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White Rock & Hastings Commons: Owning the Future Together


This film was recorded in May 2023 within a coaching relationship between Jess Steele and Northern Heart & Soul CIC of Wigan and funded by Proper Good Wigan.

A number of Wigan people had become newly curious about community ownership. This session was organised to explore community ownership possibilities and use the Hastings Commons story to exercise the imagination muscle. Given that it’s a story of the commons, it felt important to share.

The film shows what is possible when you think differently about regeneration. Working at street level, it became clear that controlling the money and using it for what mattered to people was really important.

Hastings Commons uses a pioneering approach to community-led regeneration, DIY-style. They own and manage a diverse set of buildings in the White Rock area of Hastings.

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. Hastings Commons serves as a beacon marking a different approach to development – for the community, by the community.

Jess coined the term “self-renovating neighbourhoods,” offering an alternative to the false choice of gentrification or decline.

One of Jess’s key messages is:

Get in the building as soon as you can, even if you’re just on a meanwhile lease or a temporary arrangement – preferably get a freehold. You can get a freehold and not have all the money lined up for the work.

Hastings Commons use deep engagement to build power and bring spaces into use, so that people can change their own lives and shape the place. The Commons is made up of the physical resources that create the environments for these things to grow in, plus the people who benefit from and care for those resources (‘commoners’) and the actions they take together (‘commoning’).

Jess is the founder of Jericho Road Solutions, which helps local leaders make better neighbourhoods and influences government, funders and corporates to make that easier. Jericho Road is a two-way street linking practice and policy, neighbourhood and national perspectives to unlock the hidden resources for local transformation.

Jericho Road Solutions is a founder investor in Hastings Commons, alongside Meanwhile Space and WRNV Ltd.