John Shaw, CEO of economic development company Sea Change Sussex, explains why East Sussex is refusing to be held back by Brexit uncertainty...
When you visit East Sussex today, you can’t help being struck by the feeling of a confident county with a strong business purpose.
This is all part of a comprehensive economic expansion programme being driven by a range of public and private sector partners, in which we’re proud to be playing a part.
With projects under way in Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne, our aim is to establish the county as one of the country’s most attractive, dynamic places for business as well as a great place to live.
We’re doing this by developing high-quality new premises, sites and roads to help local firms start and expand and to attract new companies to the area – and by offering highly flexible terms.
And companies are responding in good spirit – despite the after effects of a global downturn and the uncertainties of Brexit. Firms are choosing to move to, start in or stay in East Sussex, with many pursuing bold plans for expansion.
Hastings’ Priory Quarter
In Hastings, Priory Quarter is a new town centre business district which stands in front of Hastings’ contemporary, glassy station and an imposing new college.
Over 150,000 sq ft of premises has already been developed in Priory Quarter.
A six-storey new office building was bought by Saga which, despite being headquartered in Kent, chose Hastings as the base for its new insurance business.
Our latest scheme in Priory Quarter is Havelock Place (pictured) - a 24,000 sq ft, high quality office building designed to attract further companies to the town.
Radiology firm Medica has been the first to move in, with additional offices available to let from small units around 600 sq ft up to 20,000 sq ft. see www.prioryquarter.co.uk for more.
On the outskirts of Hastings/St Leonards, we’re delivering projects to support the local manufacturing sector. We’re in discussions with several companies interested in the North Queensway Innovation Park next to the area’s primary manufacturing district, and we’ve submitted planning applications for two business schemes here.
We’re also developing a new road nearby called the Queensway Gateway, which will open up further business development land as well as improving local transport links.
New Bexhill business community
Four miles along the coast, the Bexhill Enterprise Park is rapidly emerging – made accessible by the new Combe Valley Way road, developed by East Sussex County Council with business expansion as its primary purpose.
Surrounded by attractive countryside but just two miles from Bexhill town centre and seafront, the Bexhill Enterprise Park is a central part of plans to expand the town with an extensive new business and residential community.
We’ve completed Glovers House as the first office building on the Enterprise Park and it was immediately let to thriving leisure operator Park Holidays UK. The firm has done a fantastic job of fitting out the building, which is enabling it to grow and create new jobs.
Alongside Glovers House, the Enterprise Park has sites (as shown) for further, bespoke developments. These range from modest plots for small offices to land which can support up to a total of 244,000 sq ft of premises. Companies can commission us to develop properties for them or buy the sites and develop their own.
We’re already busy designing our next office buildings for the Park – which we intend for multiple occupancy by small and medium firms, although bigger companies may equally be interested.
Alongside this, we’re developing a new road nearby to open up further business and housing development land and improve local traffic connections.
Sovereign Harbour Innovation Park
Further west, the new Sovereign Harbour Innovation Park, three miles from Eastbourne town centre, is proving popular amongst businesses.
The Innovation Park is in an enviable location, just five minutes’ walk to waterside restaurants, cafes and boutiques of Sovereign Harbour marina.
Our first development there is Pacific House (pictured) - a sleek, contemporary building. Offices here range from around 600 sq ft upwards. And, having completed the building just over a year ago, it’s already around half full, occupied by a vibrant mix of companies in the finance, legal, creative, healthcare and engineering fields.
The Innovation Park also has sites for up to a further 80,000 sq ft of premises. As in Bexhill, we can develop properties tailored to companies’ needs, or they can buy sites to build their own.
Across all these schemes, because we know Brexit is bringing uncertainties about the future, we’ve taken an innovative approach to leases for our small offices: tenants can give three-months’ notice any time they wish. This is minimising the risk for companies and spurring many to move to larger new offices to grow their business.
Energy and ambition
So, despite the global economic uncertainties we keep hearing about, East Sussex is refusing to be held back.
It’s arguably seeing more commercial development than anywhere else in the south east – all focused firmly on helping to expand the business economy.
And it will be fascinating to see how the latest developments help harness the energy and ambition we’re seeing from businesses choosing to base themselves along this beautiful part of England’s south coast.
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