5 June 2018
Photo: Havelock Place http://seachangesussex.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/P4243736.jpg
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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  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 . But over two years after completion, only one tenant had been found, occupying just 16% of the space and creating just 12 jobs .
In January 2018, SeaChange Sussex announced  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  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 . Comparisons with other offices available to rent locally suggest that SeaChange has forfeited at least £400k in rent  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 .
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.”
 http://seachangesussex.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/havelock-place-%C2%A37m-page-001.jpg – see ‘Priory Quarter phase 3’