Although many in the local community are aware of the name ‘Heart of Hastings’, there probably aren’t so many who know what the Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust actually does. If pressed, some people might be able to link it with the ambitious Ore Valley project to build 70+ eco homes in North East Hastings. But what exactly is it and what does it do?

Rock House

On their website it is described as ‘a locally owned and controlled initiative to safeguard genuinely affordable live and work space across Hastings and St Leonards’. And that’s what they’re currently doing right in the heart of the town, in an area sometimes known as the ‘Trinity Triangle’ – around the three-sided location of Holy Trinity Church. 

Heart of Hastings is the lead body for an application to Historic England for a High Street Heritage Action Zone for the Trinity Triangle area. But here you can also see concrete evidence of past achievement and current projects – as well as imagine future possibilities – all within walking distance of each other. 

The development of Rock House, in nearby Cambridge Road, was a ‘proof of concept’ project. In other words, it was undertaken to prove that the vision could become a reality. And that’s what happened. Opened in 2017 Rock House breathed new life into a previously underused building. Its nine floors are home to living space, workspace and a community hub. And it runs at a profit without exploiting its tenants. 

12 Claremont

Community projects are complicated and although Heart of Hastings didn’t exist as a community interest company at the time Rock House was renovated, some of the same team were involved. Once set up, Heart of Hastings became joint shareholders in the project. 

The Rock House ‘proof of concept’ embodies the aims of Heart of Hastings as expressed by Sam Kinch, community organiser at Heart of Hastings: “To tackle the negative aspects of gentrification, greater income inequality and diminishing affordable housing, by providing rent-capped affordable housing and by using creative regeneration techniques to create jobs for people with barriers to employment.”

A similar process was recently used to refurbish a run-down office space at 30 Cambridge Road to turn it into affordable housing. It’s a ‘past’ to build on.

Under ‘current projects’ Heart of Hastings is an active partner in the development of the iconic Observer Building – an even more ambitious project than Rock House – but being developed for a similar purpose. This project not only makes use of local tradespeople but also held the second Organisational Workshop* ever to take place in the UK, providing an opportunity for unemployed locals to get back into the workplace.

Gotham Alley

And for the future there is the 12 Claremont Road project next
to the refurbished Library. Discussions are currently under way with East Sussex County Council for a community asset transfer, ‘a mechanism used to enable the community ownership and management of publicly owned land and buildings’. The plans are to develop this building as an art gallery and artists’ studios – as well as housing the first adult changing space in Hastings for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities or other physical disabilities such as spinal injuries.

Those who are really keen to get involved, can attend the Heart of Hastings AGM at 11am on Saturday 31 August. For those who just need to experience what’s happening in the area, join their summer fete on the same day from 1-6pm when the alleyway behind Claremont will be transformed into a vibrant and colourful local fete, right in the ‘Heart of Hastings’ – where you can begin to grasp the potential of this idiosyncratic part of the town including what’s happening in Ore Valley. 

For more information about HoH, Organisational Workshop
and village fete visit www.heartofhastings.org.uk
or read the *HIP supplement here


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