December 3, 2013 by combehavendefenders
Need a job? Sea Change Sussex is inviting ‘expressions of interest for the provision of engineering services’ to support its £2m ‘Queensway Gateway Road’ project. Yes, one Gateway Road was not enough: we need two!
This road will link the northern end of Queensway with the A21, and is the Baldslow Link by another name. Amber Rudd MP likes to call the Baldslow Link ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’: in her view, it is necessary to relieve the inevitable congestion that will be created on the Ridge when the Link Road opens.
More business parks…
As with the other Gateway Road – which will join the Link Road to Wrestwood Road in Bexhill – the absolutely key element of it is the ‘opening up’ of land for ‘development’. According to Sea Change, the new road will ‘releas[e] around 4[hectares] of land for development with a potential for around 20-25,000m2 of new business space’. This would appear to be yet more speculative development. Combe Haven Defenders have repeatedly asked Sea Change to name some of the companies who have expressed interest in taking premises in the ‘business park’ around the other Gateway Road; Sea Change has repeatedly refused to answer.
Queensway Gateway : details
The expression of interest form for ‘highway engineering services’ describes the road thus:
‘The proposed road will link the B2092 (Queensway) from a point to the north of the Battle Road bridge to the A21 just north of Sainsburys. The route will cross the Hollington Valley following as far as possible the existing contours and then run between Sainsburys and Whitworth Rd to the A21. The overall length of the road is approximately 600m and comprises:
The construction of a new junction with Queensway (possibly signal controlled);
A new roundabout junction with the A21;
An intermediate junction or junctions accessing the development areas either side of the Gateway Road;
Footpath generally one side of the road;
Surface water drainage structures;
It is worth noting that all of the land earmarked for the road and associated business development, is open, wooded, green space. Much of it makes up the Hollington Valley Site of Natural Conservation Importance which is designated because of its ‘semi natural woodland with associated stream and meadows’.
The strange case of the disappearing news
If you look on the Sea Change website today, you’ll find no mention of the Queensway Gateway (QG) Road. Which is odd, because until 28 November, when Combe Haven Defenders started asking questions about it, the ‘news’ page had a big splash on this grand scheme, with a link to the expression of interest form. Now it’s disappeared – but not to worry, we’d already downloaded it so if you’re interested in tendering, here it is.
The strange case of the disappearing Sea Change representative
Having found that Sea Change’s answers to our questions were less than fulsome, we decided to go along to the Link Road exhibition in Sidley, where – according to East Sussex County Council (ESCC) – members of the public could ‘speak to representatives from East Sussex County Council and contractors’. Not these members of the public though: the Sea Change representative, ‘John’ (not John Shaw), refused to answer any questions, fled to the toilet, and called the police.
Queensway Gateway v Baldslow Link
Sea Change Sussex has told us categorically that Queensway Gateway is not the Baldslow Link by another name. Meanwhile, ESCC has told us – equally categorically – that it is. We believe it is the same road, and would be interested to know why Sea Change is claiming that it isn’t.
Route of the Queensway Gateway/Baldslow Link
The proposed route of the QG – aka the Baldslow Link – runs from Queensway, north of the Battle Road bridge, across the Hollington valley, then north of Sainsbury’s to join the A21 (Sedlescombe Road North).
There is an alternative route for the Baldslow Link – option 1 in the map above – which runs north of the Ridge, through the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We believe – and hope – that route has been rejected, for being too expensive, and not fulfilling one of the primary objectives of the project, that is, ‘opening up’ land for ‘development’.
£2m – cheap at twice the price
East Sussex County Council has put in a submission to the South East Local Transport Board (SELTB) for £15m to pay for the Baldslow Link (a final decision on funding will be made next year, but with BHLR cheerleader Peter Jones at the helm, the scheme is almost certain to be funded). However, according to the expression of interest for the QG project, that road will cost a mere £2m. A bargain, or a con?
Campaign for Better Transport produced a report in 2012 (Going Backwards: the new roads programme) in which it calculated that the average cost per metre of the new roads was £24,650. Applied to the 600m of the QG project, this would make the total cost £14.79m – a sum, coincidentally, remarkably similar to the estimated cost of the Baldslow Link, and over seven times what Seachange seems to think the road will cost. That Seachange can make such remarkable economies is surely to be applauded.
As with the other Gateway road, in Bexhill, nobody wants to tell us where the money is coming from. Is funding for the QG part of the £15m that ESCC has requested from SELTB? If it’s public money, surely we have a right to know?
The CEO of Sea Change is John Shaw, who was recently appointed by Peter Jones to assess the business cases for the schemes vying for funding from SELTB. In other words, he will be assessing the business case for the Baldslow Link – aka the Queensway Gateway, which his company is promoting. There is clearly the potential here for a conflict of interest, and we would like to be reassured that this possibility has been properly addressed by SELTB.
Seachange Sussex: a suitable developer?
The final question we’d like to ask is this: Even if one were to believe that we need yet another new road, and acres of ‘business parks’, is Sea Change Sussex under John Shaw a suitable organisation to be in charge of this project? John Shaw was also the CEO of its previous incarnation, Seaspace, which developed a number of ‘regeneration’ projects locally. Two of them – Lacuna Place in Hastings, and the Enviro 21 business park in St Leonards (which received £4.6m of public money) – are now in receivership. Is this a company that should be given more and more public money in order to develop endless speculative ‘business parks’? It’s a question nobody seems to want to answer.