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The Ore Valley site where the Broomgrove power station once stood.

The Ore Valley site where the Broomgrove power station once stood.

Ore Valley site to be sold to Gemselect, Heart of Hastings “bitterly disappointed”

Sea Space has decided to sell the Ore Valley site to Gemselect, which is looking at a possible development of 66-75 dwellings. The decision means an end to Heart of Hastings’ dream of a community-based development. Nick Terdre reports.

Following a competitive tender process, regeneration company Sea Space says it will sell the disused power station site in the Ore Valley to Battle-based builder Gemselect for a housing development.

The company was chosen from among seven bidders by the Sea Space board, which decided “its scheme represented the best balance of value, commercial strengths and community benefits.”

“Gemselect’s scheme meets local policy objectives — including a level of affordable housing in excess of policy requirements — and involves extensive use of local workers.”

Community land trust Heart of Hastings, one of the seven bidders, told HOT it was “bitterly disappointed” at the news. It will issue a fuller statement after its board discusses the issue next Tuesday.

The site is currently closed to the public.

The site is currently behind closed doors.

According to Sea Space, Gemselect will offer “six plots within the site for the Heart of Hastings community group to create self-build homes in association with Sussex Coast College’s Ore Valley campus, therefore transferring construction skills to local people.”

Sea Space says it will reinvest the proceeds from the sale in local regeneration. It declined to reveal the sum on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Gemselect delighted

“We’re delighted to have been nominated as the preferred bidder for the Ore Valley development site,” said Gemselect director Gordon Ritchie. “The site has lain dormant for many years and we’ll now have the opportunity to release its potential as a much-needed local housing scheme.”

At the moment a possible development of 66-75 units was being looked at, he told HOT. “There will be a minimum of 25% as affordable homes,” he said. “As you know we have a good track record of providing affordable homes in Hastings on our development sites so it is likely that this percentage may well increase.

Work is progressing on Gemselect's Archery Ground development.

Work is progressing on Gemselect’s Archery Ground development.

“There will be a long and detailed design process leading to a planning application next year. Construction, if all goes to plan, may well be started in 2021.

The company is now well advanced with the Archery Ground development in St Leonards, where it is aiming at first occupations in March/April next year. It had planned to exceed the affordable housing quota but, at the behest of its social provider Orbit, sought and received permission to reduce the number to the council’s required 25%.

Contamination

The Ore Valley site is the main remaining asset held by Sea Space, a dormant company which has been superseded by Sea Change Sussex. Despite owning the site since 2008, it had not found a way to develop it. Among the obstacles to development is the contamination of the ground, formerly the location of the Broomgrove power station, which according to HoH is extensive.

However, Ritchie said that the level of contamination was “not unusual for a site of this nature and history. We are commissioning a further more detailed site investigation which will better analyse what is in the ground and how it can be dealt with.”

At one point HoH understood Sea Space would transfer the site to it at no charge, but in a dramatic volte-face the owner decided to put it on the market instead.

HoH had planned to build some 76 houses, all but a few to be made available for affordable renting or purchase. The project was to provide jobs and training for local people, and would be managed by a ‘bottom-up development’ team.

 

Posted 17:24 Friday, Nov 15, 2019 In: Home Ground

13 Comments

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  1. Bolshie

    Yes Andrea’s comments are significant here. Something few know is before the Seachange and Seaspace companies behind these two names were another two. Both connected to Seachange (Hastings & Bexhill Renaissance Ltd ) and both that after some four years went into forced insolvency.
    Coastal Land (Sussex) LLP operated under the auspices of the Seachange company had loans against property in Havelock Road and Priory Street.
    In 2011 Allied Irish Bank called in the two Charges for what appears to be around £2m.
    Another limited company in the shadows at that time was Coastal Innovation Ltd. With three Allied Irish Bank Charges and one with Seachange company. Again in 2011 they too had their Charges called in for land around the Queensway area. This ended up insolvency to a tune of around £2m. This company unlike an LLP had directors. In its five year life there were nine. The most notable on the list was John Shaw who is still with the Seaspace company.
    When these companies went down connected to Seachange and new limited company was formed – East Sussex Energy Infrastructure & Development Ltd – aka Seaspace.
    All of which doubles up with what Andrea Needham has said about these opaque business that rub shoulders with HBC.

    Comment by Bolshie — Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 @ 18:17

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Andrea Needham’s comments have truly hit the nail on the head….how is it that our elected councillors have any connection with these companies? Tha this council has any connection with this company defies belief.
    Surely it is time for a public enquiry into the management and financial situation of this company and its structure.
    The public is at a severe disadvantage here – private companies therefore no information available…surely this cannot be correct when we are talking about public monies and with elected councillors sitting on the ‘board’. Not good enough and appears decidedly questionable.
    Time for some radical action and enquiries directed to the right government departments..this situation cannot continue.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 @ 09:34

  3. Michael Madden

    In response to Kendal’s comment, I will personally vote Labour in the General Election because the alternative candidate is even worse, but the council elections are another thing. People should vote tactically just to get a more democratic spread of councillors. Even then, the problem with planning still remains, because planning officers are not elected.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 @ 08:13

  4. Andrea Needham

    Unfortunately this was inevitable. I suspect SeaChange is in serious financial difficulty, not least because of their vast overspend on the (still unfinished) Queensway Gateway Road (http://seachangesussex.info/809-2/), combined with their inability to rent the many sites they’ve developed round the town (North Queensway and the buildings on Havelock Road being prime examples). SeaSpace was always going to go for the highest bidder, then wrap it up in some nonsense about that offering the “best balance of value, commercial strengths and community benefits.” That’s my guess, although as SeaSpace/SeaChange are private companies, it’s very hard to find out what’s going on. There’s absolutely no transparency and no accountability: they can vastly misuse public money, then just keep coming back for more. As for ‘community benefits’, the only benefits I can see are to the (no doubt well recompensed, but totally invisible) director, John Shaw.

