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’.
The site that was cleared to make way for the ‘Innovation Park’ is described in the ecology report prepared as a condition of the planning application as follows:
‘…the majority of this woodland was found to be indistinguishable in ecological character to adjoining off-site woodland areas located to the west and north that are designated as both ancient woodland and SSSI.’
Slow worms and lizards and badgers and dormice
The ecology report goes on to note that the site was home to ‘exceptional’ populations of slow worms and common lizards, as well as badgers and dormice. Forty three species of birds were recorded on the site, with a minimum of 86 breeding territories held by 14 species including the red-listed songthrush
That counted for nothing: the site was devastated by treefellers in March 2014, at the height of the birdnesting season.
Three years on: flytipping and quad bikes
Three years on, there’s not the first sign of the 865 jobs we were promised on this site. There’s a small road to nowhere, a sad-looking street sign and a broken CCTV camera.
And flytipping. Lots of flytipping. There are concrete barriers across the road, but they were removed at one point by quad bikers who came in and churned up the land. Since they didn’t put the barriers back, they were followed by flytippers. What was once pristine woodland now looks like this:
And the jobs?
Over the years we’ve been promised various numbers of jobs, from 865 all the way down to just six. What the reality will be, we don’t know, but it seems reasonable to predict that the actual number will be very much closer to six than to 865. So the innovative aspect of North Queensway would appear to be this: spend a million pounds of public money, utterly destroy one of our precious green spaces, create no new jobs. It’s the kind of innovation that our town can do without.