Bid to make new jobs in Hastings blocked by Whitehall

A MULTI-MILLION pound bid to create 700 jobs in Hastings has been turned down by the Government.

Economic development company Sea Space submitted the application in the summer for £7 million from the Regional Growth Fund, with the support of all the county’s local authorities, including Hastings Borough Council (HBC), and many businesses.

But it was recently announced Hastings had been unsuccessful.

The funding would have allowed Sea Space to undertake further development at the Priory Quarter business district in the town centre and at the Enviro21 Innovation Park in Queensway.

The bad news was announced at a meeting of the council’s cabinet committee.

Councillor Peter Chowney, HBC’s lead member for regeneration, said: “To say that we are disappointed that our £7 million bid was unsuccessful would be an understatement.

“This investment was key to ensuring Hastings’ regeneration and would have provided 700 jobs, which in an area of high unemployment would have been instrumental to our economic future.

“Hastings has been ignored in both rounds of Regional Growth Funding, and there seems little prospect of them doing much more to aid our economic recovery.”

Council leader Jeremy Birch said: “The money could have helped the next phase of the Priory Quarter development, which has already seen significant development with the arrival of Saga, attracting around 700 jobs.

“This is the second time we have been unsuccessful in a bid for Regional Growth Fund money. Our last unsuccessful bid was made last year.

“We also put forward an application earlier this year to become an Enterprise Zone, an area that enjoys reduced business rates but we were again not successful. The area that was successful was Dover and Sandwich in Kent.

“All the things that the new Government has suggested we bid for we have done and lost so we draw the conclusion that the Government has lost interest in Hastings.

“We have to look at other funding opportunities, whether it is European money or Lottery funding, marketing Hastings better to attract inward investment and develop our cultural plans around the Jerwood Gallery and The Stade.”

Nick Perry, Lib Dem spokesman, said: “This is very disappointing news coming on the tail of the failed bid for Enterprise Zone status. I am afraid I lay the blame squarely at the MP’s door. We need Amber Rudd to be prepared to ruffle a few feathers at Westminster on behalf of the town. She should be putting her constituency first.”

Ms Rudd said she was also disappointed over Monday’s announcement but said there was still plenty of money coming into Hastings, such as £1.5 million of cash to help children from deprived areas, and remained optimistic that East Sussex County Council’s multi-million pound bid for funding towards the Hastings to Bexhill Link Road will be successful.

A decision on that is due next month.

Ms Rudd said: “We have got to pick ourselves up and continue to make the case for Hastings. It is a fantastic place, and the more we talk it up, the more likely we will get support.”