“Final costs” of St Leonards Queensway Gateway Road still unknown

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The “final costs” of a long-delayed road building project are still unknown, a senior councillor has said.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday (February 6), East Sussex County Council leader Keith Glazier gave an update on the progress of the Queensway Gateway Road Project, which remains unfinished more than seven years after its original completion date.

Cllr Glazier told the meeting that the county council is trying to ascertain the “final costs” required to complete the project and is also exploring what sources of funding are available to do so.

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The council leader had been responding to a question from Bernard Brown — a long-time campaigner on the issue.

The uncompleted Queensway Gateway Road in St Leonards. Looking towards Queensway.The uncompleted Queensway Gateway Road in St Leonards. Looking towards Queensway.
The uncompleted Queensway Gateway Road in St Leonards. Looking towards Queensway.

In his response, Cllr Glazier said: “What I can reassure you is what I reassured probably three years ago, of my absolute intention to get the Queensway Gateway Road open and functioning.

“As I said in my response to you earlier, we are looking at areas of additional funding and the most important bit is we are trying to get the absolute costs of that final piece of work … it is my hope and wish that this happens sooner rather than later.

“We all have the same objective here and that is to get this project finished.”

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The project was expected to be completed by November 2016 but was delayed early on during the initial planning process with an unsuccessful judicial review seeing planning consent delayed until January 2016.

Further delays followed, with the majority of the road not being completed until May 2019.

The only stretch of the road which has yet to be completed is its final connection to the A21 at Sedlescombe Road North. This section of the road saw delays after the project’s contractor, Sea Change Sussex, ran into land acquisition issues, which prevented the connection being built out as originally planned.

Sea Change subsequently put forward plans for a traffic-light controlled junction as an alternative way to make the connection.

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Work on this alternative proposal was due to take place in 2022, but was delayed due to what the regeneration company said were ‘serious concerns’ about the project’s funding.

The project’s first business case, in January 2015, put its costs at £15m.

Subsequently, Sea Change, through East Sussex County Council, was awarded £10m of Local Growth Fund (LGF) money to go towards these costs. This money was awarded by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP).

In light of the project’s delays, SELEP has discussed removing the project from the LGF programme — a move which would require the return of the £10m, which has already been spent in full.

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Last month, East Sussex County Council provided a report to SELEP’s accountability board providing an update on the project’s progress. It said East Sussex County Council are awaiting the final costs from Sea Change Sussex.

In a commentary attached to the report, a spokesman for SELEP said: “The report does indicate that it is expected that the project can be delivered within the amount estimated in the original business case of £15m but East Sussex County Council have been unable to give any further clarity on the exact cost at this time.

“The ongoing uncertainty as to the cost of the project and the make-up of the funding package continues to raise concerns regarding the likelihood of the remaining elements of the project being delivered. However, it is noted that there continues to be engagement between East Sussex County Council and Sea Change Sussex with regard to the project and there appears to be an ongoing commitment from both parties to complete delivery of the project.

“In summary, the update provided by East Sussex County Council in this report, serves to provide greater clarity as to the steps which need to be taken to complete the project.

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“However, there continues to be a lack of certainty around the total project cost and the funding package which, if not resolved, could further delay or prevent delivery of the project in line with the agreed business case.”