SeaChange has found another occupier for its North Queensway ‘Innovation’ Park. They’ve submitted a planning application for a ‘car showroom and workshop’. One might wonder why SeaChange did not announce this with its usual chutzpah in the local press, or indeed why there is not a word about it on their website. Surely they want to announce the news of more jobs for Hastings?
New jobs – or old jobs?
Look more closely at the application, however, and you’ll discover why SeaChange is keeping it quiet. The car showroom in question is Bartlett Seat, currently located on the A21 at the end of Whitworth Road. Unfortunately for them, this is exactly the spot where SeaChange intends to build a roundabout junction with the Queensway Gateway road, so Bartlett Seat is for the chop. So – as with the other intended occupier of the North Queensway site, these are not new jobs – they are relocated jobs. That doesn’t stop SeaChange from claiming them, however:
‘In total the proposed development will result in around 20 jobs. Whilst it is acknowledged that these jobs already exist in Hastings at Bartlett SEAT’s existing showroom, the proposed development will enable these jobs to remain in Hastings’ (point 6.7 of document here: italics added).
Not only does SeaChange claim that this project will ‘result in’ around 20 jobs, they also make a convoluted argument that the car showroom is in fact a job-creating project in that it will allow the Queensway Gateway road to be built, which in turn will allow the ’employment land’ around it (aka the Hollington Valley Local Wildlife Site) to be ‘opened up’, which in turn will create jobs (at the time of SeaChange’s ‘consultation’ on the Queensway Gateway road in 2014, they were claiming a – frankly rather hard to believe – 1,370 jobs).
So, SeaChange is claiming credit for jobs in a company which will only be on the North Queensway site because SeaChange has demolished their existing building. There’s of course not a word about who will pay for this lovely new car showroom: presumably, since the company is being booted out of its existing building, it will not be required to pay for the new one. So: more public money (in addition to that already spent on building the infrastructure for the site) to retain – rather than create – jobs, jobs which would not need to be relocated if it weren’t for the environmental and economic disaster that is the Queensway Gateway road.
Other occupiers lining up?
In the planning statement, SeaChange tells us (point 6.31) about the 17 enquiries (which they describe as ‘considerable interest’) that have been made about the site since marketing began in 2013 (that is, fewer than 6 enquiries a year). None of these enquiries apparently came to anything, which SeaChange explains is because:
‘…the site was not considered to be ‘shovel ready’ and the cost and timescale associated with securing new floorspace resulted in inquiries falling away’.
A few paragraphs earlier, however, we read (point 6.30) that:
‘The main road frontage of the site has led to several enquiries from a variety of road side occupiers, retailers, self-storage companies, but these types of uses have generally not met Sea Change’s price expectations‘ (italics added).
In other words, the site is too expensive – something we’ve heard said anecdotally about a number of other SeaChange projects in Hastings.
865 jobs promised, zero jobs created
As noted before, the North Queensway site was first going to create 865 jobs, then it was going to create 700 jobs. Most recently, SeaChange says that the site is ‘capable of accommodating’ 300 jobs. Even that figure – a 65% decrease from the original – is starting to look extremely optimistic. With two potential occupiers, neither of which will be creating a single job, SeaChange is going to have to work a bit harder to convince us that this ‘job creation’ scheme is anything but a big con.