Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
solar roof 600

View of how the Ore Valley housing may look. Energy will be supplied by solar power.

Heart of Hastings seeks housing partner

There is good news and not-so-good news for the Heart of Hastings management team to report to shareholders and supporters about the Ore Valley housing scheme at its annual general meeting next Saturday: on the one hand it can apply for government funding made available for community-led housing projects, and on the other, at the council’s request it has to find a partner to assist in implementing the project. Nick Terdre reports. All images from Heart of Hastings.

The government has made £163 million available through the Community Housing Fund for community-led housing schemes. The deadline for applying is December 2019, assuming that the money has not all been bid for before then. It is perhaps a recognition in Whitehall that the country’s housing shortage is not going to be solved purely by reliance on private developers.

Heart of Hastings plans to build the housing estate on the site of the former power station Ore Valley, where it has held a series of events to publicise the project. The land is owned by Sea Space, the predecessor to Sea Change Sussex, which tells HOT it has granted a licence to the council, which in turn has sub-licensed the land to HoH to hold events.

Sea Space and the council are now “in the process of reviewing the viability of third-party proposals to develop the land longer term, and have reached no decisions at this point,” the spokesman said.

But the council, concerned at what they see as the risk involved in an inexperienced community land trust taking on a large project, have “suggested that [HoH] could look to help de-risk their proposal by working with a larger and financially sound organisation(s) with experience of project managing and delivering complex sites,” the press officer told HOT.

Funding welcomed

James Leathers, HoH’s Executive Director (People), welcomes the government funding and is unfazed by the need to find a partner.

“Heart of Hastings’ vision is for housing that brings people together, that meets a range of housing needs now and into the future, that brings opportunity for local enterprise,” he told HOT. “Let’s learn and avoid the errors that encouraged speculation, splintered management and polarised communities.

“This Government funding is an opportunity for those with the technical experience to help us make this happen, to give Hastings, and the wider world, a new way to tackle housing and disadvantage.”

But the request – or requirement – places an extra burden on HoH and in some quarters, HOT understands, is seen as unnecessary – it is already working with an experienced developer, ZEDfactory, and finance partner, Resonance Financing, and may find it difficult to identify a registered provider – housing association – or other organisation aligned with its values. The prospective partner will also want some return for its involvement, possibly a share of the housing.

A partner has yet to be found, so these issues are unresolved. Hopefully a satisfactory solution can be found while monies from the Community Housing Fund are still available.

Regeneration with a difference

Onsite leadership and decision-making is in the hands of the Bottom-Up Development (Bud) team.

Onsite leadership and decision-making is in the hands of the Bottom-Up Development (Bud) team.

The Ore Valley project, involving some 76 new dwellings, is regeneration with the human element at its heart, providing accommodation and work opportunities for some of those in society who need them most.

The usual hierarchical management structure has been ditched in favour of grassroots leadership provided by the so-called Bottom-Up Development team (Bud). The team consists of locals, all HoH shareholders, who are responsible for all decision-making and committed to engaging others at every step along the way.

Given the shortage of affordable housing in Hastings, the project is a no-brainer, says Sam Kinch, who as HoH’s community organiser has spent a lot of time knocking on doors in Ore to tell local residents all about it. Apart from a half a dozen homes which will be sold at market prices to help subsidise the rest, the plan is to make half the homes available at affordable rents while selling half at affordable prices.

The definition of ‘affordable’ – usually meaning 80% of the market price – has come under fire from bodies such as housing charity Shelter and the Labour Party as being unrealistically high for many. For HoH it means that rent shouldn’t be more than one third of average income.

Similarly for those looking to buy a home, genuinely affordable mortgages will be arranged.

There will be a mixture of tenures, from one-bed homes to three-bed. A number of dwellings will be set aside as independent living units for disabled people who need to have carers living with them, and several others for people needing special support, for example, after coming out of prison.

Low carbon development

The homes have been designed by ZEDfactory, which has acquired an international reputation for its low carbon developments. It has already made its mark in Hastings, having designed a small development in Castle Hill Passage.

Renewable energy will be generated from solar roofs and the houses will incorporate highly energy efficient features such as super insulation and heat exchangers as part of a smart system for moving heat to where it is needed in the house.

As the sun doesn’t shine all day, consideration is being given to the battery storage of energy which is not needed for immediate consumption. It is estimated that twice as much energy will be generated as will be needed for residents’ consumption, so there may also be the opportunity to earn some money by selling the surplus into the national grid. Residents will have the benefit of very low energy bills, or perhaps no bills.

The dwellings to be sold will be made available on a leasehold basis, which will enable HoH to control the conditions under which the new owners will be able to sell on their properties. This will avoid the windfall profits which can accrue under the Right to Buy legislation, when owners cash in their discounted properties at market prices. The lease terms will also be structured so that HoH can take a fair share of any uplift in price when a property is sold on.


Preliminary front elevation of a terrace of three-bedroom houses proposed for Ore Valley.

HoH hopes that one third of the houses to be sold will go to self-build partners, who will partly pay for them by purchasing some of the materials and helping to build them.

