Since 2014, Hastings Commons has brought over 8,000 square metres of floor space into custodian ownership across a whole cluster of buildings in the centre of Hastings, renovating them to a high quality, offering genuinely affordable rents, and supporting residents and businesses to collaborate and take more control of where they live and work.
What we now call Hastings Commons has come about organically over the past 8 years. In the summer of 2021, the trustees and directors of the core organisations – Heart of Hastings CLT, White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures, Leisure & Learning, and Project Art Works – began to meet monthly as a ‘superboard’. Jess Steele then took on the role of CEO and the ecosystem was simplified and rebranded to: Hastings Commons Neighbourhood Ventures, Hastings Commons CLT and Hastings Commons Leisure & Learning, with ‘Hastings Commons’ as the overarching brand.
Hastings Commons is an ecosystem of like-minded charities, community organisations and social entrepreneurs who work together to tackle urban decay and to implement regeneration from the ‘bottom up’ through sustained community engagement. Hastings Commons is both a place and a concept.
Commoners (the community of tenants, team and trustees) support the ‘common ground resources’ (the buildings) through ‘commoning' – stepping up to take action together. This is a pioneering approach to community-led regeneration, DIY style. But the vision is much bigger than owning and managing buildings. It’s really about the people in the buildings, how they live, work and play together. It serves as a beacon marking a different approach to development, for the community, by the community.
The Commons refers to the people - or Commoners - who use, develop and care for the spaces. Our staff, trustees, tenants and wider users of our spaces make up our community of commoners, alongside and supported by the members of the Community Land Trust.
At the moment we manage 11 rent-capped homes, 50+ workspaces and have over 120 tenants. In addition to Rock House and the Observer Building, we’ve transformed the Alley, including Rose Cottage, Harper’s Caves and 10 Claremont, created Living Rents homes at 39 Cambridge road, a public living room at Eagle House, and are starting work at last to bring 12 Claremont back from dereliction. Find out more
There are lots of different ways you can get involved in Hastings Commons: our community of commoners are central to the vision. Become a tenant, hire a space, become a member of the Community Land Trust or volunteer to support our work. Recruitment for volunteers, trustees and staff is advertised on our Get Involved page.
The social enterprise property development company White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures was established in 2014 by Meanwhile Space CIC and Jericho Road Solutions Ltd. They immediately granted 10% of the shares in the company to local community organisation White Rock Trust. This was later equalised so each partner held 1/3 of the company. After WRT collapsed in 2016-17, our funder Power to Change supported a transition of the shares to Heart of Hastings CLT.
The CLT therefore currently owns 1/3 of the shares in what is now called Hastings Commons Neighbourhood Ventures. The company’s Shareholders Agreement makes provision – once the buildings reach what we call ‘steady state’ (i.e. covering their own costs) – for the CLT to hold 100% of the shares and therefore to own and control the properties in perpetuity.
As organisations that hold assets on behalf of the community and will last long into the future, CLTs need members. Find out more and become a member to support this work.
We have had nearly 100 separate grant and loan awards from more than 50 different sources since starting with Rock House in 2014. These have come from many different organisations. Most are recognised on our Funders page. While we are extremely grateful to each and every one of them, this is not the best way to fund long-term community led change like Hastings Commons. We are actively involved with other commons-style approaches around the country and the world, and with many progressive funders who want to see things done differently, to seek better solutions for the future – both for Hastings Commons and for people everywhere who want to make positive change in their own place.
The vast majority of our funds have been for capital projects to purchase, renovate and redevelop buildings as affordable homes and workspace. As the number of buildings and the scale of the task have grown we have needed to expand our team and we currently have 18 members of staff.
We lead the £3M Trinity Triangle Heritage Action Zone which has grant-aided several local buildings and many cultural community projects celebrating ‘neighbourhood stories’.
Across the Commons we are a small team with big responsibilities so the strategy for the next three years is to focus on bringing the buildings to life and reaching ‘steady state’ to make the Hastings Commons sustainable for the long term.