Notes from Open Meeting, Tuesday 28 January 2020, 6 pm start, at White Rock Hotel.
Meeting chaired by Dr. Deborah Madden (Chair, H & St. L Society)
Apologies for absence: Received in advance from 4 members
Total attendance: 25
Focus of the Meeting: The heritage of Hastings town centre
Item 1: Presentation on the restoration requirements for ‘His Place’ Church (former United Reformed Church) on Robertson Street, by Nicky Roper
The building, built in the 1850s, is Grade II listed and due to the extensive disrepair currently on the Historic England (H E) ‘At Risk Register’ as Grade A (list entry 1393646). ‘His Place Charity’ purchased the building in 2014. It is now a church (not attached to a particular faith), community centre and cafe, also housing Opus Theatre (self-funded) and Safe Space Hastings. There are lots of activities for all walks of life and faiths, and these are run by volunteers.
Roof repairs were carried out soon after acquiring the building, but this has not prevented deterioration of the already damaged stone and windows. Estimated cost of essential restoration work is currently £800,000. A funding bid failed, but it is intended to put in another bid this year. A difficulty is in raising ‘match funding’ to support the funding application to National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Nicky gave a slide show highlighting the plight of the building. She stressed that if restoration work is not soon carried out, the building will have to be closed down within four years. The vision, once the building is restored, is for everyday use (including evenings) with improved facilities for all walks of life and ages, including in the auditorium.
Nicky is willing to give a tour of the building when she is on site, to anyone (or small groups). Request this at the cafe.
Item 2: Report on the funding application situation at Holy Trinity Church, from Edward Gosnell
Holy Trinity Church is Grade II* Listed. Restoration work is required, and there is also the need to improve the building internally so that it is used well. The exterior Bath-stone is crumbling and repair work is urgent. Stained-glass windows have been boarded up to protect them, as they are at risk of falling out.
Edward said that it is intended to apply to National Lottery Heritage Fund (£1.5m application) for the work. A consultant has been engaged to work on the application, which will include funding for a new scheme for the interior (to maintain flexibility for use and activities). Again, match funding is a hurdle to overcome.
Some of the work to be done is to restore the entrance hall and add toilets (inc. accessible toilet). Edward said that a funder has just been found for the work on the entrance hall and to provide accessible toilet.
It was asked why the Diocese isn’t funding the work. Edward said that he C of E Diocese has no funds.
Holy Trinity Church’s current work includes providing a ‘safe haven’ for the young.
Item 3: Presentation on the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) initiative for the ‘Trinity Triangle’ in Hastings town centre, by Jess Steele
Jess informed the meeting that a £4m programme for the Heritage Action Zone, broadly covering the area to the west of the town centre known as the ‘Trinity Triangle is due to commence in April. There is no final agreement from H E as yet, but the understanding is that this will be forthcoming and the HAZ bid is through the process.
Jess gave a slide show including map of the area covered and the elements of the programme. There are twelve elements, which include financial support for the Observer Building and 12 Claremont. There will also be funding for training (for example in heritage conservation).
HAZ partners include HBC; Love Hastings Ltd, Heat of Hastings (Community Land Trust). A Heritage Action Zone Officer is to be appointed.
It was asked if the HAZ grant for the Trinity Triangle would provide funding for restoring the two churches discussed at this meeting. Jess said that she had been informed by H E that HAZ grants cannot be used to fund churches. Jess has argued with H E on this matter due to the critical condition of these important buildings, but there is no flexibility. However, some of the funds may be used to restore other items of local heritage value in the area: the Lion and Unicorn statues; the Countess Waldegrave drinking fountain (located on Holy Trinity Church land).
Discussion of the ‘My Town’ (Town Deal) campaign (Government funded)
Hastings is one of the towns included in the government’s initiative to provide funding to invest in the future of the town, for the benefit of businesses, tourism and the community. HBC has been awarded £173,000 from the government to support developing the bid for this funding. Kevin Boorman (HBC Officer) attended this meeting and agreed to give an outline of the Town Deal.
There are three thematic areas (see HBC website) and it is important that there will be a benefit to all walks of life throughout the borough. A ‘Town Deal Board’ has just been set up to work in accordance with the guidelines in the Town Fund prospectus. The Board has been selected so that a wide range of interests are incorporated – “not all suits!”, said Kevin. These include representatives from Heart of Hastings; Love Hastings Ltd; the ‘Source Park’. The Board will oversee the development of the Town Investment Plan together with the Council, which is employing a firm of consultants (paid for out of the set-up funding) to work on putting the Plan together for presenting to the government –scheduled for by end of summer 2020.
Prior to the setting up of the Board, H & St. L Society submitted a request to HBC that Local Heritage is included in the proposals for investment. However, it appears that nobody with considerable knowledge and interest in local heritage is on the Board. It therefore remains to be seen if heritage will be considered in the ‘My Town’ campaign. It was stressed by H & St. L Society committee member at the meeting that local heritage is a great value to the town and should be invested in and used to promote tourism – further to the usual ‘1066 Country’ advertising.
Notes compiled by Steven (secretary, H & St. L Society)