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The Queensway Gateway road under construction. Sea Change sussex cannot give a date for its completion.

The Queensway Gateway road is under construction. No date for its completion is at present available from Sea Change Sussex (photo: CHD).

ESCC switches funds to cover road overruns

Costs for two Sea Change Sussex road-building projects have increased, leading East Sussex County Council to switch funds from other projects to cover the overruns. In one case, Combe Haven Defenders note, monies will be taken from a walking and cycling fund to help finance the increase. Nick Terdre reports.

The projected cost of building the Queensway Gateway Road between Sedlescombe Road North and Queensway has doubled to £12 million, while that of the North Bexhill Access Road has risen by £2 million to £18.6 million, an increase of 12%.

Both roads are being developed by regeneration company, Sea Change Sussex.

The news was publicised by Combe Haven Defenders, who took the information from an East Sussex County Council report in January on the financial progress of projects funded from the government’s Local Growth Fund (LGF).

CHD recall that they questioned the apparently low cost of the NBAR nearly two years ago, when they “suggested that the likely cost had been deliberately downplayed by Sea Change in order to secure funding and that once construction had started, it was likely that costs would rise.”

A Sea Change spokesman disputed CHD’s claim, telling HOT: “The original budget approvals for the Queensway Gateway and North Bexhill Access Road (NBAR) total approximately £31 million, and Sea Change is still working within these limits.

“These schemes are both vital parts of the regeneration programme for the Hastings and Bexhill area – bringing road improvements and opening up access to employment land – and we’re delivering them for great value for money.”

Budget reduced by 60%

The £31 million mentioned by the Sea Change spokesman comprises the original QGR budget of £15 million and the NBAR budget of £16.6 million at approval. After the QGR budget had been approved, Sea Change reverted with a new estimate of £6 million, a 60% decrease.

CHD sought clarification of this drastic reduction from Selep, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership which approved the original funding but says it was refused sight of the budget. HOT also requested an explanation from Sea Change but none was given.

At the time the QGR budget was reduced, Sea Change requested that the amount saved should be switched to NBAR.

ESCC apparently has a free hand to approve budgetary changes to LGF projects in its area and reallocate the monies. By amalgamating two projects within the Hastings and Bexhill Movement and Access Package, which is intended to finance walking, cycling and junction improvements in Hastings and Bexhill, it claimed to be able to achieve savings of £3 million while achieving the same objectives. These savings will now be redirected to the road projects.

Another £3 million for the road overruns comes from savings from a £4 million A27 improvement project which ESCC said could now be executed for £1 milllion, a 75% decrease. The final £2 million will come from Sea Change reserves.

“We’ve been saying for some time that SeaChange could not possibly build these two roads for the price they claimed,” CHD spokesperson Andrea Needham said. “The massive increase in costs, particularly for the QGR, show that we were right.”

“Outrageous”

“And it’s simply outrageous that some of the overspend is going to be paid for by taking money out of the budget for walking and cycling in Hastings, an area which desperately needs improving.

“This is public money, being wasted on hugely destructive white elephant projects which, going by Sea Change’s previous record, will not create the jobs that Sea Change claims. It is high time there was a lot more oversight of Sea Change projects, and a lot less willingness by councils to believe the frankly fantastical claims that they make in terms of costs and job creation.”

CHD also suggested that Sea Change’s application to replace a bridge with a culvert in the NBAR project was a cost-cutting measure. The Sea Change spokesman rebutted this claim, telling HOT that following a rethink “…it made much more sense to install a culvert as it’s only a matter of crossing a two foot wide stream.”

The NBAR is expected to be completed by summer, but the spokesman said he had no completion timescale to share for the QGR at this point.

Posted 15:01 Sunday, Feb 25, 2018 In: Home Ground

1 Comment

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  1. Dave

    http://seachangesussex.info/about-seachange-sussex/

    Comment by Dave — Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 @ 21:31

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