Author: editorialteam (page 1 of 3)

Five years after Hastings Council was recommended to have an annual briefing from SeaChange, no briefing has taken place

In April 2013, Hastings Borough Council was recommended by one of its senior officers to have an annual briefing from the director of SeaChange Sussex. Over five years on, no briefing has taken place. Continue reading

Questions asked over SeaChange Sussex giving year’s free rent to DWP for Hastings town centre offices

Press release

Seachangewatch [1]

5 June 2018

Photo: Havelock Place http://seachangesussex.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/P4243736.jpg

Contact 07565 967 250

Questions asked over SeaChange Sussex giving year’s free rent to DWP for Hastings town centre offices

Why did SeaChange offer ‘sweetener’ worth hundreds of thousands of pounds?

A document uncovered by local campaign group Seachangewatch [1] has revealed that local ‘economic development’ company SeaChange Sussex has given the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a year’s free rent on its Havelock Place offices in Hastings town centre.

The offices, on Havelock Road, were completed in March 2015 and were supposed to create 440 jobs [2]. But over two years after completion, only one tenant had been found, occupying just 16% of the space and creating just 12 jobs [2].

In January 2018, SeaChange Sussex announced [3] that the DWP had agreed to rent Havelock Place, as well as Lacuna Place, SeaChange’s other office site in the town centre. The announcement said that the DWP would be moving its staff from their current base in Ashdown House in the north of Hastings. Seachangewatch believes that no new jobs are to be created by the move.

A document [4] from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership about the development states that, ‘There is a 1 year rent free period as part of the deal and therefore risk of insufficient income to meet full 18/19 repayment.’

The £7m offices were funded by the Growing Places fund [5]. Comparisons with other offices available to rent locally suggest that SeaChange has forfeited at least £400k in rent [6] by giving the DWP a year rent-free. Earlier this year, it was announced that SeaChange would be taking £2m from its reserves to pay for overspends on the Queensway Gateway Road and North Bexhill Access Road [7].

Seachangewatch spokesperson Andrea Needham said: “SeaChange spent £7m of public money on these offices, which they were then unable to rent. Now that they finally have rented them – although creating twelve jobs rather than the hundreds we were promised – we learn that the deal with the DWP included a year’s free rent, worth at least £400k. We would like to know why this deal was made, particularly at a time when SeaChange has serious financial problems in terms of funding its road projects locally. This latest fiasco suggests that SeaChange Sussex’s financial management leaves a great deal to be desired.”

NOTES

[1] http://seachangesussex.info/

[2] http://seachangesussex.info/380/

[3] https://www.seachangesussex.co.uk/dwp-moves-hastings-town-centre/

[4] http://www.southeastlep.com/images/uploads/resources/SELEP_StratBd_160318_Appendix_2_GPF_Project_Updates.pdf

[5] http://seachangesussex.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/havelock-place-%C2%A37m-page-001.jpg – see ‘Priory Quarter phase 3’

[6] http://seachangesussex.info/712-2/

[7] https://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/press-release-funding-for-walking-and-cycling-cut-as-money-used-to-cover-queensway-gateway-road-100-cost-increase/

Why has Seachange given a government department a year’s free rent?

Seachange Sussex have finally let their Hastings town centre offices – but have given the occupiers a year’s free rent.

In January 2018, Seachange Sussex announced that they had let their Havelock Road offices. These £7m offices, in Hastings town centre, had been virtually unoccupied for two years so Seachange must have breathed a big sigh of relief when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed to let them. Continue reading

Press release: Queensway Gateway road now rated high risk in three separate categories

Press release

Seachangewatch [1]

10 April 2018

Photo: QGR under construction http://seachangesussex.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/PB031292.jpg

Contact 07565 967 250

Queensway Gateway road now rated high risk in three separate categories

‘Negative reputation will continue longer term and be hard to recover from’, documents show

The Queensway Gateway road (QGR) is now considered high risk in three separate categories, according to a recent document from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP). The document also states that the project’s negative reputation will continue longer term and be hard to recover from.

The Deliverability and Risk Assessment document [2], presented to SELEP on 16 March, rates various SELEP projects in terms of delivery, finances and reputation. The document shows [2, p63] that the QGR scores a five – the highest risk – in all three areas.

A score of five for ‘delivery’ means [2, p72] that:

‘Major issues have caused significant delays (more than 3 months); processes have been interrupted or not carried out correctly (e.g. planning permission has not been secured); or significant changes have had to be made to the aims and scope of the project. Project likely to under deliver forecast project outputs.’

According to the QGR consultation report [3], the road was due to open around a year after the Bexhill Hastings Link Road (BHLR). However, the BHLR opened over two years ago, whilst the QGR is still a significant way off being finished.

A score of five for ‘finances’ means [2, p72] that the project is at least 10% over budget. The QGR is now 100% over budget, having increased in cost from £6m to £12m [4].

And a score of five for ‘reputation’ [2, p72] means that:

‘Challenges with project are undermining LEP credibility with public or key stakeholder. This negative reputation will continue longer term and be hard to recover from.’

In order to meet the £6m cost increase, £2m has been taken from the budget for walking and cycling in Hastings and Bexhill [4]. Local environmental group Combe Haven Defenders warned [5] almost two years ago that the QGR was underfunded and that costs were likely to rise.

Andrea Needham, spokesperson for Seachangewatch, said, “The Queensway Gateway road is turning out to be a financial and environmental disaster. It is vastly over-budget, significantly behind schedule, and extremely unlikely to create the jobs that SeaChange Sussex has claimed for it. It was never subject to proper scrutiny from either East Sussex County Council or Hastings Borough Council, and now is putting the reputations of all those involved at risk. Both councils need to refuse to give the green light to any more of SeaChange’s disastrous projects.”

