Hastings community-led homes project suffers setback

Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust board on the old power station site in Ore Valley. L-R: Rodney Buse, Tania Charman, Jess Steele and Suzy Tinker. Photo courtesy of the trust. SUS-161123-132356001
Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust board on the old power station site in Ore Valley. L-R: Rodney Buse, Tania Charman, Jess Steele and Suzy Tinker. Photo courtesy of the trust. SUS-161123-132356001

Ambitious plans to build up to 50 homes on a derelict power station have hit a stumbling block.

Last November, Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust (CLT) called on residents’ help to shape its housing proposal for the Broomsgrove site in Ore Valley, with the idea of building affordable homes.

The land has been owned by regeneration company Sea Space for years. But Sam Kinch, community organiser for the project, said the CLT was supposed to be given the land under full ownership within the last six months by Sea Space but has not.

He said: “We handed a six-foot-long petition to Sea Space recently, which was signed by hundreds of people. We have secured funding for the project under the pretext we would get the land. Grant funders are now far more reluctant to give us funding, which is putting the project in jeopardy.”

He said the trust has knocked on 1,800 doors and managed to develop a network of 450 people interested in the project.

Sam said: “Sea Space was given the piece of land 15 years ago with promises to provide 650 new homes.”

The 2.3 hectare former power station suffered a large fire in 2000 when thousands of illegally-dumped car tyres in the smokestacks were set alight. The buildings were taken down to avoid contaminating the area with asbestos, and the site has lain derelict ever since.

Heart of Hastings has a licence for the next year to put together a planning application for how the land should be developed and intends to involve the community as much as possible, such as hiring residents to work on the project.

It took inspiration from another community-led housing project in town, with help from the woman behind the pier renovation. Disused office building Rock House on Cambridge Road was transformed into flats and work spaces by White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures, with capped rents and residents having a central role in its management.

Jess Steele was involved in that project and is taking a leading role in regenerating the Broomgrove site.

Cllr Tania Charman, one of the directors of Heart of Hastings and ex officio member of Ore Valley CLT, said: “We want to put Ore Valley on the map, as at the moment it’s known for its high levels of poverty and deprivation.”

A spokesman for Sea Space said: “Sea Space isn’t in a position to make any comment about the Ore Valley site at this point.”

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