Monday, 4 November 2013

The Hastings-Bexhill Link Road - Route to regeneration, or road to the white elephants’ graveyard?

Too late to turn back now. The new Link Road is carving its way across the Combe Haven Valley. What are we getting for our £113 million? Is it worth the damage to the countryside? I’ve been searching for the truth.
Countless enquiries, reports, meetings, a Public Enquiry in 2009, a Department of Transport (DfT) study, a request for a judicial review, and a grass-roots protest on the site in 2012 have failed to produce any clarity or consensus.

What are we talking about?
A single lane road taking a 3 mile looping route across open country from a new junction with the A259 in Bexhill to join up with the Queensway north of St Leonard’s.
     The East Sussex County Council (ESCC) website tells us: ‘The road represents excellent value for money. It will bring much needed regeneration to our economically deprived area, including 2000 new homes and a 50,000 square metre business park in North East Bexhill, 3000 jobs, and economic benefits valued at £1bn. It will improve traffic congestion, particularly on the A259 at Glyne Gap’.
Opposition campaigners deplore the damage to the Combe Haven Valley and its wildlife. They challenge  
projected economic benefits, say that the road will increase traffic congestion, not reduce it, and that overall, the project is poor value for money.
Historically, congestion reduction was top of the agenda, with plans for an ambitious dual-carriageway bypass from Pevensey to Icklesham finally rejected in 2001, largely on environmental grounds. The Link Road, a partial bypass, is that scheme’s legacy.
Well-respected planning consultant Professor Alan Wenban Smith wrote in 2011: ‘while the main objective of the BHLR is stated to be regeneration of the Hastings Bexhill area, the ‘side-effect’ of relief of congestion on the A259 has in fact dominated the consideration of options’.
Worse, arguments about minute reductions in journey times have taken attention away from reasoned consideration of the economic benefits.
The only formal public consultation about the scheme was back in 2004.
‘80% of respondents in favour of the road’ still appears in ESCC publicity. But only 2558 out of 65,000 survey questionnaires were ever completed, and the questions were mostly about traffic management.
People still think the main issue is traffic. If asked about the Link Road, Hastings residents are sure to mention its impact on congestion on the A259 and the seafront.

The truth about traffic
According to Wenban-Smith and the DfT, traffic reduction on the A259 will be minimal. Most journeys along that road are local, and the Link Road presents too long a detour.
     Original plans for another  new piece of road, the Baldslow link, to funnel traffic off the Queensway onto the A21, were dropped for cost reasons. Now, Link Road traffic will either rejoin the A259 or access the A21 via already congested minor roads. In 2011, the DfT estimated that traffic congestion on one such road, the Ridge, could increase by 24%, and this was without the current spate of new housing developments in that area.
Opponents of the road say that alternatives to the Link Road were not properly considered, and public transport was not prioritised.
However, as the report of the 2009 Public Enquiry makes clear, there are no realistic road alternatives, and ultimately, successful regeneration of this area requires a massive upgrade of the A21.
Improvements in public transport would make a contribution to local congestion reduction, but no resources have been set aside to improve it.
So, the Link Road will provide access to the new North East Bexhill development areas and a limited improvement in journey times between Hastings and Bexhill, but lead to increased congestion elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, ESCC have recently watered down their traffic management aims, and give a higher emphasis to regeneration.

The economic benefits
According to economists, building new homes adds no wealth to an area – it depends who lives in them. Will new residents be skilled, productive workers, or will they be people priced out of more expensive areas of the country and forced to move here? Who can say? 
owever, the Will the new Business Park take off? Given the many vacant commercial and industrial sites, both in the towns and, for example, along the Queensway, there is no certainty that the new site will be attractive. The DfT concluded: ‘We have reviewed the material the promoter (ESCC) provided which indicated that the scheme would unlock £1 billion in additional GVA (Gross Value added). Our view is that this significantly overstates the benefits of the scheme as it makes optimistic assumptions including the number of jobs dependent on the scheme, the extent to which economic activity will relocate from elsewhere and local wage rates. We think the number of additional jobs may be in the order of a third of the levels claimed (i.e. only around 1000).’
     Overall, the DfT graded the Link Road medium/low value for money.

