As reported in HIP 136, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced on 14th September that Hastings has been selected as one of 69 English towns and cities to receive a share of £95m funds earmarked for regeneration of “historic high streets”. Four days later – too late for our initial report but no less welcome for that – the community land trust Heart of Hastings (HoH) was able to release news that it had put the successful bid forward: it would be receiving a grant of £2m from this fund to support its plans to “rejuvenate” America Ground, covering the neighbourhood stretching from Harold Place up to the Trinity Triangle and the Observer Building. A four-year programme of works will begin in April 2020. 

The plan is to “re-purpose derelict buildings as productive community spaces, restore iconic heritage features of the high street and provide a cultural and educational programme for local people and visitors”. But it is also central to HoH’s style of regeneration work that it is local people and community organisations that will drive it forward. Trust chair Rodney Buse declared: “Our approach is community-led and inclusive. All stakeholders, including Hastings Borough Council [HBC], are working in a partnership of equals. We all need to be part of revitalising this unique area and celebrate its fascinating history and independent spirit.” 

James Leathers, Executive Director of Heart of Hastings commented: “We made the case for this special neighbourhood, the America Ground. People see a restored library and it inspires them to champion their heritage. When you look at Rock House, you see the success community efforts achieve. HBC got behind us and Historic England has recognised the momentum of our partnership with this award.” 

Prime mover and trustee Jess Steele has given a breakdown (described as “indicative rather than final”) of the intended spending programme:

• £400,000 towards the Observer Building renovation;

• £300,000 towards 12 Claremont renovation;

• £300,000 of small grants for other owners of historic buildings

• £130,000 for a “social spaces” programme to support local buildings such as churches, pubs etc;

• £150,000 for a cultural programme: Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council are working on some kind of framework for this but have said it will be delivered locally by local organisations;

• £30,000 per annum for a Heritage Action Zone officer from Historic England to be based with HoH;

• £30,000k pa for a conservation officer focused on Trinity Triangle to be employed by HBC;

• £95,000 for training programmes in partnership with East Sussex College, ranging from specialist construction training to training volunteers in conservation;

• £90,000 for a Digital Exchange project using the existing plumb Wifi to measure impact, promote local activities and host digital arts and heritage installations.

The remaining balance will cover a series of investigations and development work: ideas include a ‘maintenance club’ for owners of historic buildings, traffic calming options, and innovative community investment in the form of a neighbourhood bond.

Council leader Peter Chowney says he is pleased that HBC were able to assist with the bid: “I look forward to the council working with Heart of Hastings and partners to develop the detailed proposals for restoring these important historic buildings in the Trinity Triangle area. This has indeed been a good example of partnership working, and a successful one.” 

ALL PICTURES: Jonny Thompson

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