June 26, 2015 by combehavendefenders
‘It’s now time to build the final piece of the ‘economic growth corridor’… the North Bexhill Access Road’. That’s according to SeaChange Sussex, who are proposing (very quietly, shh…) to build another road (yes, you read that right: another road) to ‘provide access to extensive business development land… helping local firms to expand and attracting companies to the site, creating jobs.’ Or, depending on how you look at it, destroying more of our countryside, creating more traffic, and – almost certainly – failing to bring the promised benefits.
We were told that a planning application for this new road would be submitted in the ‘late summer’.
More business parks?
In terms of the ‘business development land’, access to which is apparently the main point of the NBAR, it’s worth remembering what happened with Enviro 21 and North Queensway Innovation Park: one is half empty, the other is completely undeveloped. SeaChange is also proposing to build another business park on top of Hollington Valley (if they can get round their little local difficulty with planning permission). And they’re in the middle of building a vast business park at the Bexhill end of the link road. Just how many business parks does this area need?
A consultation about the new road was advertised in the Hastings Observer on 19 June. Curiously, the advert gave not the tiniest indication of whose road it was:
The mystery continued when we reached the exhibition: eight lovely panels (which looked rather familiar) but again, no indication whatsoever of who was responsible. We had already guessed it was SeaChange, and we were right, but why are they being so secretive? Are they hoping nobody will notice it’s their project?
Not only was there nothing with their logo on, there was also not a sniff of a SeaChange employee, unless you count Tariq, who has the thankless task of providing PR services for elusive CEO of SeaChange, John Shaw. Where was John, we asked Tariq? He’s not available today, he said. Just then his phone rang: it was John! Tariq didn’t answer.
In the 2006 Rother Local Plan, the area north of Bexhill due to be developed was much smaller:
Now, the allocated area is much larger: this, according to an engineer from Campbell Reith at the exhibition, will be reflected in policy BX3 (below) of the ’emerging’ local plan, in which the road is referred to as the ‘Country Avenue’, which sounds suitably bucolic.
However, this policy appears to refer only to the area in the map above – the proposed development stops at Watermill Lane. The new plan has the road, and associated development, joining the A269 just before Freezeland Lane. This is a vast increase in proposed development land.
You can see from the map below that the road will join the A269 well to the west of Sidley: the entire area to the south of the road – currently farmland and woodland – could be infilled with housing and business parks.
This was a question a number of people were asking, but there was no answer. Nobody knew: but even if they did, we were told, they wouldn’t be able to tell us because it would be commercially sensitive. It seems odd that Seachange is about to submit a planning application for an enormous road, and doesn’t know how much it’s going to cost.
What we did find out was that it would be public money (surprise!) from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), the unaccountable quango run by our old friend Peter Jones. SELEP has funded many other SeaChange projects including North Queensway, the Queensway Gateway road, the Bexhill Gateway road and Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne.
We managed to dig out a document which suggested it would be £5m, but this cannot possibly be correct (unless East Sussex County Council is going to pick up the rest of the bill): the road is a little less than half the length of the link road, which is going to cost over £116m. We ventured a ballpark figure of £50m: the engineer scoffed, saying that it would never be built at that price. Watch this space, folks.
We were assured that many, not to say most, of the people who had visited the consultation had been very much in favour of the new road. This claim was slightly undermined by a quick shuffle through the feedback forms, most of which were very much against the road: words used included ‘angry’, ‘concerned’, ‘worried’, ‘damaging’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘pointless’, ‘extremely unhappy’ and ‘devastated’.
As an aside: those fretting that it may be impossible to fill these endless business parks can take some small comfort that we were told that there is ‘serious interest’ in Glover’s House (aka the Bexhill Innovation Mall), whilst there are ‘conversations’ going on about the rest of the ‘Innovation Park’ at the Bexhill end of the link road, and no fewer than three ‘serious conversations’ going on about North Queensway Innovation Park (yes, that’s a lot of innovation). We wait with bated breath to see whether these ‘conversations’ actually go anywhere, or if it’s all a load of hot air.