Following a strategic board meeting on 12th June, SELEP (the South East Local Enterprise Partnership) have publicised an agreement to lend £1.75m out of their Growing Places Fund for development of the Observer Building. A spokesperson for the recipient company, White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures Limited (WRNV), confirming the loan agreement, has told HIP that this will enable them to start renovation of the 4,000 square metre landmark which has been empty and derelict for 35 years. 

Project planning has in fact been progressing steadily throughout the pandemic, with plans submitted to Hastings Borough Council in the first week of May. The loan will be drawn down in November 2020 to kick-start the first phase of implementation, comprising work to the roof and external walls along with the delivery of the Alley Hall, Vaults & Ground Floor. 

Among the enterprises being facilitated – “vibrant public destinations”, as WRNV call them – will be a microbrewery, a cafe, incubation units for start-up businesses, and event and recreational spaces aimed at “providing an environment for local organisations and residents to collaborate and grow stronger together in a post-Covid-19 economy”.

The project also benefits from funding from CHART (Connecting Hastings and Rother Together), a Local Development Programme with access to European Structural Investment funds, and as part of the Trinity Triangle High Street Heritage Action Zone – a four- year regeneration programme funded by Historic England to revive historic town centres.

WRNV describe themselves as “a locally-rooted social enterprise developer transforming difficult and derelict buildings into capped-rent homes and workspaces, creating affordable space for living, working, wellbeing, learning, leisure and community action”. Based in Rock House, next door to The Observer Building, WRNV staff work closely alongside other affiliated organisations in an “experimental alliance” or “ecosystem” of connected buildings and tenants, whose growing portfolio also includes Harper’s Caves, Rose Cottage, 39 Cambridge Road, 2 Cambridge Road and 12 Claremont.

Nathan Payne, Tenant Development Manager on the Observer Building project, told HIP: “We are working closely with an exciting and diverse range of people and organisations, helping them adjust to their new environment whilst curating a space for a community with shared principles and positive working relationships.”

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