This does not look good….
Are ESCC guilty of reckless optimism, as opponents claim? But is doing nothing really an option? Should ESCC not do all it can to facilitate the much needed regeneration of this area, even if attempts are limited in scope and uncertain of outcome?
All agree that the North Bexhill area is our only possible large-scale development site.  It needs opening up, and it needs access from both Hastings and Bexhill.
The same applies to congestion reduction.  While, undoubtedly, more resources should be allocated to public transport, it is probably better to do something rather than nothing. At least the new road will provide another route between Hastings and Bexhill, and hospital patients will have a quicker journey between the Hastings Conquest and Eastbourne hospitals – important as services are increasingly shared across the two sites.
But is it worth damaging the beautiful Combe Haven Valley? Who knows……Only time will tell.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Louis Turpin - a local star painter

For many years we have admired the work of Louis Turpin, who lives and works near Rye.
     We initially came across him because our old friend Karol, who we met in Turkey many years ago, has several of his paintings in her house.
     When we first came down to this area we saw a wonderful big painting by Louis, in the permanent collection of Rye Art Gallery, of a field of cabbages. I can't reproduce it here - it just looks like a green mass in the photograph, but we were so struck we have looked out for his work ever since.
      He paints mostly gardens and English landscapes, in a very characteristic colourful, sunny style. I am not into art critic speak - I suppose you'd say the work is representational, yet impressionistic, with a bold, rich
Teasels at Great Dixter - Louis Turpin
palette of colour and very clear light.  Anyway, we find his work immensely cheering to look at.  He has done many paintings of Great Dixter, which Hastings Battleaxe readers will know is one of our favourite places.
      There are usually works of his for sale in Rye, and we have often admired, but never bought.
      However, just before we went on holiday we saw a painting in the Rye Society of Arts Exhibition. It was of the allotments on the West Hill in Hastings, looking across the valley to High Wickham on the East Hill. We knew exactly where it was painted - a view very familiar to us from our first days in Hastings, and still familiar now.  We bought the painting there and then.
      Here it is together with a photo of the view taken by Philosopher.
       The blokes who keep the allotments kindly let us have a good poke round, and as you can see, we found the actual plot with the yellow hoops.
Our painting - Allotments on the West Hill

Philosopher's photo of the same scene.
The photo is taken later in the year - the buddlea bush has grown up, and the runner beans have grown over their framework     
      We ended up having a total cock-up pantomime to pay for the painting - the curse of Santander service struck us big time - but it turned out well because Louis eventually brought the painting round to us himself. It was nice to meet him and his wife Davida.
Allotments by the sea
       Interestingly, we had a visit from Philosopher's sister Hilary and her husband Mike this week, and it turns out that Mike worked with Louis' father, Digby Turpin, who was a filmmaker.  Mike mentioned an article on Louis he'd seen recently in the Daily Telegraph.
       I see he is very into music - we will have to go and see him strut his stuff at some point.
       There are other paintings of allotments, including this other one of the West Hill, in a new exhibition at the Bohun Gallery in Henley.
       I've neglected Bombastic Battleaxe a bit lately - Hastings Battleaxe has become quite labour intensive. Once you start building up a blog audience you have to keep the posts coming.  I had started the first in a series of no-holds-barred posts on the shocking truth behind social housing, but I showed it to Philosopher who said it was too inflammatory and I needed to research my facts. Research? Facts? Moi? So I left it.
To finish up with, here are three more nice Louis Turpin paintings - I like the winter scenes with sheep.
Morning Frost

Apple Orchard with ewe

Winter sheep

Monday, 20 May 2013

Trans-seasonal dressing for Battleaxes

Weather has gone a bit mad, hasn't it?  Are you wearing summer clothes? No? Me neither.  The shops are full of lovely things, but I already have a wardrobe full of hardly worn garments.  So, the answer has to be clothes that can layer, mix and match to wear throughout several seasons - whatever the weather.
In a previous post on buying stylish clothes for Battleaxes, I've listed the brands Battleaxe favours, so let's see what they have to offer....
      Let's start with skirts. Most cotton skirts can be worn with opaque tights, leggings, even boots. You can wear a jumper or cardigan on top when it's cold, bare legs, sandals or sneakers and thin top when its hot. I've bought two skirts this year, one from Seasalt and one from Adini. Both have had plenty of wear already. Fuller skirts need a drop waist or sewn in pleats if you are bigger than tiny.  Try and choose a skirt with at least one darker colour in the pattern - these look better with darker opaques and leggings. Try other colours than black for tights - navy, plum, petrol blue etc. They look more spring-like.
Seasalt skirt - I have this
Adini skirt - I have this too

     Battleaxes need skirts on or just below the knee for wear with bare legs. Avoid maxi skirts - too much fabric, unless you are tall and skinny enough to get away with a simple jersey tube.
     Denim skirts are good too - can be layered up or down indefinitely.
     Next, dresses or tunic tops.  Choose styles without sleeves, or short sleeves, so you can layer a longer sleeved T-shirt underneath comfortably for when it is cooler.  Again, choose styles that can be worn with tights, leggings, skinny jeans when it is cold, bare legs or crop leggings when hotter. Avoid tunic tops that cut right across the middle of the thighs - these are unflattering. Longer is better. Slightly more fitted styles work well, so you can wear a jacket or cardigan on top without looking too huge and voluminous. Talking of huge, fashion websites always show models wearing wide leg trousers under tunics or dresses. I still stick to the maxim volume on top, skinny on the bottom, and vice versa. Otherwise, barrage balloon ahoy. For good shapes and pretty fabrics, try Masai, and again, Adini and Seasalt. White Stuff do a good range too.

