The promise of £3.5m of public funds for development of a commercial “innovation park” on a site off the northern stretch of the Queensway link road has been withdrawn. SELEP (South Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership) had allocated this money out of a Getting Building Fund initiated by central government to not-for-profit development company Sea Change Sussex in October last year on a prospectus that the project to build over 4,000 square metres of light industrial units was fully costed, “shovel ready”, and could be completed by March 2022 – it just needed planning permission from Hastings Borough Council (HBC). 

But, as previously reported in HIP, Sea Change’s application met with substantial objections, including from Natural England, Sussex Wildlife Trust and nearly two hundred other objectors concerned at the potential effect on the adjoining nature reserve at Marline Valley. Its plan for heating the units by gas boiler was also lambasted by local energy company Energise Sussex Coast (see Energy Partner Slams Sea Change in HIP 182 back in August).  

There has also been dis-agreement between Sea Change and East Sussex County Council (ESCC) over a sum in excess of £800,000 paid by SELEP to the latter to cover part of the project delivery costs. 

SELEP warned Sea Change in September that the whole of their £3.5m funding would be withdrawn unless, by 19 November when its Accountability Board would next meet, agreement had been reached with ESCC and planning permission granted by HBC. In the event neither were achieved. The funding has been duly confirmed as withdrawn and released for reallocation to alternative projects within SELEP’s “prioritised project pipeline”.

Opponents are cautious in their rejoicing. The campaigning website Seachangewatch warns that Sea Change may still continue with its planning application in the hope of securing an alternative injection of public money some time in the future. However, the company, while making no response to the withdrawal of funds for the North Queensway project, issued a statement last week that it is armed with a separate £1.5m funding allocation from SELEP to build 84,000 sq ft of light industrial floorspace at Bexhill Enterprise Park North at the other end of the link road, and is “moving forward with the first phase of development”.

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