Background to the Ore Valley project
The Ore Valley project on the old Broomgrove Power Station site, was set up by, and for, the local community. The current aim is to enable the community to use this open space for different events throughout 2017, and to engage and involve as many people as possible in order to use the land in a way that benefits the community. Longer term plans are for affordable, sustainable housing and employment opportunities for local people. Events planned, or already carried out, include Mechanics for youngsters, a bulk-buying Grub Club, Energy Advice sessions, wildlife walks, green gym tasks, paintballing, rubbish clearing and recycling, BBQs and music, art installations, outdoor films and projections, woodwork and woodland craft lessons.
Changing the story
Ore has a history of being a neglected neighbourhood. It had a brief boom time from 1815–1830 mainly from building labour creating a new visitor destination. Once the road to St. Leonards opened up, Ore Valley was quickly forgotten. It became the site for a large workhouse and all kinds of industrial factories including a coal-fired power station. Then, just as the valley sides were filled with council housing, the employment disappeared and the community became conveniently easy for Hastings to ignore.
This post-industrial isolation partly explains the current deprivation figures. Ore Valley is not only the poorest part of Hastings, but in the poorest 1% of areas in England with local statistics for health, employment, skills and poverty affecting children particularly unacceptable.
There are two massive ex-industrial sites of completely unused space sitting derelict at the heart of the valley, both without public access or particularly diverse wildlife. There have been lots of promises from various agencies over the years but little has changed. The old power station could be the site that makes all the difference, right at the heart of a community that needs the chance, and can most benefit from the outcome.
What can happen —
Something big, for change… built from below by local residents themselves.
There are new ideas from local people in other places about how neighbourhoods can ‘self renovate’ from the bottom up. This approach, known as the Organisation Workshop (OW) could work well here.
The Organisation Workshop is a radical approach first developed in Brazil. It has been used all over the world to help the most ‘excluded’ people to change their environment and their lives. A great example, the only time it has ever been tried in the UK, is Marsh Farm Outreach in Luton. In the Ore Valley we would like to promote an OW scheme which would build a practice house and lay a key section of the ‘Greenway’ route. The 12-week OW would lead directly into a much larger project using all the skills and organisation to build a whole new settlement of up to 60 community ‘self build’ houses and other facilities.
The theory is simple!
A large group of people (40 or 100 or even more) are given the land and the ‘means of production’ (equipment, material, access to expertise). The only thing missing is organisation which they must create themselves. As they do so, they not only transform the land, creating assets for their own community, but the individuals themselves are positively changed as they grow friendships, networks and enterprises.
The Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust is supporting this community opportunity that could be the new ‘Power House’ of the Ore Valley.