     Unless you are planning a long summer holiday somewhere reliably hot, cut down on long floaty maxi dresses in vibrant prints.  Of course, you can layer these up, but mad cat lady/pagan goddess beckons. Also, avoid buying too much voluminous linen - I have two lovely long strange shaped linen skirts from EllaModa - have worn one once, and the other not at all. In fact none of my linen garments get worn that much....
      Tops.  Lots of layering basic cotton T shirts, obviously.  Surprisingly hard to find these days. Oddly enough, I tend to favour Tu at Sainsburys.
      Try shirts or blouses that can be worn over a T shirt or on their own. Try not to get too much volume, or material that is too stiff - one tends to look on the verge of giving birth. Nice Things do soft cotton blouses with elasticated backs so they are more fitted. Or go vibrant with Desigual. I got a good top in Germany the other week, because it was far hotter than we anticipated. Philosopher said the fabric looked like the 'bandanas dachshunds wear', but I liked it. It has a drawstring waist band that can be pulled in to reduce volume.
Nice Things blouse

Desigual 'dachshund bandana' Jenifer top

Monday, 15 April 2013

Hastings local issues round-up

Back to serious matters.  I fancy a rant on some local issues.....
     Number One:  the Bexhill/Hastings Link Road is going ahead. Work will commence any time. This is very sad. I assume the decision was entirely driven by the money on offer. Still it is a done deal now, and one can only worry about what happens next. Massive improvements will be needed to manage the traffic at some junctions, e.g at Baldslow, and I don't see any real commitment to doing this. And what about the Ridge?
     I do feel fed up with the environmental protesters.  Why leave it until it is too late to protest? The row about this road has been going on for years. Why couldn't they get themselves together earlier?
     As Battleaxe said over a year ago (see Hastings Battleaxe), little different will happen to regenerate the fortunes of Hastings unless the A21 is improved. The trouble is, many people have been led to believe faulty nonsense. Was talking to a woman the other day who still thought the traffic problem on the sea-front road would be solved by the 'relief' road.
Dormouse snoozing in business park?
Nor will the boggy bulldozed acres of mud beside the new road be suddenly filled with thriving new enterprises - and, incidentally,  if they were, what would have happened to the dormice for whom they are apparently going to build tunnels?  Dormice don't live in business parks. (That is quite a nice title for a story).
    Number Two: the plans for the new Tesco in Ore have been approved. This is an unimaginative decision which is not taking the views of the local community into account, or doing the best for the survival of the local shops. I have read that the planners' hands were tied due to the nature of planning legislation, but why do they just sit back and accept it?. Battleaxe has rehearsed the arguments against Tesco on here before.  See also this article in Hastings On-Line Times.  How feeble can that Planning Committee be? Going on from that, I also gather that Aldi is moving into the B & Q store in Ore. Wow, talk about hammering the nails into the coffins of those poor Ore shops. Mind you, I hate Aldi less than Tesco. One senses that Tesco are moving into Ore out of plain competitive selfishness - simply to grind the Co-op into the dirt. Aldi are at least saying they will provide free parking for Ore shoppers, and I do think their range of goods provides a viable alternative to the stock sold by the mainstream supermarkets.
    Number Three: the quality of the sea water off the Hastings and St Leonard's beaches. This does not seem to be given sufficient priority, and we are told that the water will not meet new EU cleanliness regulations. I understand that many homes have illegal plumbing. Who is sorting that out? I also remember about the Bulverhythe drain outlet 'turning septic' or something weird. Certainly the water flowing into the sea looks horrible, and given how near to the land-fill site that stream flows, I am not surprised it is polluted. I wouldn't fancy swimming down there. Talking of land-fill and the tip, we went to the tip the other day after a gap of several months. I know this is a small point compared with the others, but:
    Number Four: no sign of a charity store at the Freshfields tip. The tip seems to be working well but there is no evidence of any salvage of reuseable goods.  Many months ago Battleaxe wrote a blog post about this. I did say I would start a campaign for a tip store, and I didn't, so presumably I only have myself to blame.
And finally:
    Number Five: Parking at Rock-A-Nore. It was a lovely sunny day on Sunday, and the entire road was jammed with stationary cars, either trying to get into the car park or leaving it. A sign right down the end said 'No Spaces', but at the railway station end of the car park, there was lots of room.  It is clearly a shambles, and I pity the poor sods in their cars. What is needed is this. Firstly, the whole car park needs to be properly surfaced and marked out, with direction arrows to guide cars round.  Secondly, an electronic sign at the Winkle Island end of the road advertising the number of spaces, so cars would know whether or not to start queuing (and that junction needs improving). Then, another electronic sign at the entrance to the car park, indicating  the approximate location of spaces. Thirdly, one vehicle entrance to the car park, where cars are counted in, and one exit.  How can this be so difficult?  It is not as though car park management technology has yet to be invented.....

