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Out and About in Hastings

With neighbourhood transformation you’re changing everything. It’s holistic. Applies to everyone. Every aspect of life - education, health, housing. You are creating the conditions to live.

-Dr Jess Steele OBE

This time last week the Footwork team were out and about in a very blustery but sunny Hastings, to discover first-hand the work of Hastings Commons and Dr Jess Steele OBE, to learn about their model of community-driven revitalisation. 

Hastings Commons are a Community Land Trust delivering community led regeneration. Since 2014, they have brought over 8,000 square metres of floor space into custodian ownership across a number 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. 

Image courtesy of Footwork

More than ‘a building’

The day was centred around a tour of the multiple buildings that Jess and the Hastings Commons team are in the process of transforming into a sustainable portfolio of assets that are available in perpetuity for the community. The nature of the tour meant that we visited buildings and sites that are in varying stages of completion, from well-established and nearly at capacity, all the way through to an empty shell with a plan! 

Highlighting the ongoing and organic nature of the development process - we discussed the benefits of this way of working, as it allows for flexibility with where financial resources are allocated. Which can almost be described as employing a meanwhile ethos of space activation with a permanent asset. This way of working does however require the ability to cope well with and plan for uncertainty. 

Conversations across the day included discussions around the importance of storytelling to win grant funding bids, to approach funding relationships as a supportive partnership and not as something extractivist.

Image courtesy of Footwork

Methods of ‘Commoning’ 

We also discussed the practice of Commoning, which is employed as a way of ensuring ongoing care for the buildings. Through Commoning, the project serves the people from the community who will look after it, cherish it and serve as its stewards. This carefully engineered exclusivity will subsequently inspire others to have a stake in the project.

Through their very local work, Hastings Commons challenges traditional approaches, creating new models of ownership, management and collaboration that can inspire people far beyond the local. 

Image courtesy of Footwork

Jess Steele currently supports our People and Place programme as a Mentor for local social innovator Deana, of Coalville CAN. Through her work at Coalville CAN, Deana is transforming their first building which stands proud in the centre of Coalville. The aim is for this building to be a community ownership flagship by the end of 2024. You can read more about Deana and her story here…

Many thanks to Jess Steele and the team at Hastings Commons for facilitating our trip, and to our friends at Mayday Saxonvale, in Froome and Stories, for the invitation.


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