Unlike the standard private developers’ scheme, when the affordable housing quota is usually built (if it is built!) to a lower standard than the market housing, all the dwellings will be constructed to the same standard.

Based on the Rock House model – HoH is headquartered there – where occupants and residents participate in a self-managing community, HoH aims for something similar in the day-to-day running of the Ore Valley estate.

Job creation

Job creation is also part of the scheme. Construction of the estate will be preceded by a couple of preliminary phases. In the first there will be opportunities for 100 people who face difficulties in finding conventional employment, such as long-term unemployed, people with drugs issues, prisoners on probation, and so on.

Based on a method called the Organisation Workshop which originated in Latin America, they will be provided with tools, materials, training and access to mentors and given the opportunity to develop skills, either relevant to construction, such as bricklaying, or to support activities such as catering and childcare. But it will be up to them collectively to develop an appropriate organisational structure for this learning.

Weekly public meetings are held onsite by the Bud team.

Weekly public meetings are held onsite by the Bud team.

It’s a method, Kinch says, that has proved to work well elsewhere, and HoH is working with the Marsh Farm community organisation in Luton which pioneered the method in the UK.

There will first be a 12-week unpaid period for the participants to decide which skill they want to develop and get themselves going. Six months of intensive job coaching and training will follow to get them to the point where they are ready to work in earnest. This will be carried out in cooperation with the Ore Valley campus of Sussex Coast College which is the college’s centre for courses in the building trades; those who wish to acquire qualifications in their chosen skill will have the chance to do so.

Quite a high fall-out rate is anticipated, but HoH expects to end up with a workforce capable of building the skin of the storage building that will be the first structure on the estate. Private contractors will then be brought in to outfit the building, put in the electrics and tackle the housing. Work on the housing will be offered to those who are up to the job and want to carry on – including the initial structure, that amounts to three years’ paid work. This will also apply to the support posts.

The Ore Valley power station was originally coal-fired, then converted to burning oil. Some remediation of the ground will be required to remove contamination left by the fossil fuels. Asbestos was found in the chimneys of the power station when they were demolished, but subsequent surveys have not found further traces.

£10 million project

The project is costed at around £10 million. HoH will raise the money from social investors such as Power to Change using the services of Resonance, a financial broker with a focus on community investment. Once the estate has been built, a 25-year mortgage will be taken out from social investment banks such as the Coop, Unity Bank and Triodos and the investment repaid.

The mortgage will be paid back from sales and rent – housing is usually a safe investment, Kinch says. A lot of work has been done around financial modelling to make sure the financial plan is watertight.

The Ore Valley project has so far been funded mainly by the Big Local Northeast Hastings, which received £1 million in funding from a coalition government package set up for deprived communities, and by Power to Change and the Big Lottery.

IMG_1897 300

Members of the Bud team in a self-constructed outdoor seating area on the Ore Valley site.

The Big Lottery’s backing has been important to HoH’s development, Kinch says, enabling it to bring in an administrator and two experienced executive directors, including Leathers, and to pay for his own role as full-time community organiser.

Meanwhile the group is constantly on the lookout for other regeneration opportunities. It is converting 39 Cambridge Road, just along from Rock House, into four affordable flats, two of which will be ready for occupation in August. Another conversion project in the town centre is close to being arranged.

Assuming the Ore Valley project is able to proceed as planned, it could set a benchmark for an alternative house-building model which could prove attractive to the council at a time when affordable housing is often excluded or dropped from private developers’ schemes.

And a boost to house-building in Hastings in general is also needed – the council may find itself subject to sanctions if it is unable to increase the number of houses built each year to the level required by central government.


Heart of Hastings Annual General Meeting 11am, Saturday 28 July at the Old Power Station site, Firtree Road, Ore Valley, Hastings TN34 3TR. All may attend but only members may vote – they are asked to bring identification. Registration will take place from 10.35 to 10.55am. The agm will be followed by a family fun day with entertainment.

Nick Terdre is a member of Heart of Hastings.

Posted 15:30 Wednesday, Jul 25, 2018 In: Home Ground


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Eye on the ball

    This sounds like a fantastic project which, if successful, could be rolled out in many parts of the borough. It certainly deserves the support of the council. As stated above, it doesn’t sound like a second developer would do much except suck money out of the project. If the government funders don’t require it, then I don’t think that HBC should either. I wish the members of the project every success.

    Comment by Eye on the ball — Monday, Jul 30, 2018 @ 08:38

  2. Penny

    Maybe ZEDfactory haven’t yet been initiated into the local Freemasons?

    Comment by Penny — Monday, Jul 30, 2018 @ 08:16

  3. ken davis

    Given the existing involvement of ZEDfactory (an experienced developer) it is hard to see why HBC want yet another developer to be involved in the project. ZEDfactory are very experienced in both the innovative construction proposed and the building economics that go with it. Is it perhaps that the Council do not know enough about ZEDfactory or do they want a local developer to become more knowledgeable of such innovative design and construct methods?
    What would be useful in terms of gaining interest from local (HBC) developers would be to have a detailed brief from the council on what they expect from developer e.g financial stability, project experience, their expected profit margin etc.

    Comment by ken davis — Thursday, Jul 26, 2018 @ 09:40

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