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Spaghetti poodles and cats

Anything to get away from this terrible cold weather and all the jobs I am supposed to be doing.... a nice distracting post about my spaghetti poodle (and cat) collection.
     I know I have mentioned these before, but here they are again. Made in Italy in the 1950's, they are surprisingly hard to come by - I think they were manufactured for the tourist trade, are roughly made, and break easily.
     I got my first one from Snoopers' Paradise in the North Laine, in Brighton around 2005. We used to love that place when we first went to Brighton, but when we have revisited recently, it is but a shadow of its former self - full of tat. I can't now remember which poodle was the first, or what appealed to me about it, but next time when we went back, they had another, and the grumpy bloke on the till, surprisingly, produced a third one from out the back. That was it. I now have 40.
     I started getting them off Ebay - most quite cheap, under £20.00, from the UK, but others, at vast cost, from America. The most expensive were the three joined together, pictured here. I am not saying how much, in case Philosopher sees it. Many poodle collectors seem to be American, living in small town places you have never heard of...
     Very few come from shops or antique fairs - one enormous (26 inch high) floral one with a detachable hat ashtray from Malvern, one from Rye, and two from the scabby junk yard in Courthouse Street in Hastings. That is surprising, considering the vast acreage of junk and antiques we have picked through over the years.
     I don't really know why I like them. Often their thickly applied spaghetti curls are broken, or chipped. Some have repaired breaks. They are hand painted, so each has a different facial expression - usually degrees of cheerful gormlessness, and their spaghetti whiskers bristle with hopeful doggy enthusiasm.
     I like the long-necked seated ones best - they are so classically 1950s, but they also come sitting, standing, begging, in a 'play-bow', holding baskets of flowers and pulling little posy vase carts. 
     Our friend Alan from Birmingham, who attends even more antique fairs than us, also looks out for poodles for me, and he found my first spaghetti cat - even rarer than poodles.
     The cats were clearly made by the same people - the style of spaghetti is the same, they have the same black ink writing on the bases, and they have the same collars, but their face are very bizarre, with huge, heavily made-up eyes and bouffant curls they look more like effeminate nineteenth century dandies than cats.

Cat family
     This horrendously kitsch cat family came from the Rye Auction Rooms - only cost me £40.00. You see sets like it on Ebay (in America) and they are hundreds of dollars.
      Anyway, here is one of my latest acquisitions.
This is actually a different sort of poodle - heavier, with different style floral painting, and a very different face. If possible, he looks even more gormless than the normal ones.
      Not surprisingly, I have never met anyone else who collects these things!
     I would also like to know more about them - where in Italy they come from, who manufactured them, but searching on the internet gets me nowhere.
Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Struggling to lose weight? It's not surprising...

