Research the Council did before writing the draft Bexhill Town Centre Strategy
Research with out of town visitors, who were visiting the De la Warr Pavilion
We had a survey in the De La Warr Pavilion between November 2011 to January 2012. Here is a summary of the key findings: Visitors to Bexhill Survey
Research with recently arrived Bexhill residents aged 50-70
People who have registered with the Council aged 50-70 were invited to take part in some research into why people near or around retirement age move to Bexhill. Residents who registered using the Rother Views survey, our online survey, or were a member of Rother Citizens Panel and aged between 50 to 70 received an invitation letter. Letters went out at the beginning of August 2011.
We had, by 10th August, 28 volunteers who meet the criteria and agree to be interviewed about why they moved to Bexhill. A PhD student, doing the research, held interviews with a cross section of volunteers during September and early October.
We chose a selection of men and women:
- aged from 50 to 70,
- who had lived in Bexhill anything from a few months to 5 years,
- living in different parts of Bexhill
- living in flats to detached houses
- some working and some retired
- both with disabilities and without disabilities.
We would like to thank everyone who took part. The report on findings is being written and will be presented to the Steering Group.
Research with Rother Residents
An article and survey in Rother Views, the Council’s residents magazine at the time, was carried out early in 2011. We made the survey available on the town centre web page. Local people were asked how they used Bexhill’s town centre, what they valued and what they would like to change.
SURVEY RESULTS: Here are the results of the survey. The main findings were:
What people like most about Bexhill’s town centre are its:
- Compact and level layout meaning many facilities are in an easy walk of each other,
- Proximity to the seafront and the De La Warr Pavilion,
- Quirky and individual nature of the shops,
- Large number of family run and non-chain shops,
- Free on street car parking and general amount of car parking available,
- Friendly shop keepers and customers,
- Wide choice of cafes and restaurants.
What people most wanted to change were:
- More car parking, especially short term car parking
- More chains, less charity shops,
- More use of Devonshire Square including events and/or a return to car parking,
- A regular street market and/or arts and crafts, antiques and other specialist markets
- More trees, flowers and greenery, a fountain in Devonshire Square, more seating
- Pedestrianising one or some streets,
- Properties to be tidied up, less empty shops and premises left in disrepair,
- Improved roads and pavements, less potholes, etc.
Here is more detail in a report. Residents Town Centre Survey
Research with Younger People:
We didn’t have many young people do the Rother Views survey. So, we’ve made a special effort to make sure their views are heard. 200 on-street interviews were carried out with people aged 16 to 25 in May 2011. The results are given in the attached report below.
Young People Street Interviews
We went to Bexhill High School in July and talked to two groups of students. One group was aged 11-13 and the other was aged 14-15.
Some of things these teenagers said were:
- There is a shortage of shops catering for boys/teenagers, particularly boys’ clothing. There isn’t a sport or sport clothing shop. This means teenage boys routinely shop elsewhere, usually Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton. There are more shops that cater for girls.
- The town centre needs more cycle racks in shopping streets. Teenage cyclists feel obliged to wheel their cycle around from shop to shop or street to street. The main reason is safety. Cycling is difficult in the town centre, with crowded streets, traffic and car parking. The surfaces of many town centre roads are difficult for young cyclists to negotiate because they are uneven, badly maintained or have a steep camber.
- Young people would welcome more sporting events and activities catering for their age group at leisure and recreation areas in the town centre.
- Teenagers suggested music playing on the seafront, or just one or two areas on the seafront. Bands would be welcome. They would also like some music events in the town centre’s general area.
- They say that Devonshire Square is not suitable for concerts but the seafront or Polegrove might be suitable.
- There isn’t much for teenagers to do on the seafront, much of which seems designed for younger children or adults. They would welcome activities that appeal more to teenagers, such as beach volleyball, as well as kiosks that cater for their needs.
- Teenagers would welcome another link across the railway line, perhaps from Sainsbury’s’ car park.
- Teenagers would like more entertainment options, especially a cinema. They are worried that many venues and shops, that they like and use, often disappear. One example given was the bowling alley.
- Teenagers don’t agree with adults that the town centre is safe. They worry about their safety in the evenings and about the behaviour of some adults.
- Teenagers don’t agree with adults that the town centre is welcoming and friendly. They have a number of stories about being asked to leave, treated with suspicion or followed in shops both when alone and in groups. They feel most welcome in stores that cater for their age group, such as sweet shops, or that employ other young people, like hairdressers.
- Teenagers strongly support the idea of Bexhill having a market, or more market type events. Although they are not certain a weekly market would get enough support.
- Most teenagers prefer chain stores. They believe more chain stores in Bexhill are essential for its future. They like unique small shops, a feature of Bexhill, for occasional gift buying but not for their main needs. They are well aware that they are a small minority group and they have very little ‘buying power’. They know they can’t generate enough support to keep the businesses that they particularly like. If more chain stores came to Bexhill teenagers realistically expect to benefit most from a business that caters to a range of markets.
- Older teenagers travel away from Bexhill to do most of their shopping. They prefer to travel and shop in groups of friends, for security, company and as a social activity.
- Teenagers support the provision of more, on-street, free car parking. They believe car parking charges should be lower.
- Teenagers don’t see any need to pedestrianise any of Bexhill’s streets. They don’t believe the expense is worth it and have concerns about the effect on traffic and car parking.
- Teenagers strongly support keeping the older style of Bexhill streets and buildings, but freshened up and smarter. They are very concerned about empty buildings and shops in poor condition and the high turnover of businesses in some streets. They consider them wasted opportunities.
Research with people living in neighbouring towns and villages
We did some research with people who live in travelling distance of the town centre but who don’t live in Rother. In May 2011 on-street interviews were carried out with 200 people. They lived in Hastings, Eastbourne, Pevensey and Polegate. Some of them had visited the town centre in the last year and some hadn’t. They had a different viewpoint to residents on what they liked about Bexhill, didn’t like and what might make them visit more often.
Research with local shops and businesses
Bexhill Town Centre Retailer Workshops
Workshops were held in July 2011 with businesses operating in the town centre. Some of the retailers who attended the workshops set up a group to work together with the Council for new activities and to support the future of the town centre. Eventually, this group was the foundation of the Bexhill Town Team.