Mon 22 November 2021
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Photo: Local residents rally to save Marline Valley, Aug 2021 https://bit.ly/3qHwenK
SeaChange Sussex loses £3.5m funding for North Queensway business park project
Project had failed to meet the funding deadline set by SELEP and was vastly over budget
SeaChange Sussex has lost £3.5m in funding for its controversial North Queensway business park project. The decision  was made on 19 November by the Accountability Board of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, which had granted SeaChange £3.5m for the project from the government’s Getting Building Fund in October 2020 .
At its meeting in September, the Accountability Board had warned SeaChange that unless it had secured both planning permission and a third party funding agreement with East Sussex County Council (ESCC) by 19 November, funding would be withdrawn .
At the 19 November meeting, the Board heard that neither condition had been met. Board member and leader of ESCC Keith Glazier stated that ESCC would like the project to be given more time, and asked that it be retained within the Getting Building Fund programme in the event that more money became available at a later date. He was told that this was not a decision the Accountability Board could make. A decision was then taken by the board to withdraw funding.
The project was granted £3.5m in funding in October 2020 and -according to SeaChange’s business case – wassupposed to be finished by October 2021. At the time the funding was granted, the total cost was projected to be £4.5m, with SeaChange putting in £1m of its reserves . However, an appendix to the agenda pack for the Accountability Board’s November meeting notes  that the projected cost of the project has risen by £1.9m [42%] as a result of ‘increased materials costs and adverse site conditions’. This cost would be covered, the Board was told, by assembling a ‘joint venture partnership’ .
The North Queensway project has been extremely controversial locally. The development is opposed by Marline Wood leasee Sussex Wildlife Trust  whilst Natural England has expressed ‘considerable concerns’ about the application due to its impact on the adjacent Marline Valley nature reserve and SSSI . A protest was held at the site in August , and last week 130 local people wrote to Keith Glazier to ask him to withdraw funding .
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.’
 https://www.southeastlep.com/app/uploads/2020/10/Summary-of-decisions-19.11.21-final.pdf – see item 9, point 6 (the business park project is referred to as ‘fast track business solutions for the Hastings manufacturing sector’)
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