From: Andrea Needham, Milward Road, Hastings
Re: your report that SeaChange Sussex has submitted a planning application to construct a car showroom on the North Queensway Innovation Park.
This is presented as if it’s some kind of achievement. In fact, the car showroom is to be a replacement site for the Bartlett SEAT business on the A21 which needs to move because, according to SeaChange, “the Queensway Gateway road (QGR), currently under construction, may need to go through its current site to join Sedlescombe Road North.”
The words ‘may need to go through its current site’ tell us an awful lot about SeaChange. The company started work on the QGR over three years ago. One might think that by now, they would have worked out whether the showroom is in the way of the road or not. And if it is, one might think that SeaChange would have started work on a replacement premises a little sooner. The QGR was supposed to be ready around a year after the Bexhill Hastings Link Road opened in December 2015.
SeaChange will no doubt say that legal challenges delayed the QGR, but that was only for a few months. Three years on from the opening of the Link Road, there’s no sign that the QGR is going to be finished anytime soon.
Bartlett SEAT can hardly be expected to vacate their current premises until a new one has been built for them, and given that the planning application has only just been submitted, it might be a couple of years before they’re able to move.
That would mean that the 600 metre-long QGR had taken five years to build. And in addition to the mismanagement of the construction, there’s been a huge overspend.
SeaChange initially said they could build the road for just £6m.
Now the projected cost has doubled to £12m, with £2m of the overspend being taken out of the walking and cycling budget for Hastings.
This is an absolute scandal.
And when Bartlett SEAT finally move in to their new premises on the North Queensway Innovation Park, they may feel a little lonely.
When SeaChange was given funding for the site in 2012, we were promised that it would create 865 jobs.
Six years on, and the site – which used to be a beautiful wooded area contiguous with the ancient woodland of Marline Valley – is utterly empty, an eyesore of chopped down trees and flytipping. The promised jobs are no longer mentioned.
It’s time that Hastings woke up to the reality of our local ‘regeneration’ company, SeaChange Sussex.
The town deserves better.