St Leonards development plans attract concerns from objectors

Scores of people have voiced objections to plans to build industrial units in St Leonards, which environmental campaigners say will threaten wildlife habitats.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 12:15 pm
Marline Valley. Picture from Seachangewatch SUS-210906-120646001

Sea Change Sussex is proposing to build 4,000sqm of units on North Queensway Innovation Park.

The site is next to the Marline Valley nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In December 2020, Natural England expressed ‘considerable concerns’ to Hastings Borough Council over the plans.

Marline Valley nature reserve is owned by HBC but leased to Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Natural England told the council that it had concerns about the proposals because of the runoff into the SSSI which could damage fragile habitats.

It said there should be no development at all on plot 2.1, nearest the SSSI, for the same reason.

Environmental campaigners said the plans Sea Change Sussex has submitted include three large units and 57 parking spaces on plot 2.1.

Andrea Needham, co-ordinator of Seachangewatch, an organisation set up to monitor SeaChange Sussex’s activities, said: “Natural England has been very clear that there should be no development on plot 2.1 because of serious risks to the fragile habitat of Marline Valley.

“I would urge anyone who is concerned about this to put in an objection immediately to the planning application as well as contacting their local councillor.”

A Sea Change Sussex spokesman said: “We’ve submitted a planning application for around 48,000 sq ft of industrial units on the North Queensway Innovation Park – to be created, thanks to government funding, as a vital part of the local economic development programme.

“The development would provide much-needed premises to enable Hastings firms to expand, to support jobs for local people and to boost the town’s post-Covid recovery.

“The scheme has been brought forward on a site allocated for employment use within the Local Plan.

“Prior to the detailed development of the scheme, Natural England raised some concerns about the potential impact on the hydrology of the Marline Valley SSSI.

“We’ve taken these comments fully into account, alongside detailed hydrological survey and engineering design work, to bring forward proposals that will have a negligible impact on the Marline Valley, if any at all.

“We know the scheme has been opposed by a small group of anti-development protestors, who’ve raised objections to numerous employment and regeneration schemes across the town.

“But we’ve already carefully considered the issues they’ve highlighted and addressed these within our application.

“There’s a high demand for ready-made industrial units of this type, with many local companies lacking the resources to develop new premises themselves.

“A recent report by Locate East Sussex highlights a severe shortfall of such premises – and says it would expect units at North Queensway to be ‘massively oversubscribed, given pent-up demand’.

“This is certainly reflected in the number of occupier enquiries we’ve already received about the scheme.

“We’re confident this is a project that would have a huge positive effect on local businesses, jobs and the local economy, and we hope it will be recognised as a vital initiative to help Hastings bounce back from the pandemic.”

Anyone wishing to comment planning application can do so by the end of June on the HBC website.

Search for application HS/FA/21/00327.