Last week, the World Wildlife Fund issued a report showing that the number of wild animals on earth has halved in the past 40 years.
In the same week, Sea Change Sussex announced plans for yet another business park, this one on the green space (‘Queensway Gateway’) between Queensway and the A21.
This area - which we are to believe is just empty space waiting for concrete - is in fact the wildlife-rich Hollington Valley Site of Nature Conservation Importance, described by Hastings Borough Council as ‘semi-natural woodland with associated streams and meadows’.
In Hastings Borough Council’s local plan, it says: “Development proposals within or adjacent to Sites of Nature Conservation Importance will not be permitted unless there is a local need which outweighs any harm to the nature conservation interest.”
Sea Change claims there is a local need for jobs, but the planning committee should also be asking whether the local need is best served by building more and more business parks. If they were to answer this question honestly, this planning application would be doomed, but sadly this proposal is likely to be rubber-stamped in the same way as all the other such developments locally.
We’re told that the development could support 1,370 jobs. This figure should be treated with extreme caution. The business parks to be built around the Bexhill end of the Link Road will, says Sea Change, produce 3,000 jobs.
This figure is based on 100 per cent occupancy from day one. When the project was evaluated by the Department for Transport, its analysis was that the likely number of jobs was around 900, of which 40 per cent would go to people outside the area, leaving only around 500 for local people.
I assume the figures for the new development have been produced in the same way and should therefore not be taken at face value.
Sea Change is also ‘developing’ a site at North Queensway. Last spring, a huge area of trees adjacent to Marline Wood was felled to make way for that business park. Units will be built to order as businesses sign up, but so far, nothing further has happened and the site is simply a devastated area of once beautiful woodland.
If that site can’t be filled, and we also have the vast acreage of space at Bexhill to fill, why do we need yet another business park?
Hastings Borough Council should examine its apparently unquestioning support for the idea that simply building more and more business parks - with public money - constitutes a regeneration strategy. Otherwise, we will see ever more of our precious green spaces replaced with empty industrial units.
This is not regeneration; this is environmental vandalism. I would encourage everyone who cares about our environment to object to this planning application.
At a time when we are facing catastrophic climate change and species loss, we need to act to preserve our green spaces. They should not be seen simply as development-areas-in-waiting; they have an intrinsic value for nature and for people. Once they’re gone, we’ll never get them back.