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00PowerFestival

The old power station site hosts a festival of riot, music and food

“Oi! SeaSpace / SeaChange / HBRL / whatever your name is: this land is our land”

Last Saturday saw a forgotten patch of land in Ore Valley become the centre of attention for the first time since the Broomgrove power station burned down 17 years ago. HOT’s Erica Smith was a volunteer steward. In between directing cars to the College car park, her thoughts turned to SeaSpace, SeaChange and the Great Battle for Neighbourhood Renewal. Scroll to the bottom of this article to find out how you can show your support for this brilliant community-led regeneration project.

00powerflyerThe flyer promised a “Festival of Food, Music and Riot” but the atmosphere on the old power station site was as sunny as the day. There was a stage with a programme of poetry, speeches and music, a temporary kitchen serving delicious free soup and burgers, and three containers of scenes of dystopian mayhem on a tiny scale – the work of Jimmy Cauty (of KLF fame). Unlike a riot, the event was managed in a relaxed but efficient way. I was one of several stewards and adults and children were happy to follow the simple rules: wear sensible footwear; don’t park in Firtree Road; sign in; and keep dogs on leads. Altogether 495 people signed in and the vibe was that of a village fete, albeit on a rather derelict village green.

This is an appropriate resting place for Cauty’s ‘Aftermath Dislocation Principle’ now that it has toured the country. Last year, Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust were granted licence by Hastings Borough Council to be on site in order to undertake an environmental audit, work with Turner Prize winning community architects Assemble and start working with the local community, consulting and building a ‘Bottom Up Development team’ – using the strategy developed at Marsh Farm in Luton. The plan is to train local people so they have the organisational and practical skills to build affordable housing in their home town.

Visitors to the Power Up event proving that together we can move things on!

Visitors to the Power Up event proving that together we can move things on! © R Leal

This approach would be a first for Hastings – up until now (with the exception of the Pier), the regeneration of the town has been very much ‘done to us’ rather than ‘done by us’. As a result of this, the community has been left feeling not empowered, not enriched, just ‘done’.

A giant petition was signed by people who attended the Power Up event, urging SeaSpace to hand over the land into community ownership for the benefit of the people of Ore Valley.

A giant petition was signed by people who attended the Power Up event, urging SeaSpace to hand over the land into community ownership for the benefit of the people of Ore Valley.

The land is currently owned by SeaSpace – the organisation set up to deliver economic regeneration of Hastings back in 2003. This is currently a problem for Heart of Hastings who have recently been unable to make contact with SeaSpace in order to confirm that they are happy for the land to be handed over to Heart of Hastings for a permanent community-led development to begin. This is despite support for Heart of Hastings’ plans from Hastings Borough Council, Sussex Coast College Hastings, Hastings Voluntary Action and established community organisations including Project Artworks and Big Local North East Hastings.

Up until recently, this plot of land had been seen as a ‘liability’ rather than an asset because of its awkward topography and the danger of toxic substances left in the land as a result of the power station fire. Perhaps SeaSpace is reluctant to commit to the hand-over because land prices are now rising and they want to capitalise on the site after all?

It is true that it is not easy to contact SeaSpace. Here’s a quick and hopefully not too confusing back story. SeaSpace was set up in 2003 by the now defunct regional development agency SEEDA (South East England Development Agency). Significant amounts of land were given to SeaSpace by Hastings and Bexhill councils, SEEDA and the Homes and Communities Agency in order to provide economic and social regeneration. SeaSpace is actually the ‘trading name’ of something called HBRL – Hastings and Bexhill Renaissance Limited. Neither HBRL nor SeaSpace have a website, which seems a little mysterious for publicly funded bodies that should be publicly accountable.

To add to the mix, there is a further organisation called SeaChange Sussex – which describes itself as ‘the not-for-profit economic development company for the county’. Amongst other things, SeaChange Sussex has been responsible for the Link Road, the Queensway North and Queensway Gateway developments and the Priory Quarter in Hastings town centre.

The Chair of both SeaChange and SeaSpace is Julian Crampton – the former Vice Chancellor of University of Brighton. That’s the same University that has just announced that it wishes to withdraw from the Priory Quarter buildings that SeaSpace initially built as office space in order to bring employment to the town. Some people might say that pressure was put on the University of Brighton to move into Hastings and find a purpose for the empty commercial units. Commitment to Hastings has always been half-hearted and the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor has made it easier for the University to walk away from Hastings.

The plot of land adjoining the power station site to the north (‘the Stills site’) has just been sold by SeaSpace for private development for a significant amount of money. There are concerns that this sale was carried out in breach of SeaSpace’s constitution by selling it without consulting with representatives of the three local councils. See Hastings Independent Press article for details.

If this land has been sold at a premium for private sector development, what is going to happen to the money? Surely this would be of best benefit to the local community (which is in the top 1% poorest in England) if it was invested in a community-led development for affordable housing on the old power station site?

What can I do?

00AntonIf you want to show your support for the Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust’s plans, you can sign their petition, which is now available online.

If you feel that the SeaChange Sussex website doesn’t tell you much about what’s been going on, then it might be worth looking at SeaChange Watch – a website developed by some Hastings residents who have concerns about how the mysterious trinity of HBRL/SeaSpace/SeaChange is operating in the area.

