Core Strategy Preferred Approaches

Ended on the 8 July 2008
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Spatial Portrait of Hastings

Character of Hastings

2.1 Hastings & St Leonards is a town committed to changing itself through regeneration. In December 2007, Hastings was ranked as the 29th most deprived local authority area of 354 in England. 22 of the town's 53 neighbourhoods were identified as being in the 20% most deprived nationally. 15 of these were in the 10% most deprived in the country. 11 of the town's 16 wards contain one or more of these neighbourhoods. Localities in particular need include: Central St Leonards, Castle, Gensing, and Hollington. To date Hastings’ position has been recognised nationally and the town has attracted significant resources to kick-start its regeneration process.

2.2 The town is a special place with an 86,000 strong community, many of whom are creative and fiercely loyal to the town. It is 100 kilometres from London, with 13 kilometres of coastline. Primarily an urban area, Hastings is surrounded by the mainly rural district of Rother, and bordered by the High Weald to the north, Pevensey Marshes to the west and the Romney Marshes to the east. Nearby are the towns of Rye, Battle and Bexhill.

2.3 Hastings is an urban centre set in a largely rural area of East Sussex. This means the town has an important role as a centre of economic activity and transport services, (indeed the town is recognised as a “regional hub” in the regional spatial strategy), and the interdependencies between Hastings and neighbouring Bexhill are such that the wider area of Hastings and Bexhill needs to be recognised in a planning context.

2.4 The town has a rich history and has constantly re-invented itself. Famously associated with the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest, its history is bound up with the sea. It prospered as a Norman port in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and formed part of the Cinque Ports, an alliance of Kent and Sussex ports to defend the area against the French. It regenerated itself in the sixteenth century as a major ship builder supplying ships to fight the Armada, re-invented itself again in the early nineteenth century as a Victorian seaside resort and today retains Europe’s largest beach-based fishing fleet.

2.5 Today we face a challenge in terms of how best to achieve the growth and regeneration aims of the town in the light of potential environmental constraints including:

  • the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers most of the northern edge of the town and encompasses the 245 hectares of Hastings Country Park to the east.
  • to the west is the green wedge of Combe Haven Valley (partly a Site of Special Scientific Interest – (SSSI), which separates Hastings from Bexhill.
  • on the north western edge of the town is the Marline Valley, much of which is an SSSI.
  • the extensive area of coastline which is both an asset and a constraint to development.

2.6 The urban area is characterised by a hilly landscape of valleys and ridges.

Hastings & St Leonards has a rich heritage of historic buildings - the medieval Old Town, the Victorian town centre in Hastings and the Regency splendour of parts of St Leonards. The town contains 17 conservation areas. The urban area has a valuable network of green spaces important for wildlife and informal recreation. Over 30 Sites of Nature Conservation Importance have been identified. Ancient and ghyll woodland is a special feature of the area.

Business, Economy and Economic Participation

2.7 The town has a service-based economy with public services, education and health and also distribution, hotels and restaurants sectors providing the main sources of employment. The town also has a relatively high level of employment within the manufacturing sector compared to the South East average, although this has been declining in recent years.

2.8 There are an estimated 2,800 businesses in the town. However, the majority of these businesses employ less than 10 people. In recent years, there have been high rates of business start-ups, although this has been coupled with high levels of business de-registrations. Approximately 70% of residents live and work within the town.

2.9 A major issue for the town is the level of economic participation – we have relatively low employment and economic activity rates.

Employment Rates (working age): Jan 2006 – Dec 2006

Geography Employment Rate
GB 74.3 %
South East 78.3 %
Hastings 73.9 %

Source: Annual Population Survey

2.10 The above table shows that Hastings has a lower employment rate than the national average. Similarly, economic activity rates (those people of working age either in employment or seeking work) show that the town falls well below the South East rate and the GB rate.