NOTES

[1] http://seachangesussex.info/

[2] http://www.southeastlep.com/images/uploads/resources/SELEP_Accountability_Board_Agenda_Pack_16th_March_2018.pdf

[3] http://seachangesussex.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/QGRconsultation-report.pdf

[4] http://seachangesussex.info/2m-funding-cut-walking-cycling-fund-queensway-gateway-road-100-cost-increase/

[5] https://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/press-release-residents-demand-answers-over-inflated-costs-for-hastings-road-2/

Queensway Gateway road: ‘negative reputation will continue longer term and be hard to recover from’.

The Queensway Gateway road (QGR) is now categorised as high risk in three different categories: delivery, financial and reputational.

This was revealed in a paper presented to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) Strategic Board meeting on 16 March 2018. The ‘Deliverability and Risk Assessment’ document [p63] lists all the projects in the SELEP area (East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock) paid for with Local Growth Fund money.

Each project is given a rating, from one to five, in each of the three risk areas – the QGR scores 5 in each area. There is an explanation [p72] of what each number means in the RAG (‘red, amber, green’) system used by SELEP. This is the explanation for a five in each area:

SELEP RAG rating chart

Let’s look at each of those areas in turn:

1. Delivery

‘Major issues have caused significant delays (more than 3 months); processes have been interrupted or not carried out correctly (e.g. planning permission has not been secured); or significant changes have had to be made to the aims and scope of the project. Project likely to under deliver forecast project outputs.’

‘Significant delay’

According to the QGR consultation report in 2014, the QGR was due to open around a year after the Bexhill Hastings Link Road. In fact, the BHLR opened in December 2015, well over two years ago, and the QGR is very far from finished:

Queensway Gateway, Nov 2017

A recent document from ‘Team East Sussex’ – the ‘local federated board’ for SELEP – puts the blame for delays on ‘judicial reviews’ and ‘poor winter conditions’. The first judicial review (based on air pollution), it should be remembered, was successful and the second failed when SeaChange altered the figures on air pollution, citing ‘methodological errors’ in the original planning application. SeaChange also blames higher than expected tenders for the final phase of work.  The Team East Sussex report puts the finish date for the road at December 2018.

 ‘Project likely to under deliver forecast project outputs’

At the consultation stage, SeaChange forecast that the QGR would support [p10] 1,370 jobs. It’s not clear how they managed to reach this figure. What is clear, is that other local SeaChange projects are simply not creating the jobs claimed for them. Enviro 21 (built by SeaChange’s predecessor, SeaSpace) promised 500 jobs but only created 24. North Queensway Innovation Park promised 865 jobs but is currently set to create none at all. Havelock Place, SeaChange’s office project in Hastings town centre, was supposed to create 440 jobs but has created 12. In the light of those projects, the prediction of 1,370 jobs for the QGR starts to look not just optimistic but utterly deluded.

2. Finances

‘A variance of over 10% against profiled financial forecast (total expenditure) or significant changes to project finances required (increases or decreases) due to poor or delayed delivery. ‘

Given that the QGR was forecast to cost £6m and is now predicted to come in at £12m, it’s fair to say that the variance against the profiled financial forecast is rather higher than 10%.

Hastings Observer 16 February 2018

3. Reputation

‘Challenges with project are undermining LEP credibility with public or key stakeholder. This negative reputation will continue longer term and be hard to recover from.’

In order to meet the 100% increase in cost of the QGR, £2m has been raided from the budget for walking and cycling in Hastings and Bexhill. This is certainly a serious reputational issue, although no councillor from Hastings Borough Council appears to have a word to say on the issue. In addition, as SeaChange’s projects continue to fail to deliver – either in terms of timing, cost, or promised benefits – so scepticism is growing locally about whether the company should be entrusted with huge amounts of public money to build endless white elephant projects.

North Queensway Innovation park: things go from bad to worse as one tenant pulls out

The sorry saga of the North Queensway Innovation Park continues. We reported in September 2015 that SeaChange had finally found a tenant for the site. The fact that the tenant would be moving from elsewhere in Hastings, and creating no new jobs, did not dampen SeaChange’s excitement. Continue reading

£2m funding cut for walking and cycling to fund Queensway Gateway Road 100% cost increase

East Sussex County Council were probably hoping that nobody would read the document enticingly named ‘Local Growth Fund – Amendments to spend profiles 2017/18‘. But we did, and what we found out was pretty worrying.

What the document shows is that the budget for two local roads being built by ‘regeneration’ company SeaChange Sussex have risen massively. Continue reading

North Queensway ‘Innovation’ Park: flytipping and quad bikes where once was ancient woodland

North Queensway ‘Innovation Park’ was once an area of woodland abutting the Marline Valley nature reserve on the western fringe of St Leonards. Marline Valley, according to Sussex Wildlife Trust, is:

 ‘…a wonderful mix of semi-natural ancient woodland, unimproved meadows and a classic Sussex ghyll stream’. Continue reading

North Queensway: has 865 jobs become just six?

And so the saga of the North Queensway ‘Innovation Park’ continues.  We were promised 865 jobs, but now a report from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership suggests the actual number to be created may be….six. Or is that a mistake, as SELEP claims?  Below, we winkle out the numbers.

Continue reading

Queensway Gateway road: ‘Project overspend is likely’

In July 2016, local group Combe Haven Defenders (CHD) sent out a press release demanding to know why SeaChange Sussex were forecasting that the cost of the Queensway Gateway road (QGR) would be only £6m, a £9m reduction on the original £15m predicted cost. Continue reading

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