Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Havelock Place.

Havelock Place.

DWP ups sticks in favour of the town centre

The Department for Work and Pensions’ branch at Ashdown House is to move to the town centre, occupying offices in Sea Change Sussex’s Havelock Place and the University of Brighton’s Lacuna Place. The move will help Sea Change repay the loan with which it developed Havelock Place. Nick Terdre reports.

The DWP will occupy the first four floors of Havelock Place, which is situated in Havelock Road and is part of the Priory District business quarter, Sea Change Sussex reports. The fifth floor is already let to radiology company, Medica.

The available space in Lacuna Place is somewhat greater – around 32,000 square feet against Havelock Place’s overall 25,000. DWP does not wish to publicise details of the lease – though it would clearly be long-term – or the numbers involved. However, several hundred are involved – possibly 600-700.

According to Sea Change, DWP were looking for a new location and might have been tempted to move out of Hastings had suitable accommodation not been available in the town centre.

“We’re thrilled the DWP has chosen to move to Priory Quarter,” a spokesperson for the regeneration company commented. “They’re an important local employer which we wouldn’t want to lose from the area. This move brings hundreds of workers into the business district, which will provide a big economic boost to Hastings town centre.”

The Tesco convenience store on the ground floor of Lacuna Place is expected to benefit from the lunchtime needs of the DWP staff, as should the Sainsbury convenience store across Devonshire Road – some consolation for the loss of business at its superstore just down the hill from Ashdown House.

Lacuna Place, which houses a Tesco convenience store.

Lacuna Place, which houses a Tesco convenience store.

Parking may be an issue, compared with the ample capacity at Ashdown House. Havelock Place offers none, though there are some spaces beneath Lacuna Place. The Sea Change spokesperson points out that there several big public car parks nearby. But presumably a significant number of employees will find it convenient to leave their cars at home and take advantage of the better public transport service in the town centre.

Repaying the loan

The deal is also encouraging for Sea Change, which has been looking for a tenant for the empty floors of Havelock Place since it became available for occupation in early 2015. The lengthy delay has caused it problems with repaying the £7 million development loan from the government’s Growing Places Fund, which it received via the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (Selep).

In an update on the GPF loan last March, Selep reported that Sea Change’s loan repayments had been rescheduled, with the bulk of the repayments due in the past two years transferred to the next two years.

However, further rescheduling might be needed, as Selep noted that the prospective tenant, unnamed at the time the contract negotiations were under way, was likely to be given an initial rent-free period. This would result in repayment delays, it said.

Selep had high hopes of the project, which, it reiterated in March, was expected to help create 440 jobs. According to the website Sea Change Watch, the only new jobs so far identified are 16 additional posts created by Medica when it moved into Havelock Place in 2015.

Lacuna Place was an earlier development, by Sea Change’s predecessor company Sea Space.

The commercial property market in the town centre is in reasonable balance, a local estate agent told HOT. While a very large deal like the DWP one only comes along “once in a blue moon,” his company was regularly making smaller lettings, he said.

If the market tightens, there could be scope for Sea Change to look again at some of the unrealised parts of its Priory Quarter planning permission. Among these is a plan to demolish Queensbury House to make way for a new office block, though Sea Change is not the owner of the property.

However, the University of Brighton owns two other large buildings in the vicinity which will presumably become redundant as it runs down its activities in the town. These could potentially be converted to offices, though HOT was unable to clarify the matter with the university.


Posted 15:38 Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018 In: Home Ground


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Steve Waters

    Will the unemployed continue signing on at Heron House in London Road?

    Comment by Steve Waters — Sunday, Feb 11, 2018 @ 09:33

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Does anybody know what really is happening with the Queensbury House building?
    All very mysterious. WHO owns it? What are the plans for this huge blot on our landscape. According to the plans available there is no intention of demolishing this eyesore – the plan appears to be to increase the height with a further 2 floors to the top. And the applicant has lodged an Appeal against the council for a failure to determine the planning application within the correct time.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Feb 9, 2018 @ 12:04

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