This is why funding has been withdrawn from Hastings business park project

Funding has been withdrawn from a controversial building project in Hastings in light of significant delays.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 5:30 pm
Residents rally to save Marline Valley, Aug 2021

On Friday (November 19), the accountability board of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) confirmed that £3.5m allocated to the controversial North Queensway business park project would be withdrawn, as terms for the funding had not been met.

These terms, which were set at an earlier board meeting in March, included both the grant of planning permission and the signing of a third-party funding agreement between East Sussex County Council and its project delivery partner SeaChange Sussex.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Keith Glazier, board member and leader of East Sussex County Council, said: “Unfortunately planning permission has not been secured by the time of the meeting, although we do anticipate that the decision will be made by the planning authority in the new year.

“But have no doubt our desire to grow the East Sussex economy remains and whilst we are disappointed that East Sussex will not benefit from this important funding our commitment to economic growth as strong as it ever was.

“It is clear to me that the North Queensway project could make a strong contribution to our growth plans, as well as helping the recovery from Covid-19, by addressing the identified shortage of modern manufacturing premises in that area.”

Cllr Glazier went on to say his preference would be for the project to be given more time, but asked that it be retained within the wider programme should more funding become available at a later date.

However, he was told that this was not a decision the accountability board could make.

The project was first granted the funding in October 2020 and was initially expected to be finished by October 2021.

It was expected to have seen 4,000sqm of business accommodation built as part of the North Queensway Innovation Park. According to SELEP, the project was seeking to address an identified shortage of modern manufacturing space in Hastings.

However, the project suffered a series of setbacks, including a long delay to its submission of a planning application and protracted discussions around the terms of funding agreement between SeaChange Sussex and East Sussex County Council.

The scheme had also proven to be controversial with local residents for a number of reasons, including its potential impact on Marline Valley nature reserve.

The decision to withdraw funding was welcomed by the campaign group Seachangewatch.

In a statement released after the meeting, Seachangewatch co-ordinator Andrea Needham said: “We are delighted that the funding for this ill-fated project has been withdrawn.

“It threatened to cause irreparable harm to Marline Valley, and constituted a vast misuse of public funds, given that SeaChange has been trying to market this site for many years with no success.

“We are calling on the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to call time on this fiasco, and to state that it will not offer any more funding in the future for this destructive project.

“We will continue to oppose the pending planning application as well as any future funding applications, in order to ensure the long-term protection of Marline Valley.”

Queensway Gateway road project latest

During the same meeting, the SELEP board also received an update on the Queensway Gateway road project, which is also from SeaChange Sussex.

While the majority of the road is now complete, its final connection to the A21 via Whitworth Road has faced a series of delays, which SELEP attributes to issues with securing land for the scheme.

In light of this the proposals were significantly altered, with plans for a roundabout replaced with a temporary traffic-light controlled junction. The board heard that the work on the permanent roundabout plans had been ‘put on hold’.

In July this year, SeaChange said this temporary junction was expected to be completed in November. However, this has not come to fruition.

The board heard how the work is now expected to be completed by Summer 2022, although this would depend on land acquisition negotiations and TROs being completed.

The board asked to be provided with a further update on the project at its February meeting.