SeaChange is running a little late. At least three of its projects are significantly behind schedule – and presumably above cost. It has already had to have loans from East Sussex County Council in order to complete the Bexhill Gateway road and ‘Innovation Mall’. When can we expect these projects to be finally finished, and to start creating the thousands of jobs SeaChange claims for them?
According to the brochure for the ‘North Queesnway Innovation Park’ (‘a vibrant, leafy manufacturing area’), the junction with Queensway was to be completed in summer 2013. That (a 51m road to nowhere) has been done:
Site clearance was supposed to take place in autumn 2013 – in fact, it took place in March 2014, during the nesting season (RSPB advice is that such work should be avoided between 1 March and 31 August to protect nesting birds).
Construction of the access road and drainage was scheduled for summer 2014, and finally plot preparation for property development was to take place during the second half of 2014.
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership were more optimistic: in their ‘South East Growing Places Fund project pack’ (appendix A) they say that the project will start in October 2012 and be completed in March 2013.
In fact, despite all these predictions, nothing has been done at North Queensway since the site was cleared a year ago. It’s standing empty, an eyesore and a horribly unnecessary destruction of mature and rich woodland. This might have been foreseen: the same document (appendix A, point D.4) warns that, ‘The site has been utilised since 2008 as a response to enquiring businesses but has not progressed due to the unwillingness of interested parties to fund the upfront infrastructure costs‘ (italics added).
Bexhill Gateway Road
The £5m Bexhill Gateway road (aka the ‘link road to the link road’) is also well behind schedule. Due to be finished in November 2014, there is little sign that it’s going to be finished anytime soon:
Bexhill Innovation Mall
The Bexhill Innovation Mall (aka ‘Glover’s House’, after the farmhouse which burned down in mysterious circumstances last October), is, according to SeaChange, ‘a high quality 25,235 sq ft business centre’. Paid for with £6m of public money, it is scheduled for completion in May 2015. Just weeks from then, the building looks very far from complete:
All these projects are paid for with public money on the basis that they will create jobs. All of them are significantly behind schedule, and as time goes on, so costs must rise. Who is going to be responsible for picking up the extra costs associated with these projects? Who is going to be accountable when the millions of pounds of public money don’t translate into the much-vaunted jobs? You can bet it won’t be John Shaw, director of SeaChange and overseer of another failed local project, Enviro 21. As so often, it’ll almost certainly be us who pays the price.