On Wednesday March 25th local residents, community organisations and academics were among those gathered to explore what we could learn about community led regeneration in the local area and how what has been learnt from past projects can be used to inform future initiatives. The afternoon began with a poster display featuring examples of regeneration initiatives from Burton St Leonards Society , HastingsTrust, Hastings Greenway, Hastings Urban Design Group, Nick Wates Associates, Hastings Borough Council, Groundwork provided 3 posters featuring Hastings Country Park Visitor Centre, Fishing boat restoration project and Combe Valley Countryside Park with The White Rock Trust offering a poster as well as a model of the White Rock Area, made by local artist John Knowles.
As everyone moved to the lecture theatre the speakers for the afternoon kicked off with some scene setting from Steve Manwaring who talked about the particular issues faced by Hastings as a town, some of the regeneration which has already taken place and what questions should be asked before commencing future regeneration projects. Questions such as “How can we ensure that everyone benefits from the regeneration of Hastings?” and “How do we support those we identify as being at risk of “missing out”?”(Steve’s Slides). This was followed by Professor Andrew Church talking about the aspirations for the afternoon(Andrew’s slides). .
Frank Rallings talked about current and future initiatives and legislation and how these initiatives have been implemented both locally and in other areas of the country. The presentation explored different aspects of The Localism Act 2011, from neighbourhood plans which aimed to give people a greater say in how their neighbourhoods are developed, to requesting that a building or piece of land become an Asset of Community Value. Following on from this Frank looked at some Community campaigns locally, where these have been successful and the sort of funding that has been awarded for various projects and community Interest Companies such as Hastings Pier and the Saltdean Lido, as well as the other funding streams that might be available for future projects(Frank’s slides).
Next we heard of Jess Steele’s experiences of community led regeneration in her earlier career in Deptford and with projects such as Hastings Pier, The White Rock Trust and Rock House more recently in Hastings. Continuing on the theme of people having more control over the development of their surroundings, Jess talked of regeneration being “The unleashing of resources to nurture transformational local change” and of the ways in which these resources could be accessed(Jess’ slides). Following on from Jess was Monica Adams-Acton, Head of Regeneration and Planning policy at Hastings Borough Council, who offered a more council focused perspective. Following this there was comment from the audience that the council could perhaps had over ownership of assets such as the lido site to the community.
Revisiting her PhD findings, Dr Jo Orchard-Webb talked about the possible barriers and opportunities for meaningful community engagement with formal regeneration initiatives in Hastings. Showing the audience a rather confusing looking diagram of the various groups and sub-groups, who are part of the decision making process for local regeneration, Jo spoke of the institutional congestion that can be hard for the community to negotiate. She also spoke of the danger of the community being represented by just a few ‘usual suspects’ and how this reliance on community stars may lead to a disconnect with the wider community(Jo’s slides).
Nick Wates then introduced the idea of a timeline to map regeneration in the Hastings area, which could stretch back as far as memories allow and in to the future. This timeline is based one carried out in the North East Hastings area, which had been used to map developments in that area of the town and had proved to be a valuable tool for building a collective memory and could be used as a planning tool for thinking forward. For the Hastings timeline, as well as physical display which can be taken to events around the town for residents to add to, there will also be an interactive website. The delegates were then encouraged to pick up a pen and post-it note and add their own regeneration memories to the timeline on the wall next door(Nick’s slides).
The Final part of the afternoon saw a panel taking questions and comments from the audience, the panel was Chris Lewcock from Hastings Urban Design Group, Jess Steele, Steve Manwaring and Stuart Woodin of Aecom and chaired by Andrew Church. The discussion ranged from:
- Why should people want to lead regeneration?
- How the term regeneration has become tainted but is really just about ‘anything you want to change in your space’.
- How local people feel they have limited involvement with the regeneration and planning process, with the possible exception of the pier.
- How regeneration often looks at just buildings and jobs and that perhaps a more holistic approach would be beneficial, considering health and recreation facilities as well.
- The Vital need for economic inclusion.
- Delinquent owners, why are private owners not improving the property?
- Why did SeaSpace rebrand to SeaChange?
- How the observer building has had 12 private owners over 30 years, with no development of the building being followed though.
- The Dangers of gentrification and how there is a need for something alongside gentrification to make it meaningful for existing residents.
- That there is a value in identifying projects that didn’t work, as much can be learnt from things which have been unsuccessful
The afternoon was ended with a few words from David Wolff from the University’s Community and University Partnership Programme(CUPP) about the opportunity for organisations to develop projects with academics and apply for funding from the Hastings Exchange seed fund to get the projects off the ground ( Seed Funding 2015 Guidance ).
Thank you to all that contributed to and attended what was a very interesting afternoon. If you have any questions about the timeline or have any information or links that would be relevant and of interest to those that attended the event please contact Hastings-Exchange@brighton.ac.uk , so they can be added to this blog. To find out about future Hastings Exchange events visit our webpages here, subscribe to this blog or follow us on twitter @Hast_Exchange.