John Shaw, a land economist and Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, set up Sea Space, the company which delivered the economic regeneration plan for Hastings and Bexhill and has changed the urban fabric of Hastings, bringing business development and jobs. It was funded by the Regional Development Agency, SEEDA.
He was honoured at the university’s award ceremony at Brighton Dome "in recognition of his major contribution in the field or urban and economic regeneration, most notably and recently within Hastings and Bexhill".
Chris Baker, the university’s Director of Economic & Social Engagement, said: "From the outset, as one of the key elements of the Five Point Plan for Regeneration of the town, John worked closely with the University of Brighton to establish the delivery of higher education in East Sussex, securing initially the development of what was a multi-university campus.
"For him it was a fabulous idea that had to be translated into a project to be delivered. Sometimes it was a close call with work on refurbishing the old BT building being completed by September 2003 with a week to spare. Working alongside Margaret Wallis of University of Brighton – he helped create the university as part of the unique selling point for regeneration in Hastings.
"John and his team developed commercial premises, provided business support services, worked with partners to improve local education and spoke up for the area’s interests. Sea Space was also instrumental in attracting companies to the area, most notably Saga, and helped retain existing firms, creating and protecting local jobs.
"The development of the university's presence in Hastings, initially at Havelock Road and now in the Priory Square buildings, was part of the regeneration programme. He now feels it is no longer a project but has become a campus of the University of Brighton in Hastings."
He said John went on to establish Sea Change Sussex, a not-for-profit company which is continuing economic regeneration across wider East Sussex as well as in the regeneration roots of Hastings and Bexhill.
"This includes further development of Hastings town centre business district, creation of a business park in north west Hastings and plans to develop extensive business sites in north-east Bexhill opened up by the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road."
John said: "It has been a privilege to share with the University of Brighton the journey to create the Hastings campus." And speaking to graduates, he said: "You should be aware that your university is equipping young people in East Sussex to share your privilege of a university education through the successful sponsorship of Hastings and St Leonards academies."
He said the honorary degree "has to be recognition for the hard work from my colleagues past and present – particularly the staff at Sea Change Sussex, its chair, Vice-Chancellor Professor Julian Crampton, and the board.
"Their endeavours have been tireless and supportive."