Transforming derelict buildings in Hastings

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White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (WRNV) is a Hastings-based social enterprise developer who transform derelict buildings into capped-rent homes and workspaces for the community.

The aim being to create affordable spaces for living, working and community activity. “Our capped rents are really important to us,” says James Leathers, of the Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust. “They will mean that a broad diversity of people will still be able to live and work in the centre of Hastings as the area starts to gentrify.”

Awarded £75k from Power to Change to help buy the buildings, WRNV is a partnership between Jericho Road Solutions, Meanwhile Space and the Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust. Their work is centred on two large buildings: Rock House – a nine-floor mixed-use community hub that is already thriving – and the Observer Building, which is a work in progress. These buildings fall under a wider project known as the Hastings Commons.

“Hastings Commons is an ecosystem of connected organisations that approach local regeneration differently,” says Caoimhe O’Gorman, the Engagement Manager for Heart of Hastings CLT. “Our mission is to bring property into long-term community ownership with affordable rents in the control of residents.”

The impact of the Hastings Commons is hugely significant for the local community, not only in terms of culture, and affordable and sustainable housing, but also for the economy. Buy utilising the two huge buildings in such a way, it will result in 400 jobs, 30 affordable homes, along with unique opportunities for retail and cultural activity within them and the surrounding area.

“The Hastings Commons isn’t just about the buildings,” says O’Gorman. “It’s about creating positive ways for people to live and work that enable them to thrive. We design and develop our indoor and outdoor spaces to work hard for the people using them and to achieve the highest possible social impact.”

Leathers echoes this, suggesting the buildings foundations are as much a philosophy as a tangible structure. “Our values go beyond capped rents,” he says. “The Hastings Commons is about shared values. Sharing culture and organic development of a broad ecosystem of residential, commercial and public amenities through community ownership – all in an environment previously suffering dereliction and abandonment.”

Ultimately, WRNV is an organisation aimed at not only providing short term and immediate needs in the community, but working to cement solid futures for years to come. “Our vision is long-term community ownership,” says O’Gorman. “We want to protect affordability and diversity forever.”

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