Protest rally at town hall

"Bexhill has had enough" was the message delivered resoundingly outside the town hall on Monday morning.

Protestors repeatedly made their voices heard during a rally in opposition to Rother District Council's proposed seafront shelters.

The meeting was organised by Jackie Bialeska of Vox Pop so that local people could express their feelings about the final design published recently in the Bexhill Observer.

Sheila Lee kicked the meeting off by saying: "We are going to have four carbuncles on our seafront.

"They are going to make Bexhill a laughing stock in our neighbourhood...people are going to say - have you seen the cattlesheds on Bexhill seafront?"

She said: "I absolutely reject the design as totally unfit for purpose. A shelter should protect one from the elements. There is no way this shelter can do that."

Rother District Council was then roundly criticised for its handling of the project from the initial stages in 2007 when the design selection process began with 4.1 million local funds boosted by a 1 million CABE government grant.

"Rother said this was free money," Mrs Lee said.

"There is no such all comes from taxes. We made our contribution to that grant as well, it is public money. Did anyone ask us do you want to commit this money to this project? We were not consulted, and that is totally wrong and undemocratic."

Loud cheers showed the crowd was in full support before she went on to describe how the original panel chosen to oversee the project included only three councillors from Bexhill, one of whom was later replaced by rural representative, Sue Prochak, who expressed concern at the spend which she always viewed as the wrong priority for Bexhill.

Other members included the architect who designed the DLWP bandstand and a director of the DLWP trust, information which was met with general hilarity from the gathering.

She criticised the level of secrecy she believed surrounded the decision-making process and lack of consideration shown by RDC to public opinion following the design exhibition at the DLWP when, she claimed, around 90 percent of the public refused the designs on all grounds.

She asked everyone present to try to have the decision reversed by "bombarding" their councillors with letters, phone calls and emails demanding a council meeting open to the public so the issue could be discussed and then voted on.

A petition circulated around the protest meeting collected approximately 340 signatures, and Jackie Bialeska believed there was around 400 people at the protest.

She thanked them for coming and showing their opposition to the seafront shelter design and said: "This is the way to do it."

Concerned resident Trevor Hawkins told the rally that assurances were made by Rother District Council in November last year that the final shelter design would be fit for purpose or would not be accepted.

"What a load of balls," he commented.

"Let's make sure we remember this when we come to vote for them."

Among those attending was Coral Watson of West Parade who said: "I would like to say it is disgusting. I have watched the workmen move soil from here and back again because they don't know what they are doing."

Colin Trufitt from Cranston Avenue said: "I would say it is pretty bad that they have devastated the seafront down there and there seems to be no end to it."

Stan and Pauline Bullock of West Parade said: "We saw a perfectly good shelter torn down to smithereens. The old shelters did a good job...these are not shelters - it's as simple as that."

Afterwards Jackie Bialeska said the intention had been for people to have the chance to express their views.

"I wanted to show the council that people were angry...that it was not just the usual suspects speaking out, but I wanted to show that all sorts of different people feel that way. This was all pretty representative of what people are saying to me all the time."

Project sponsor Cllr Christopher Starnes said: "The design of seafront shelters will always be a subjective matter and the Council recognises and accepts people's right to protest, although we do not believe this group is representative of the whole town and district.

"These designs were developed through consultation with the pubic, which is why they are now made of timber, with wooden seating – features our residents asked for.

"We are fully satisfied they will offer the level of protection required by the design brief. Next Wave as a whole is a valuable part of the regeneration scheme to bring increased investment to the town."