The funding has been withdrawn from Seachange’s controversial North Queensway business park project, leaving the future of the project in doubt.
SELEP’s accountability board had decided in September that the £3.5m funding would be withdrawn (p113) if SeaChange had failed to meet two key conditions by the time of the next board meeting on 19 November.
SeaChange fail to meet conditions
The conditions were to secure planning permission, and to complete a third-party funding agreement with East Sussex County Council (who would be receiving the funding from SELEP and passing it on to SeaChange).
SeaChange failed to meet either of these conditions, and the funding – from the government’s Getting Building Fund – was withdrawn at the board meeting on 19 November.
More time to be given?
In the event, the appendix was not mentioned. It’s likely that members of the board were aware of the big campaign against the project, and were not keen to put themselves in a position where they could be accused of caving in to SeaChange.
Cllr Glazier can’t let go of the project
Councillor Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, had been in receipt of an email signed by over 130 people, as well as numerous other emails, demanding that he follow through on the decision made at the September meeting, and vote to withdraw funding for the scheme.
He wasn’t delighted about the situation, and said that, “Our preference would be for more time to be given, but recognise that if the Board is minded to remove the project from the programme at this time that it be retained as a future prioritised project…should any further funding be reallocated to the programme.”
Nobody else took him up on his suggestion that more time should be given for SeaChange to meet the conditions, and it was agreed that funding should be withdrawn. As for retaining the project as a priority within the Getting Building Fund programme, in case more funding should become available, Cllr Glazier was told that any such decision would have to be made by SELEP’s strategic board (which, conveniently, Cllr Glazier also sits on).
Project dead for now – but could rise again
What will happen now? As the project was already £1.9m over budget, a deficit which SeaChange was hoping to cover using a ‘joint venture partnership’, it doesn’t seem possible that it can go any further at this point.
We anticipate that SeaChange will continue with the planning application, in the hope that they can get planning permission, then wait for another large injection of public money. We’ll be there, both to oppose the planning application, and to campaign against any further public money being spent on this destructive project.
We may not have seen the back of the North Queensway business park yet. But construction is certainly not going to be starting next month, as SeaChange had hoped. For now, let’s hold on to that victory, whilst keeping an eye on the wider war.