Economic Activity Rates (working age): Jan 2006 – Dec 2006

Geography Economic Activity Rate
GB 78.6 %
South East 82.1 %
Hastings 77.9 %

Source: Annual Population Survey

2.11 The town has higher numbers of people engaged in part-time work relative to regional and national rates. There are also clear differences in earnings relative to neighbouring areas and the regional average. Average earnings of Hastings residents are 83% of the South East average. 2006 data shows Hastings to have the lowest average wage (at £369 workplace based wages) of all the East Sussex districts. In 2004, 14% of the population had no qualifications at all. Indeed the skills ‘gap’ is seen as a major concern in getting local people into work. There are also a high number of residents who are economically inactive in part due to long-term illnesses or acting as full time carers compared to regional and national figures.

2.12 Hastings consistently has the highest unemployment rates in East Sussex, and has had mixed economic fortunes over the past 50 years. Historically, the town was a popular destination for seaside holidays, but with the decline of the traditional tourism market it looked to develop in other ways. In the 1970s and 80s large areas of greenfield land in the north–west of the town were developed to provide homes and employment for people moving out of London as part of the Greater London Council’s population overspill scheme. This largely achieved its objectives of providing a more balanced population structure and a significant manufacturing job base for Hastings.

2.13 A major issue for the town is the level of economic participation. Hastings has relatively low employment and economic activity rates. In April 2007, there were 1,853 claimants of Jobseekers’ Allowance in Hastings (Source: Office of National Statistics – job seekers allowance is a form of unemployment benefit paid by the government to people who are unemployed but are actively seeking work). Hastings has a very high percentage of households without a car at 34% compared to 19% in the South East and 27% nationally.

2.14 Hastings is now getting close to its limits in terms of further outward growth and development. There is limited scope for further large-scale housing and employment development within the town itself. In the longer term, some of the town’s needs may be met through new development proposed in Rother District, particularly on land at north Bexhill where a new community and business park are proposed.

2.15 Regeneration is the key theme in practically all of the current strategies and plans for the town’s future. The Government has invested more than £82m 1 into a variety of regeneration projects targeted at Hastings and Bexhill. The economic and urban link-up between Hastings and Bexhill has been recognised in the March 2006 “State Of English Cities” report. This independent report to government identified 56 Primary Urban Areas in England. The Hastings/Bexhill Primary Urban Area has a population of around 125,000.

Infrastructure and Services

2.16 The area is remote from the national road network, the primary access being the A21 from London and the A259 Honiton to Folkestone Trunk Road. The town is served by regional passenger rail services, and services are available to Ashford International and hence the Channel Tunnel. Poor road and rail links have made it more difficult to tackle the town’s economic problems. In December 2004, the Government gave “In Principle” support for the construction and funding of the Bexhill and Hastings Link Road. This would improve connections between the two towns and release land for future housing and development to the north of Bexhill. It is a key element in the future regeneration of both towns. East Sussex County Council submitted the planning application for the link road in May 2007.

2.17 Within the urban area there is a hierarchy of town, district and local centres. Hastings town centre is the main town centre and the area’s largest shopping quarter. The range and scale of facilities, which includes not just shopping facilities but other activities such as office, entertainment and civic uses, means the role of the Town Centre extends beyond Hastings’ boundary to make it a “sub-regional centre”. The town’s district and local centres provide an important focus for communities, with an essential mix of shopping and other services at a more local level.

Property Affordability

2.18 Property values in Hastings have remained significantly below the regional average, despite rapid growth in recent years. Average house prices within Hastings are also considerably lower than the East Sussex and South East averages. In Hastings average house prices are £155,646, in East Sussex £229,685, and the South East £256,148 (Land Registry – April – June 2007). Despite these low house prices, property affordability is still a big issue, where the cost of the average house is 7.3 times the average salary (ESIF, 2006). The 2005 Housing Needs Survey revealed that we are not meeting our housing needs; there is currently a shortfall of 596 affordable homes annually. 19% of households live in private rented accommodation, which is double the national rate. There are currently 2,400 households on the housing waiting list (June, 2007). Hastings is also under performing in terms of house building rates; to 2006/07 we have built 3,695 dwellings compared to the East Sussex and Brighton & Hove Structure Plan target of 4,800.

