On 11 September 2015, SeaChange submitted a planning application for the North Bexhill Access Road. There is no date yet for the application to be considered by Rother District Council’s planning committee, but according to government guidance, major planning applications should be determined within 13 weeks, although this can be extended to 26 weeks. Rother District Council’s planning website states that the NBAR application will be decided by 1 January 2016.
Business case not expected before April 2016…
However, a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that the business case for the road will not be evaluated until months after that date. The road has been granted £5m in funding by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP). In its response to the FoI request, Essex County Council (the accountable body for SELEP) stated that:
‘While the North Bexhill Access Road scheme is included as part of the SELEP Growth Deal, it is not programmed to start in 2015/16 and, as such, the business case has not yet gone through our Independent Technical Evaluation process or the SELEP Accountability Board for approval. Also, the funding has not yet been guaranteed by the Government (they have provided indicative allocations only for future years funding).
The business case and ITE evaluation will be published on the SE LEP website once this stage is completed; this is not expected to be before April 2016‘.
…but countryside can be destroyed anyway
In other words, the planning committee will be asked to make a decision on the application before it has been shown that there is a viable business case or guaranteed funding. When the Queensway Gateway road planning application was passed, SeaChange wasted no time in chopping down almost every tree in Hollington Valley – despite knowing that a legal challenge had been launched.
If the application for the NBAR is passed, we expect SeaChange’s chainsaw contractors to be out on the route of the road almost immediately. The planning application shows that the road would require the removal of 35 trees, 1,815m of ‘species-rich’ hedgerows, three badger setts, and ‘the loss and fragmentation of habitats of value to foraging, commuting and potentially tree roosting bats, breeding birds, reptiles and potentially dormice’ (see points 15.3.4 and 15.3.5 of links).
Rother Council: no business case, no permission?
All this could be destroyed, without SeaChange having shown that there is a viable case for the scheme. Obviously, we want Rother District Council to refuse planning permission for this destructive, unwanted, costly and polluting road. But right now, we’re calling on the council to refuse to consider the planning application unless and until SeaChange produces a business case. The countryside is too precious to be destroyed for a project which might never even happen.
If you live in Rother and your councillor is on the Planning Committee, please contact them to ask that they refuse to consider the application until SeaChange produces a business case. Otherwise, please contact the Chair of the committee, Councillor Kentfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the same request.