Time to take a look at diet and weight.... neigh, not horse stuff again, I've nagged on enough about that on Hastings Battleaxe.
     Lets appeal for some truth, clarity and honesty.
     Since New Year, I have been trying to lose weight - with some success. I've reduced my food intake, cut out most rubbish and taken more exercise. I've lost around eight pounds, which can't be bad. I have excellent will-power when I set my mind to it, but can flag if I don't get the necessary results - like most people, I guess. I'm a bit overweight, but not massively so - I like to catch myself in good time.
     I have been faithfully entering the food I consume and the exercise I take on the Myfitness Pal app - which I must say, is absolutely fantastic - it lists just about every sort of food and every form of exercise known to humanity.  According to my totals, I should be losing over a pound a week, but I am not - so what is going wrong?
     The other week I was reading an article in the Guardian about the deceptive nature of the calorie values of the recommended portion sizes printed on food packets. They give you a misleading idea of what you are eating, because the suggested portions are so tiny. I thought pooh pooh, am too sensible to be caught out like that, but then decided to weigh my portion of breakfast muesli. I am a creature of habit, and eat the same breakfast for around a whole year, before suddenly tiring of the brand in question, and changing.  This year, it is Dorset Really Nutty. The recommended portion size is 45 grams. Unhelpfully, the packet only gives the calorie value of this size serving lumped together with semi-skimmed milk, as 229 calories.
     Today, I weighed out a 45 gram portion in my usual cereal bowl. Here it is in the photograph - a measly disc of muesli barely covering the bottom of the bowl. Of course my usual portion is not this small. I weighed my usual amount - a whopping 75 grams, with a calorie value of  342 calories with milk.
      Many food packets are incredibly unhelpful.
      Lets take Pringles as an example - one of my favourite naughty treats. A tube weighs 175 grams. We are told the calorific value of 100 grams, and of 30 grams, which apparently is a 'portion'.
     However they don't say how many chips are in an average tube, or in 30g. I limit myself to only five chips. To work out the calorie value of this amount, I either have to weigh my portion, or count the number of Pringles in the tube, followed by some long division sums, for which I need a calculator. Is the average person in the street going to bother with any of this? I don't think so.
     Here's a packet of pasta shapes.  On the packet (500g) it states that an uncooked 90 gram serving has 321 calories, while 100 grams has 357 calories.  I need a small serving of 50 grams, which corresponds to two tablespoons of cooked pasta..... and off we go again. Bring on the scales and the calculator, yawn, bore.
     Let's have a glass of wine. Now, am I thinking ml or fluid ounces? How much does this glass hold? How full is it? Is this variety of wine more or less fattening?
     Then we have the well-known low-fat but high sugar business....the so-called 'diet' foods that have more calories than normal stuff....
     Look at low rent women's magazines - the Bella, Closer, variety.  Z list celebrity women apparently come in 3 sizes: 'worryingly thin', 'celebrating her ample curves' with an occasional 'healthy size 10' thrown in for good measure. The pictured 'healthy size 10' woman varies in size depending on the nature of the article. If it is about 'worryingly thin' getting bigger, the woman will be a scraggy size 8. If the direction of travel is 'ample curves' to slimmer, the apparently size 10 woman will clearly be size 12 to 14.
    Given all this, is it any wonder that most woman are thoroughly confused about the relationship between what they eat and their size? That we aren't clear about what we are actually eating? That we don't know what a 'healthy weight' actually looks like? That many people just give up?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Tesco in Ore - no, no - and other hot Hastings catch-ups

The issue of the Tesco store moving into the old Oddfellows pub  in Ore is still rumbling on - the Council planners are due to meet on 26 February. I do sincerely hope they can bring themselves to resist this - it would be such a bad thing for Ore, as Bombastic battleaxe set out in an earlier post. There is clearly plenty of opposition.
     I have sent an objection to the planning application - you can do this quite easily on-line, I discover.
Problem is, what to do with the building, given that there is no parking.
     Re-opening as a pub is the obvious thing, but presumably no-one wants to take it on. I wonder how hard it is to get funding for a community pub/cafe-bar. My next best idea would be a new home for Ore Library, which is in a very cramped little building.
     Some better news about other Battleaxe gripe areas:
     A very early post on this blog was about the lack of brown garden waste recycling bins. Well, we have now got one! It is sitting outside - already half full -  as I write. Great!
     Next, I read today that the Council have secured funding from the Coastal Communities Fund to match the funding already secured from the Lottery to build a new pier. That is very good news. Looking back, I see it is a whole year ago that Hastings Battleaxe incurred the wrath of Simon Opie, CEO of the Pier Trust,  with a post highlighting lack of progress and, above all, lack of publicity. I still think the publicity issue is a concern. Philosopher is a member of the HPWRT, and he gets very little information, never mind the general public. Still, hopefully, we will now see the first signs of progress. The pier worries me - will it ever really happen?
     I also read that the Council is considering an electric tram to carry visitors along the sea-front.  This will become very necessary when - or if - the pier ever opens.  However, I still think we would do better with a Dotto train - cheaper than trams I am sure, and more fun - people do like them. The one in Eastbourne always seems popular.
     Finally - Battleaxe is concerned about shops etc. closing down. Very sad indeed to lose the Post Office Tearooms in St Leonard's - such a well-loved place, but just not making enough money to survive.  Today, I noticed that the Weekend Gallery in Old Town High Street has closed, as has the little Room52 clothes shop in George Street (in that case, too little stock, and too expensive). Worrying.