If you want to contact SeaSpace, SeaChange, HBRL or Julian Crampton, you can contact them care of:
Tracey Murray, SeaChange Sussex, Innovation Centre, Highfield Drive, St Leonards, East Sussex TN38 9UH
T: 01424 858 287
Email: info@seachangesussex.co.uk

You can also contact Councillor Peter Chowney – Leader of Hastings Borough Council and SeaChange board member: cllr.peter.chowney@hastings.gov.uk
and Councillor Dawn PooleRegeneration and Culture Portfolio Holder
cllr.dawn.poole@hastings.gov.uk

Posted 16:18 Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017 In: Home Ground

10 Comments


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  1. Erica Smith

    Oh, I have thought about it. And I still think it’s a bit creepy and disingenuous, but I know why people do it. Two bites at the cherry!

    Comment by Erica Smith — Thursday, Apr 27, 2017 @ 09:56

  2. Ms. Doubtfire

    Yes Ms. Smith we do expect the ‘powers that be’ to be transparent but they are not and when one complains too much, the ‘powers that be’ decided to class complainers as vexatious.

    Is it any wonder that so many prefer to use an alias when expressing an opinion. Think about it.

    Comment by Ms. Doubtfire — Saturday, Apr 22, 2017 @ 10:02

  3. Erica Smith

    Mugsborough implies Any Town where the citizens are duped by Capitalism.
    I can see the attraction of hiding behind pseudonyms, but I think if you really believe in something, what’s wrong with putting your name to your views?
    If you expect the powers that be to be transparent, then it makes sense to set an example, not follow their skulldugger-ish practices!
    On the plus side, it’s always good to celebrate The Ramones!

    Comment by Erica Smith — Monday, Apr 17, 2017 @ 12:00

  4. Andy Ammo

    The tradition of using aliases in writing to the local paper is a very long one. It helps to keep discussion on the issues addressed.

    The administrative performance of HBC is a poor one, and shows no sign of improving. This is not a party political matter. It is also not a local prejudice. Both the Information Commissioner and the Local Government Ombudsman, after formal investigation, have had harsh things to say about the Council. The opinion is growing that Hastings is not well governed, and that often it does not act in the interests of its residents. (Its repeated failure to seek affordable housing – though the planning mechanisms allow it – is one instance among many.)

    Nothing I’ve said is remotely dubious or offensive (and if your name is Smith, maybe you don’t really need a nom de plume). I don’t endorse aliases as a device for abusing others.

    My own moniker is in part a tribute to The Ramones:
    Hey ho,
    Let’s go . . .

    It’s not only people that have aliases: the identity of Mugsborough continues to flourish. Why is that?

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Monday, Apr 17, 2017 @ 11:48

  5. Erica Smith

    I’m glad my article has been so widely read, and commented on. Thank you!
    This is a side-comment really, but it’s something I’m curious about. I’ve had to approve the comments from HOT readers before they are published. I wonder why some people choose to hide behind pseudonyms when they post? I believe in Freedom of Speech, which is why I’ve published comments on this article. But I don’t think it’s fair to comment and hide your identity behind a false name. Why the false names, Andy Ammo and Ms. Doubtfire? I’m genuinely curious!

    Comment by Erica Smith — Sunday, Apr 16, 2017 @ 15:53

  6. Andy Ammo

    Excellent article. If HBC, Sussex Coast College Hastings, Hastings Voluntary Action, Project Artworks and Big Local North East Hastings all support this transfer, then it’s not good enough that SeaSpace or SeaChange or HBRL do not respond to requests to clarify their position. They get large amounts of public money to do what they do, and this shows their incompetence to receive it. Councillors involved should also explain what is going on.

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Friday, Apr 14, 2017 @ 17:21

  7. Anton

    In response to the first two comments, Peter Chowney is addressing the sale of the Stills site as he was not consulted about it, despite being one of the directors, as you both correctly point out. As someone working with the Ore Valley CLT, I can say that Peter Chowney has been very supportive of our project and is working closely with us to take things forward despite the difficulties we have come across in communicating with other directors of Seachange.

    Comment by Anton — Thursday, Apr 13, 2017 @ 18:54

  8. JJ Waller

    Challenging article…comments from Mr Chowney and Ms Poole please…

    Comment by JJ Waller — Thursday, Apr 13, 2017 @ 18:41

  9. Ms. Doubtfire

    Many people are extremely concerned with what has happened to this important piece of land. But seem powerless to halt the relentless march of Sea Space/Sea Change/HBRL or whoever else is within this group.

    If this sale was in breach of Sea Space’s constitution, why isn’t the leader of Hastings Council investigating? Is he not a director of this company any longer?

    Comment by Ms. Doubtfire — Thursday, Apr 13, 2017 @ 12:10

  10. Richard Heritage

    Apart from trying to contact the names mentioned in the article, don’t forget there are a few councillors who are directors of the two limited companies behind Sea Space and Sea Change.
    You might want to try Cllr Peter Chowney who has been involved in Sea them practically since their inception.
    Then there is Cllr Dawn Poole who was recently made a director of the limited company.

    Yes the history of both Sea Change and Sea Space of acquiring and selling land is somewhat mysterious. And how about all these directors listed on the two limited companies. Some of them you cannot figure out why they are there and who they really are.

    Comment by Richard Heritage — Thursday, Apr 13, 2017 @ 10:19

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