There has been local opposition – there probably has been a failure of community consultation (a mixed blessing at the best of time, see below), but you can’t help but feeling that there are a lot of folk here who just dislike any change - Bexhill does not feel like a go-ahead with-it kind of place. The planting in question was right behind the walkway that runs along the top of the beach – right in the teeth of salt-laden winds and spray. I’ve looked at a fair number of coastal gardens over the years, with varying aspects, and got a good feel for the tough wiry sorts of plants which survive, a lot of them Mediterranean sub-shrubs like lavenders and cistus and grasses. And I took advice from Naila Greene, a garden designer in Devon, whose garden is in a very similar location on the south coast – and is a superb mix of intermingled perennials and low-growing shrubs.
The Bexhill locals who gathered on the other side of the Harris fencing where we were setting the plants out maintained that nothing would survive here. I went out to meet “the local residents”; some of them were prepared to engage in a discussion about what would work and what wouldn’t, but one woman got into a total frenzy and started to shout at me about the whole development, with her gang adding in their halfpenny’s worth in the background. She was just short of abusive. You end up feeling like a scapegoat for everything they don’t like about the new development, which by the way includes play areas, seating, shelters and shower points - scarily trendy stuff - replacing grass, a low wall and strips of annual bedding.
I suspect there could have been more ‘community consultation’. But this does cost a lot of money to do properly – which means less to spend on the actual development, and you will never satisfy all ‘the community’. Besides which ‘the community’ have a variety of views, and many of these are conservative, unadventurous and driven by prejudice. I think many of us felt sympathy with the well-known garden designer at a Vista evening who declared “f*** the community”. If all landscape designers were led by ‘the community’ we would never get anywhere further than beds of petunias and grass. My own feeling is that it is important to listen to people: their ideas, experiences of the locality and fears, but at the end of the day, a landscape designer has to be allowed to be creative, without which there will be no innovation.