Levelling Up Case Study: Hastings
A Levelling Up case study from Hastings High Street Heritage Action Zone.
Levelling Up Fund category: 1
Historic England region: London & the South East
Hastings High Street Heritage Action Zone is one of only two community led High Street Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZs) in the country. Heart of Hastings, the community land trust leading the project, has been outstanding in its innovative ideas for the reuse of historic buildings in the Trinity Triangle area in ways that benefit those on low incomes. These include a Neighbourhood Investment Mechanism, live/workspaces, capped rent flats, rentable artists’ studios and a cultural programme. This project is putting ‘regeneration without gentrification’ into action.
Like many of our historic seaside resorts the economy of Hastings has struggled over the past decade and the centre of Hastings is among the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. The local authority is ranked as the 13th most deprived area out of 317 local authorities in England.
Heart of Hastings works within an ‘ecosystem’ of local organisations including White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (WRNV) which is a locally rooted social enterprise developer. The most significant project within the HSHAZ scheme is the reuse of the redundant former offices and printing works of the Hastings & St Leonards Observer newspaper (built in 1924) which have been unused since the 1980’s. This project creates a CrossFit gym, brewery taproom, a café, and a creative digital hub. The upper floors will feature 14 offices, 15 affordable (capped) rental flats, and a roof terrace bar.
To fund the various projects within the HSHAZ numerous grants and loans have been secured, including funding from central government, local authorities, the Co-Operative Foundation and The Big Issue. Through Historic England’s HSHAZ programme Hastings has received support of nearly £3m which has assisted in levering in a further £6.6m for the scheme.
The HSHAZ programme is made up of a portfolio of projects all aimed at revitalising the Trinity Triangle area for residents, businesses and visitors. Included is the conversion of 12 Claremont to artist studios and an exhibition space, shop front improvements and repairs, and a cultural programme based around neighbourhood stories. A simple but effective project has been the formation of a maintenance co-operative which enables local property owners to work together and hire a ‘cherry picker’ to access high level gutters etc. for seasonal clearance. Simple actions like this engender good stewardship and make the area more attractive.
The community management of the project has allowed a flexible approach to project delivery, meaning it has been able to adapt to pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic; responding to emerging needs, adding projects to the scheme where needed and both securing and spending funding at pace.
We’re making decisions on the ground about how the HSHAZ money should be spent, and in the process building relationships with local organisations which will last beyond the duration of the programme. Historic England have been really supportive, adapting their processes to enable a small community organisation like ours to become a partner, and it’s helping us and many others to protect the heritage we love and spruce up our high street for the benefit of future generations.
We are proud to be a community-led HAZ, ensuring that decisions about grant funding are made with local people and organisations at the table. This programme enables us to grow our social impact through unique cross-sector partnerships, at the same time as making a visible and lasting impact on the built environment which can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.