Education and Skills

2.19 In 2005, 42.1% of 15 year-olds achieved 5 or more GCSEs at grades A* - C or equivalent. This is not improving and the need for improved educational attainment is considered to be the cornerstone of many regeneration initiatives in the town. In a 2003 survey by the Department of Education and Skills revealed that 61% of adults have basic numeracy skills of below entry level 3, compared to 11% for England and Wales. However, 10% of adults within Hastings have basic literacy skills below entry level 3 (Entry level 3 is considered lower than GCSE levels) compared to 25% for England and Wales.

Community Safety

2.20 It is acknowledged that crime rates in Hastings have been relatively high in previous years, with overall crime rates over 50% greater than the national average in 2003/04. Since that time there has however been considerable success in tackling crime, with a 25% reduction in British Crime Survey crime rates by the end of 2007. In particular there has been an over 40% reduction in car crime, and over 60% reduction in offences of burglary on people’s homes and robberies. This has also been reflected in consistent improvements in annual local fear of crime surveys.


2.21 Hastings is the most deprived local authority area in the South East and deprivation is related to ill health. People here die younger on average than elsewhere in the South East largely due to high rates of cancer and coronary heart disease. The 2001 Census showed that 17.5% of people of working age in Hastings & St Leonards had a limiting long-term illness, compared to 7.4% in East Sussex, and 10.6% in the South East region.

Key Statistics about Hastings


3077 Ha (almost 31km²)

Current Population

Total Population: 86,120

Source: 2006 Mid Year estimates, NOMIS

Policy based Population Projections2

By 2026 the population is predicted to fall to 84,500 (a 1.85% decrease from 2001)

Source: Policy based Population Projections, East Sussex County Council, 2007

This is a standard model that doesn’t take full account of the potential impact of regeneration initiatives on population growth. It is anticipated that regeneration initiatives will result in a modest increase in the Town’s population.

Age Structure and Gender

47.2% Male, 52.8% Female

Average Age for a Hastings resident is 39.6

Source: Census, 2001.

A higher than average proportion of the population is aged 16 or under at 21.1% (18,000)

By 2026 it is forecast that there will be a large growth in the proportion of older people (75+ age group) living in Hastings. Policy based forecasts predict a 38.1% rise from 8,009 in 2001 to 11,057 in 2026.

Source: East Sussex County Council

Housing - Average House Prices 

  Hastings East Sussex South East
Detached £256,235 £354,228 £424,356
Semi-Detached £181,970 £222,878 £243,555
Terraced £156,290 £194,747 £202,266
Flat/Maisonette £106,127 £144,762 £168,657
Overall Average £155,646 £229, 685 £256,148

Table 1: Average House Prices (April - June 2007): Source, Land Registry


Owner occupied: 65%

Social Rented: 16%

Private & Other Rented: 19%

Source: Census 2001

Household Size

Average Household Size: 2.2 persons per household.

Source: Census, 2001

Household Change

Policy based forecasts predict one person households are due to increase from 1,313 in 2001 to 5,129 in 2026 (290% increase).

Source: East Sussex County Council


Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) population - 5.9%

Source: Census, 2001


In 2004, 14% of the Hastings population had no qualifications at all.

Source: Local area labour force survey (Mar 2003-Feb 2004)

Car Ownership

33.8% of Households have no car

66.2% of Households have at least one car

Source: Census, 2001


Male Life Expectancy – 75.7 years, Female Life Expectancy – 79.9 years

Source: NCHOD – Oct 2007, 2003-2005 3 rolling average

Sports Activity

A national survey in 2005/06 showed that Hastings had the lowest participation rate in sport or active recreation of districts in the South East Region, and the 15 lowest of 354 districts nationally.

1 Includes £38m from Government, £19m SEEDA, £15m English Partnerships, £10m SRB

2 Policy based population projections are based on future changes anticipated given the current expectations of future levels of housing development across the Borough. They are consistent with the housing provision figures in South East England Regional Assembly’s (SEERA’s) draft South East Plan 2006

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