Rehousing Bexhill Rowing Club is priority

THINKING folk who can see the manifold weaknesses in Rother's £5.1m seafront plan have doubted the wisdom – or even the sanity – or the authority in pursuing it in its present form.

To those doubts about the political ability of our elected members must now be added concern about their personal courage.

Every pretext and objection possible was posed by Rother committee members in a bid to block the Colonnade element of the authority's own scheme when it came before the planning committee last Thursday.

But, as they were swiftly (and repeatedly) reminded, planning is not the correct stage at which to question the principles behind the scheme. The planning committee can only concern itself with the planning merits of an application.

Committee members making their site inspection last Wednesday had seen the Colonnade area at its worst. Talk of generating an "evening economy" is fine. We would all like to see it. But an August Wednesday with high winds and driving rain served as a good illustration that for a large part of the year, restaurants and shops removed from convenient parking and on Bexhill's most exposed Channel site would be deserted.

Eventually, objectors won a deferment on the grounds that a report is needed on the risk to the Colonnade if converted to take shops and restaurants of flooding from the sea.

This was manifestly a contrivance in order to win time and get what is for the greater part a ludicrously unsound, unwanted, ill-judged and financially untimely project killed before it costs the taxpayer still more.

It is argued, of course, that by digging into Rother's nest-egg financial reserve the project will not be a burden on the public.

But a scheme which has already cost 600,000 in preparation would, if it went through, cut 150,000 from the authority's annual investment income, which in turn helps it to fund necessary work without exceeding a Government 5% capping limit - for which the public have good reason to be grateful.

The contrivance seen in planning committee should not, of course, have been necessary.

Planning committee members have attempted to do what the seafront working group, the services overview and scrutiny committee and – most damaging of all – the cabinet lacked the guts to do and that is vote "no."

It has become a fashionable expedient to categorise as "negative" anyone who opposes something which on sober consideration they think unwise.

This device is not confined to Rother. It is a national malaise.

What is needed – and what would generate ready, "positive" support from the electorate – is a soundly-based scheme for seafront regeneration, one incorporating workable proposals.

Re-housing that magnificent sporting ambassador for Bexhill, its Rowing Club, should continue to be key priority.

But please, please, don't bring in consultants who have never experienced Bexhill on a wet and windy day, those with no appreciation of its character, those who have never tried maintaining flower beds which are prey to salt spray, those who do not understand that the last thing we need is another unused area of paving or those who fail to recognise that needless "architectural features" are a challenge to skateboarders.