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist who led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century, any harm did it?

What can not continue is for the site to continue to go to rack and ruin, like the opening sequence of the film It’s a Wonderful Life.

At some point those bushes at the front are going to take over the frontage and make the site into an even bigger eyesore that we see now.

Economic regeneration and development is beginning to take place now in Pevensey Bay for all the right reasons and our view is that the Beach Tavern site should be part of these developments.

Plans for new businesses and beach huts are springing into action. More interesting developments are also planned. These plans are creating ripples of interest in the community.

There would appear to be an opportunity for the owner of the Beach tavern site, Ray Foss, to embrace these opportunities and become part of the positive plans, with a development that has both sound social and economic values. These two sets of values are not mutually exclusive.

A comment by one of the objectors to the plan that was so soundly dismissed made the point well. Sarah Cheesley said that the basis of the plan was greed. There is a difference between greed and business.

There might be an opportunity here for the site of the Bach tavern to become a focal point again in the community for all the right reasons.

Mixed usage might be the answer.

Bay Life, for one, would be there on the day that the Ray Foss Library opened. We would be happy to hold the ribbon whilst the ribbon was cut.

From an economic and social perspective such a plan might make sense.

Martin Beeney spoke for the whole village, when he said about the monstrous three storey plan ‘if this development goes ahead it will be the beginning of the end for the village”

Perhaps instead, we could see a new beginning.

We can not think of anyone more appropriate to cut the ribbon on the Ray Foss Library than the very young grand daughter of the Beeney family.

The light in her life would have been extinguished on a daily basis with her bedroom on the first floor of the Beeney house, overshadowed in darkness by the three storey building set 8.6 metres away.

Perhaps she might like to be the one to open the new library.

However fanciful such ideas about mixed usage and a room for a library might sound as proposals for the Beach tavern site, something must be done.

The question about what is to be done with the site must be addressed soon. A rack and ruinous scene is starting to emerge in front of our eyes..

Bay Life will watch with interest what happens next with the development of the Beach Tavern site.

Simon Montgomery
editor, Bay Life