    Comment by Andrea Needham — Monday, Nov 18, 2019 @ 09:05

  5. ken davis

    Totally predictable, utterly absurb.
    Still can’t understand why Seaspace/change exist at all when the Tories did away with such Quangos years ago.

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Nov 18, 2019 @ 09:04

  6. Kendal

    maybe we should email Corbyn and Mc Donnell and tell them how many voters Chowney is going to lose Labour in this election.

    Comment by Kendal — Monday, Nov 18, 2019 @ 07:54

  7. Michael Madden

    Yet another predicted betrayal by this abysmal council. This time it’s the Heart of Hastings group, a voluntary group of well-meaning locals who were encouraged to get architects on board with a view to self-building over 70 units. To be told initially that SeaSpace would transfer it to them and now to lose years of hard work and good will like this must be gutting. They will get 6 plots within the site – Big Deal. But many people predicted exactly this. Why? Because this council cannot be trusted to do anything for the Many, only for the Few. What the council leader’s pricelessly conflicted term “entrepreneurial socialism” really means is ‘Tories policies dressed as socialist”! Surely, this should show anyone who wants to change anything for the better two things: 1. We urgently need a more balanced representation of councillors in the council, and 2. The Planning Department has too much power and will always do things that favour the same business partners – SeaSpace or SeaChange: yes,exactly – Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But they are beyond scrutiny – how democratic!

    Comment by Michael Madden — Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 @ 16:56

  8. Bolshie

    As pointed out Seaspace is heavily influenced by the council with a Labour councillor Kim Forward ( and Cllr Chowney has been a director ) as one of the nine directors, eight of which I doubt anyone would know of. How these people have been elected to serve on this company is anybody’s guess.
    And how did they decide it would be Gemselect out of the seven tenders. How much is Gemselect paying for this site. Problem here as Seaspace, a front name for a limited company, you cannot file an FOI to find anything out. All very convenient to use this set up.
    And remember this was once HBC land that was handed over to Seaspace. What a quirky set up. This has the kind of resonations of the West St. Leonards bathing pool site to me. Where the council have total control of the land and what is going to be done with it regardless of what any residents have to say about it.

    Comment by Bolshie — Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 @ 09:51

  9. Bernard McGinley

    SeaChange and SeaSpace are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the development world in the Hastings area: subtly different but in ways that are unclear. The Leader of HBC was a Director of the first, and the Deputy Leader is a Director of the second. (SeaChange is also known as Hastings and Bexhill Renaissance Ltd, while SeaSpace is also known as East Sussex Energy Infrastructure and Development Ltd.) Other councillors have also been Directors of either.
    Is an explanation from HBC about their treatment of Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust too much to expect? The Hottie reported the situation in 2017 at: https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hot-topics/home-ground/warming-up-ore-valley

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 @ 08:13

  10. Christopher Hurrell

    A Gemselect spokeperson states “There will be a minimum of 25% as affordable homes. As you know we have a good track record of providing affordable homes in Hastings on our development sites so it is likely that this percentage may well increase.”

    Don’t hold your breath for more than the minimum 25% affordable homes and maybe even less if they can convince HBC that 25% is unviable.

    This is the same Gemselect that initially offered 56% affordable homes (68 units) on the Archery Ground site . This was later reduced by 40 units with a late planning “minor” amendment to the minimum 25% ( 28 units) . HBC offered no objections to this last minute reduction of affordable housing.

    This is common practice – HBC always concede affordable housing to developers. Some other examples include “High Breezes” 82 houses with a paltry 50k contribution to affordable housing, Fern Road where misuse of minor amendments led to zero affordable housing on a development of 26 houses and Station Plaza where some 30 affordable housing units were lost.

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 @ 13:44

  11. Ms.Doubtfire

    Sea Space – Sea Change – plus a few more names come to mind here. How is it these companies manage to get their feet in the door to so many huge and costly projects? And how is it legally permissible for HBC to be so closely connected to these companies? Something does not sound right here – and a very very sad outcome indeed…you only have to look at other Gemselect developments to understand that affordable housing is low on their list of priorities…

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 @ 10:50

  12. Chris Lewcock

    This is an appalling decision which throws out of the window all the (successful) efforts put into community engagement including the pioneering (for Hastings) use of a community land trust. It also looks likely to drastically reduce the proportion of genuinely affordable housing provided on site. Sea Space (aided and abetted by the Borough Council which is represented on their Board) have just been stringing the local community along. Very very sad.

    Comment by Chris Lewcock — Friday, Nov 15, 2019 @ 20:18

  13. Julia Hilton

    What a terrible but sadly not surprising decision, Seaspace has never shown any vision or appetite for genuinely innovative and bottom up development solutions. Their version of affordable will be very different from what was planned by HoH and I doubt very much there will be any innovation in the build or attempt to make the buildings zero carbon.

    Comment by Julia Hilton — Friday, Nov 15, 2019 @ 17:28

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