Regeneration company Sea Space announced on 13th November the winner of its competitive tender process for development of a housing scheme on the disused power station site in Ore Valley: not the bid made by the Heart of Hastings community land trust (HoH) in conjunction with specialist developers Bioregional Homes, which carried the hopes of many community activists in the town, but that of Battle-based private company Gemselect.

According to Sea Space, Gemselect was chosen from amongst seven bidders on the basis that its scheme “represented the best balance of value, commercial strengths and community benefits….[It]meets local policy objectives — including a level of affordable housing in excess of policy requirements — and involves extensive use of local workers.”

Gordon Ritchie, Director of Gemselect, has issued a statement: “We’re delighted to have been nominated as the preferred bidder for the Ore Valley development site. The site has lain dormant for many years and we’ll now have the opportunity to release its potential as a much-needed local housing scheme.

“We’ve been instrumental in the development of many quality, affordable homes in Hastings and St Leonards including other sites in the Ore Valley. We look forward to working with the local community over the coming months to provide a housing development layout and design all parties can be proud of for years to come.”

James Leathers, Executive Director of HoH, this week issued a counter-statement that does not hide his dismay: “It is hard not to feel this as a painful slap in the face to all the years of community effort and investment in our inclusive, socially just vision of regeneration.

“Heart of Hastings and Bioregional Homes submitted an exciting, innovative and viable scheme to develop the former Power Station site in Ore Valley. The Seaspace Board has rejected it. This is a missed opportunity to secure vital funding and develop local capabilities.”

Six plots within the site are apparently being offered to HoH “to create self-build homes in association with Sussex Coast College’s Ore Valley campus” However, Mr Leathers told HIP: “We are aware that press releases have mentioned us in connection to an offer of serviced plots. We have had no formal contact about this proposal and have contacted Savills [Sea Space’s agents] for further information. When this has been provided to us, we will evaluate whether this is a sincere and viable offer.”

Mr Leathers’ fuller reaction to the Sea Space decision is set out below.

Russell Tame, Managing Director of Bioregional Homes, who were co-promoters of the HoH bid, added: ““We are extremely disappointed. The proposals we’ve drawn up [with HoH] represent best value for the community and the environment; and best of all, they are absolutely deliverable on a challenging site. Over 16,000 homes are being delivered across the country by Community Land Trusts. The model is a proven and successful one. We are disappointed that Sea Space can’t see the benefits that bottom up, community-led development can bring to an area, especially one in such need as Ore Valley and Hastings.”

Read James Leathers response here

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