Herald Opinion: A return to the days when politicians actually listened would be welcome

THE hot topic in Eastbourne this week has been the council’s decision to green-tick the demolition of the Wish Tower restaurant.

Both sides have had their say but, according to those against knocking down the seafront cafe, only one side has been properly listened to.

Among those who spoke out against the plans at this week’s town hall meeting, there did not seem to be anyone arguing that a new restaurant on that site would be anything but a good thing.

The concern, it seemed, was that the council was taking the drastic step to demolish before exploring every available avenue. A full structural survey to assess the likely repair bill, the dissenters said, would be a good place to start.

There were also concerns that once the building was gone, English Heritage may not be too keen to approve a replacement, given that the site is in a conservation area.

But most upsetting to hear were the accusations of arrogance on the part of the council. Almost everyone we have spoken to on the subject believed this was a done deal. Nothing they could say or do would change the council’s mind.

Planning committee members can only make decisions based on guidelines. In this case the question was simply: would demolishing the building make the area look worse? That was all they could go on.

However, the authority has had ample chance to look at the bigger picture. After all, the intent to knock the cafe down was first signalled more than a decade ago.

One of the biggest complaints is that the restaurant was a gift to the town – a memorial to the local people killed during the war – and that this sort of heritage should not be pushed to one side without due consideration.

Earlier this week we were shown an email sent by Cllr Neil Stanley in response to exactly the sort of opposition raised above.

His reply? “Much has been made of the fact that the restaurant was a gift. Over Christmas, whilst clearing my parents’ shed, I unearthed the rusty remains of a tricycle given to me when I was three years old.

“Should I feel bound to keep it forever, just because it was a present from someone, especially when it has now outlived its purpose? I have to say, I took it to the tip.”

A new, prestigious restaurant on the site of the currently run-down Wish Tower would be most welcome. Nobody would argue that.

But more welcome still would be a return to the days when politicians actually listened.