Thursday 17 October 2019, 6 p.m. start. Held at White Rock Hotel
Meeting chaired by Dr. Chris Joyce (Vice-chair, H & St. L Society)
1. Main topic: Proposals for the Observer Building (guest speaker, Jess Steele, Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust)
Jess commenced with a short history of the ‘Observer Building’, which was designed by Henry Ward and opened in 1924. It closed in 1985 and became derelict. Some attempts at establishing a new future for the iconic building have failed, but the ‘Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust’ sealed the purchase in February 2019.
The springboard for purchasing the Observer Building has been the successful regeneration of Rock House, which is next door to the O B. The purchase price of the O B was £1.5m (freehold), with Rock House serving as a company asset for the mortgage.
Jess described the ‘we’ now working on the O B conversion project as “a set of interconnected core organisations”. This includes Jess’s company, Jericho Road, as chief investor, and White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures as developer. Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust is the long-term owner.
Essential repairs to the building took place during March – September (2019) and architects have been interviewed in the process to consider the opportunities for the building. Proposed are (on floors in descending order): Public Roof Terrace (glass fronted) with adjoining bar and common room; Housing in the form of 16 capped-rent flats; Work Space – this will be affordable, as at Rock House which Jess says is making money at affordable terms; three Leisure Floors (the lower of which is to be worked on first, and this includes the vaults which will lead on to ‘the Alley’). Further to this, a brewery has expressed an interest in making and selling beer on the premises.
Tenants will be encouraged to play a roll in the development and management of the building. There is currently no lift and no heating in the building, and the water supply comes through from Rock House.
Jess advised it is hoped that approval of a draft ‘Heritage Action Zone’ for the Town Centre (with focus on the ‘Trinity Triangle’), expected on 6 December, would provide the opportunity to make an application into a £2m funding pot.
In the discussion on the proposals for the O B, Tim McDonald asked Jess if a music library (covering all genres of music) could be incorporated. Tim stated that there is already a large collection of music in the borough. This will be given consideration.
There was general enthusiasm for the current proposals for developing the building.
(for further information see this website )
2. Update on the situation at West Marina former bathing pool site (guest speaker, Virginia Vilela)
Concern about the future of the former bathing pool (lido) site at West Marina was the main topic at a H & St. L Society Open Meeting in February 2018. The outcome of this was that a residents group would be formed to work on a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’, which would have to be taken into consideration by the Local Authority for developing the area. It is known that HBC aims to give a 125-year lease to a developer to provide 152 homes and a ‘destination’ on the site. HBC has stated that local residents will be fully consulted as the scheme is designed, and the West Marina Group is determined to ensure HBC keeps that promise.
There has been a delay getting a Neighbourhood Plan agreed, due to difficulty establishing the precise boundary. However, Virginia said that at their last committee meeting it looked like the matter has been resolved, and she handed out a leaflet showing the area to be included in the N P.
It was beneficial that West Marina Ward Councillor Karl Beaney was at this meeting, as he was able to clarify some matters and also confirm that the ‘Stamco Site’, which covers a considerable area within the proposed N P boundary, is up for sale. It was thought that the sale would have an effect on the overall plans for housing and other potential development. The West Marina residents are particularly keen for developments of the former bathing pool site and surrounding area to incorporate substantial leisure facilities, which are currently lacking in the West Marina locality.
3. Note: Chris Lewcock was unable to attend to speak on the situation at St. Leonards Church, as scheduled on agenda. In an e-mail, he stated that there was little to report at present.
4. Suggestions for topics for future open meetings
H & St. L Society has been asked to facility a discussion on trading at Queen’s Road, as some traders there feel little is done to encourage town centre shoppers into this area. A one-day ‘Queen’s Road Shopping Festival’ (with road closure) has been suggested.
It was felt that if the Heritage Action Zone comes into force for the ‘Trinity Triangle’ area of the town centre, this would be a god topic for discussion. It is known that Holy Trinity church has plans to redevelop the interior, and the former URC (now ‘His Place’ church and Opus theatre) is in need of substantial funding for major repairs to the building. Speakers associated with both buildings would be invited to the meeting, and hopefully Jess Steele or town centre manager, John Bownas, could give further information on the HAZ.
Date for next open meeting (subject to suitability for guest speakers): Tuesday 28 January, 6 pm start, at White Rock Hotel