Hastings rocks


A mixed-use development is bringing new homes and commercial space to a brownfield site on Hastings’ revitalised seafront. Patrick Hanlon, founder and CEO of Roost People, explores how the developer retained the building’s historic facade while replacing everything behind it.

Set on the scenic seafront of Hastings, East Sussex, a new development is soon to release nine one-, two- and three-bedroom modern apartments with uninterrupted coastal views to a once derelict site.

Retaining its heritage, the historic facade of the building will be kept intact, complying with the stringent local conservation rules, while the rest of the building has been demolished and the new project built behind it, adding not just the homes – which includes two penthouses front and back – but a courtyard and commercial units. 

Aiming to reach a high standard of amenity and finish, most of the flats will offer private balconies – with the front penthouses facing towards the sea, and the rear flats looking onto a cliff face featuring a natural spring – as well as underfloor heating throughout (powered by air source heat pumps).

Due to be released early next year, White Rock Heights is the newest project in the 500-strong portfolio of Roost People. The locally-based property developer and management firm has a particular focus on the private and public rental sector.

Once complete, all of the high-spec flats will be released for public sale, and the commercial units will be let by the landlord, who will maintain the freehold of the building, with a communal power supply sourced through solar panels on the building’s roof.


Founded in 2004 by Patrick Hanlon himself, Roost People are a subsidiary of the group – property owners and developers, with the group managing a number of Hanlon-owned partnerships and companies in Hastings and the surrounding areas. 

According to Patrick, the properties the company owns span a period of nearly 400 years, starting in the Stuart era – a 1664 pub in the old town of Hastings – and spanning through to the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras.

“We pride ourselves on refurbishing, renovating and restoring original housing stock, from Grade II listed accommodation through to properties located in the many conservation areas in our towns – often bringing unsympathetically converted apartments into the 21st century,” he says.

The company’s main clientele so far have been the NHS and local authorities, with the group providing a range of furnished accommodation for key workers, asylum seekers, temporary accommodation and private rental.

Looking towards the White Rock project, Patrick considers what it will bring to the table: “Our new build offering gives us the opportunity to build properties using all the amazing modern methods of building and materials to provide low cost accommodation for the modern era.”


As the offices of Roost People are also located directly on Hastings seafront, just adjacent to the previously dilapidated building that would become White Rock Heights, the team had long been aware of the site.

According to Patrick, the property had been derelict for some time, which both the team and others had long noted, and hoped to do something about.

Helping things along, the previous owners were reportedly parents of a friend of Patrick’s, and they in fact approached him directly with the opportunity. As such, the site was never even advertised openly on the market before the project was theirs. 

As soon as Patrick and his business partner purchased the property, the team began to submit planning applications for the development, which as they stand today include nine flats – made up of four one-bed apartments, three two-bed apartments, and two three-bed apartments – two commercial units, a communal courtyard, and a link building with lift and staircase for residential access. 


While the acquisition of the property was very straightforward, the planning process was less so. According to Patrick, the main challenges here related to the retaining of the front facades, and the materials used throughout. 

“Planning complications were introduced by the site being in a conservation area, restricting what could be upgraded and how everything should look on the front of the building.”

Cast iron had to be specified for all guttering and downpipes, for example, and timber windows had to be specified on the front facade – “which cost significantly more than the aluminium windows throughout the rest of the project.”

Thankfully, these restrictions have been overcome over frequent meetings with Hastings Borough Council’s conservation officer, with all now having agreed both what materials are deemed “acceptable by the council, but also feasible on the construction side of things.”


In order to begin construction of these designs, careful planning had to be undertaken to ensure the safety of both the front facade and its neighbours while the rear half was demolished.

To achieve this, a structural scaffold engineer designed a bespoke scaffold structure, and with this in place the team were able to demolish the majority of the building, leaving a spine wall supporting the front facade. 

Following this, the scaffold structure was then erected, ‘pinning’ the front facade so the remaining wall could be demolished. A steel frame was then designed to be tied into the front facade holding this in place, so the scaffold could be removed.

Other repairs to the front facade involved repointing and new lintels, and the new shop front (replacing the dilapidated building’s former shop front) was recreated to replicate the traditional features of the previous incarnation. 


While the retention of the front facade during demolition proved complex, the installation of the new building also posed some interesting design challenges.

The design of the building behind the facade for instance still had to remain sympathetic to the previous structure. 

One way in which this was achieved was through the specification of a cobbled floor in the communal courtyard and residential entrance, with a glazed brick wall to fit the local vernacular. 

“This has been complimented by more modern elements,” adds Patrick, such as glazed balustrades and balconies behind the front facade. The two penthouses themselves display an innovative tiered configuration to achieve uninterrupted sea views from each. 

Another inspiration of its locale, according to Patrick, many of the materials used here were “heavily influenced” by the proximity of the sea and the salt air.

For example, when planning was initially granted, the roof was to be copper, but the team soon realised that this would not suit the location. “We quickly agreed that, considering where the property resides, we should find an alternative material to avoid the quick discoloration copper would have seen in such a location.”

Throughout this process, Patrick says the build has been carried out with “meticulous attention to detail and rigorous design and construction methods,” from the “extremely efficient” heating systems to the high thermally rated double glazing systems used (This was supplied by Tradestar, who are a local double glazing and window specialist). 


According to Patrick, while the project is yet to be completed, the development has already been “well received” by the community. 

Looking to the future, he believes it is in quality and efficiency that the company will continue to invest. This is already highly apparent at White Rock, with air source heat pumps and enhanced insulation throughout ensuring as high scoring an EPC as is possible, plus any materials sourced for the project being environmentally friendly and carbon neutral where possible.

“Our properties are always designed and built with extremely low energy consumption and low carbon output, providing a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling ,” explains Hanlon.

“We are constantly working towards upgrading our portfolio,” he adds, “with the aim of making all our properties even more energy efficient.”



Michael George – CADtech     

Paul Marlow – technical designer at Marlow Technical

Patrick Hanlon – founder & CEO of Roost People

Laura Field – project quantity surveyor