SeaChange Sussex has finally found an occupier for the North Queensway Innovation Park, nearly two and a half years after construction on the junction to the site began. A local furniture company will be moving there from another site in Hastings, bringing with it its 45 employees. It will occupy approximately quarter of the space available on the site.
Good news at last? But hang on: wasn’t this site supposed to create jobs, not just move them around from one part of Hastings to another? Let’s look at the ever-changing job claims for this site, and see how they stand up.
When the South East Local Enterprise Partnership announced that it would provide £1.5m of funding to SeaChange for fund North Queensway, it said the development would create 865 jobs.
SeaChange, however, was a bit less optimistic: in its July 2012 consultation document it said that the site would create ‘around 700′ jobs.
But look at SeaChange’s brochure for North Queensway, and there’s no mention of 700 jobs: instead, you’ll find that the site is now ‘capable of accommodating…300 employees’. So SeaChange’s promises that the site would create 700 jobs have now been replaced with the mere observation that the site is big enough to accommodate 300. It’s not clear what happened to the other 400 jobs: presumably if the site was big enough for 400 jobs in 2012, it should still be big enough now. SeaChange’s strategy appears to be to keep on lowering expectations, in the hope that in the end, we’ll all be delighted if any jobs at all are created.
Although SeaChange made great play of their one new tenant, even going so far as to accuse Combe Haven Defenders of a ‘badly timed stunt’ when they submitted the 51m access road to the site to the Museum of Useless Objects, the current development does not appear to be creating any new jobs, merely moving them from one place to another.
‘Securing’, not creating
There’s an interesting change in language in SeaChange’s latest piece of obfuscation about North Queensway though. In the ‘consultation’ document for the new development, there is no mention of the site creating jobs: instead, jobs are being ‘secured’.
The total cost of North Queensway is estimated at £32m. Of this, £1.5m comes from the Growing Places Fund and the remainder is supposed to come from ‘private sector investment leverage’ . SeaChange also appears to have been granted £5.5m from the Regional Growth Fund.
The public money was granted on the basis that the site would create 865 jobs. Thus far, the project appears to be creating a grand total of zero jobs. Value for money?