Could SeaChange be faced with giving the Hastings Gateway Road £10M back if they can’t finish it as promised?
From: Andrea Needham, Milward Road, Hastings
You report that the Queensway Gateway road is going to open this year, confounding the claims by critics that it might not open until 2023.
In fact, what is going to open is not the road we were promised, with a roundabout connection to the A21. What we’re getting - perhaps in November, although with SeaChange Sussex you should never count your chickens - is a ‘temporary connection’ to the A21.
The road proper cannot be built because SeaChange has failed to resolve the tricky issue of the car showroom which is in the way - and indeed, why should Bartletts SEAT allow its premises to be demolished for the new road, when SeaChange has failed thus far to provide any alternative premises?
What we are getting is the bit of the road that has been finished being connected up to Whitworth Road, and thence to Junction Road, from where traffic will be funnelled out onto the A21.
This ‘interim solution’ could, according to funders the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, be in place for up to two years.
Whether this will provide relief from traffic jams elsewhere, or - more likely - simply more traffic chaos, remains to be seen.
The key thing is that SeaChange Sussex is claiming that the road is almost complete (a mere five years late) when in reality, it’s very far from finished.
In addition, the Local Enterprise Partnership has said that if SeaChange does not manage to complete the road as planned (that is, with a roundabout connection to the A21 where the car showroom now stands), then there is a risk that ‘the project may no longer meet the conditions of the funding agreement.
In these circumstances, the Board may consider recovering some, or all, of the £10m allocated to the project’. The problem here is that £9.5m has already been spent. If the money had to be paid back, and SeaChange didn’t have the money, then East Sussex County Council would be responsible for the repayment. It’s not a comfortable thought.
If SeaChange does manage to establish a temporary connection to the A21 by November, it will be something of a surprise to everyone who has watched the progress of this ill-fated road.
But don’t forget that the road proper - the one we were promised - may still be seven years late by the time it’s finished, if it ever is.
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