Open mind on Pavilion car park future
A CROWDED public meeting has been told by town MP Greg Barker that he does not rule out regeneration development on the Pavilion car park.
An assembly of more than 200 had applauded the MP at last Thursday's meeting called by the Save Our Seafront campaign when the regeneration Taskforce member reminded them that he had vowed that an hotel would be built on the Metropole putting green "over my dead body."
But there were cries of "No!" when in the course of an address lasting more than half an hour said: "I do not see the car park per se in the same light as the putting green.
"It is not an iconic space. It is not particularly attractive to look at.
"If there is an alternative design or use I would be prepared to look at something else."
Publicity leaflets detailing the MP's work for the constituency had been placed on every chair in the hall. The MP had spent a considerable part of his address detailing his views on architecture. He said Bexhill had been for the most part spared the "monstrosities" of the 'Sixties and 'Seventies which littered many coastal towns from Brighton to Margate.
He described Bexhill's seafront as one of its principal assets and said its green open seafront space was something other resorts envied.
He repeatedly stressed that Bexhill needed better parking provision.
"No matter what anyone says, parking is a huge concern in Bexhill and it is going to get worse. We are going to need more parking - not less."
Much of Bexhill was built on a slope. He could not see why it would not be possible to create underground parking to serve the town centre.
"It should not be impossible to put parking away from where you have to look at it."
Referring to the De La Warr Pavilion car park, he said: "There has to be a clear plan of where that parking has to go.
"If anything were to be placed on that site it has to have the support of the community."
But he added: "We must not close our minds to any development at all. I think your chairman (John Lee) was right to say the seafront is our greatest asset. I think the biggest (regeneration) target is the centre of town.
"Whatever we do, as your chairman has said, must go with the grain of Bexhill, with the wishes of the town and with the spirit of the community.
"You are the community. You need to be involved and the town needs to listen."
The audience applauded when the first questioner told the MP that the simple answer to the regeneration question was "DON'T build on the seafront...."
A questioner said that without adequate parking the town would be doomed - and so would the De La Warr Pavilion be.
It was not long before public indignation about loss of parking space in Devonshire Square bubbled to the meeting's surface.
The MP said: "I am not responsible for Rother. I my view there should be no development which takes no account of the need for greater parking."
A trader said changes in Devonshire Square and Devonshire Road made it impossible to park near his furniture shop to unload stock.
A questioner who had spent much of his working life dealing with commercial property said that he had always had to work to the principle that before money could be obtained for a building project a business plan providing for a return on investment within five years had to be proven.
"We have not seen a business plan for the hotel on the seafront. We have not seen a business plan for the proposed blocks of flats and offices on the car park.
"Are we going to see these...?"
The MP said: "I haven't seen a business plan. I haven't seen any details of this. I have only seen the outline. There are executive members of the Taskforce such as John Shaw and the officials based in Hastings and then there's the other members of the Taskforce, of which I am one. There are 24 people in all.
"It is a quango. It is a well-intentioned quango. But it is a quango nevertheless."