Protesters hold demonstration against St Leonards business park plans

Scores of protesters demonstrated against plans to build a business park in St Leonards.

Around 50 people held the event yesterday (Sunday, August 8) near the Marline Valley nature reserve.

Sea Change Sussex wants to build the North Queensway Innovation Park in the area and environmental campaigners said the proposals will threaten wildlife on the reserve.

Protesters wore masks resembling bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), which are some of the species that live in the Marlline Valley site of special scientific interest (SSSI), and gathered at the site of the proposed business park.

Protesters at the demonstration on Sunday. Picture by Seachangewatch SUS-210908-145340001

The planning application for the new development has already attracted nearly 200 objections, as well as a petition.

The proposals include a number of speculative units, to be built on a site next to Marline Valley.

The development is opposed by Marline Wood leasee Sussex Wildlife Trust and local renewable energy co-operative Energise Sussex Coast, while Natural England expressed ‘considerable concerns’ about the application.

Andrea Needham, Seachangewatch co-ordinator, said: “The fact that so many people were willing to come out to Marline Valley in driving rain shows the extent of concern about this proposal locally.

“The people of Hastings do not want millions of pounds of public money spent on a speculative proposal which threatens a fragile ecosystem and will destroy yet more of our green space. Sea Change Sussex has been trying to market this site for years without success.

“In 2012, it was claimed this site would create 865 jobs. Nine years later, we’re told it needs a further £3.5m of public money to create just 75 jobs.

“The whole plan is not just unsustainable, it’s also simply unbelievable. We’re calling on Hastings Borough Council to refuse permission for this destructive white elephant project.”

A Sea Change 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 spokesman said the scheme has been brought forward on a site for employment use with the council’s Local Plan and added that Sea Change had taken Natural England’s concerns ‘fully into account’ and that the latest proposals would have a ‘negligible’ impact on the Marline Valley.

The spokesman added “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.”