Over the weekend I tweeted a couple of comments regarding Hastings and St Leonards. Increasingly over the last few years I have felt that the new “place to be” (which was once the slogan for Brighton and Hove) is now Hastings and St Leonards.
Don’t get me wrong, I live in Brighton and I love what the City has to offer. I would find it hard to move away, not least because my office is within walking distance of my home as is the home ground of Sussex County Cricket Club. Anyone who knows me will testify of my love of cricket, and I have been a member of SCCC for many years.
There’s a lot happening and London Road, Brighton, which is where the BHT head office is based. It is really the up-and-coming area of the city. Churchill Square and Western Road could be any shopping mall or high street in cities around the UK. London Road, on the other hand, is now at the cutting edge, benefiting from increasing costs in the North Laine and massive inward investment. It is really becoming a destination of choice for many people.
But if I were starting out again, looking to get a foot on the housing ladder, the last place I would look at would be Brighton and Hove. Property prices have reached stupid levels and will continue to rise as people are forced out of London and look to live within commuting distance of the capital.
But what this means is that local people, those setting out on their housing journey, and people not able to cash in on property prices in London, have little chance of getting anything affordable.
Yet just along the coast is Hastings and St Leonards. I feel that this area is on the cusp of greatness. It has changed beyond recognition in the last 10 to 15 years, with huge amounts of modernisation happening in Hastings town centre. St Leonards, on the other hand, has amazing charm, and if it was in the North Laine of Brighton, would be one of the most sought after areas in the City. Streets such as Kings Road, with charming shops and even a vegan restaurant (not my personal cup of tea) would be heaving with locals and tourists alike. What you might pay silly money for in Brighton, is affordable in St Leonards.
If you haven’t done it recently, I suggest having a day trip to Hastings and St Leonards. Get off the train (it is worth getting the train rather than driving) at St Leonards Warrior Square station, walk down Kings Road, enjoy a brunch in the Love Café at the bottom of London Road (just into Norman Road), and then stroll along the seafront. You will find some amazing teashops and restaurants, not least Café des Arts in Robertson Street.
The area has some challenges, and if you did choose to live or move your business there, there are some social problems that are still part and parcel of the town. It is a very mixed community, which is one reason I like it so much.
If you don’t believe me, have a look at the Famously Hastings website. Hastings first became famous for 1066 and all that. But Hastings should be famous for a lot more. St Leonards, on the other hand, is its best kept secret, but one that should not be allowed to remain secret any more.