GLYNE GAP STATION/BETTER ALTERNATIVES PLEASE/AMBER RUDD’S PUSH FOR MORE CONGESTION/KIDS CUT OFF FROM NATURE

GLYNE GAP STATION PLANS ”Should be retained for the next planning period” – JRC Consultancy report January, 2014.

Concurrent with the demonstration in support of a new station at Glyne Gap, and following a formal objection to deletion of the station plan from Rother’s planning policies and East Sussex County Council’s Local Transport Plan 3, (See previous post on this website),   Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex (CBT E SX) commissioned JRC consultancy to review the councils’ own £30,000. report. That report – carried out by Mott McDonald – evidently had flaws and omissions: importantly, it ignored  the new signalling system about to be ‘switched on’, and failed to investigate the potential difference that this could make to provision of new services.

The JRC report – presented by CBT E Sx at the Public Inquiry into the council’s proposed amendments to next local plan for the period to 2026 -   Glyne Gap station review JRC 644 Final is critical of the council’s commissioned report, pointing out its shortcomings (as well as some useful research). For instance, the ‘one train per hour‘ service would set the business case to fail and yet the new signalling could potentially accommodate two trains per hour, giving a much better ‘benefit to cost’ ratio. That was never tested. Rother District’s consultant admitted that he was never asked to look at that scenario! It wasn’t in the remit given him by the two councils.

There were other criticisms in the JRC report:

The extent to which passengers would be ‘lost’ to Bexhill through using Glyne Gap was exaggerated and took no account of passengers new to the railway; the massive growth in popularity of rail travel was underplayed ( a doubling of passengers at Ore from 112,000 to 210,000 in just one year and 10% for each of the last ten years at Bexhill and Collington!); the value of an extra train per hour serving local stations was overlooked; improved pedestrian/cycle links to Pebsham community,  a better complementary bus service and area wide and well marketed ticketing including bus and rail travel as in other urban areas – none of this was considered of interest or benefit to residents or visitors.

On top of this, the decision to delete the new station plan didn’t fit with national or local policy – including support for local economies, health and environment -  and was considered premature and unnecessary since the railway timetable would be re-examined for 2019: that’s  7 years before the expiry of the Local Plan period in 2026.

Overall,  CBT E Sx considers this to be a poor decision flowing from an incomplete study, and outside of any overall strategy  ignoring the hopes, needs and changing lifestyles of the younger generation.

The press release, and the CBT E Sx submission to the Planning Inspector are here:

Glyne Gap Presser 20th Jan

Glyne Gap 3,000 Words Sub.

Bexhill Observer article is here:

Glyne Gap Sta Bex Obs 31 2

MUDDLED THINKING: JAMS TOMORROW?

Any temporarary relief afforded the A259 by BHLR  may be very short lived. Unless there are high quality alternatives to the car and parking controls to lock in the benefits, the traffic will simply grow back.

The Bexhill Observer headlines of 31st Jan 2014 celebrated the planned bus lanes for the A259 as bringing a ‘cut in A259 gridlock’: there was an editorial sigh of relief:  ‘At last…..’. But the ‘gridlock’ scenario rarely applies to Bexhill Road and the traffic is almost always moving, if slowly: that’s good, not bad for residents, pedestrians and cyclists. A recent trip on the 99 from Hastings to Eastbourne included a total of 18 minutes where the bus just sat at stops between Hastings and Bexhill. In any case  the situation is always much worse in school term time. And the bus lanes, along with many other sustainable measures  promoted by CBT E Sx for many years, could have been implemented in the early 2000s. We can contemplate that if those measures had been carried out, they may have caused a few red faces when their success and popularity became obvious and made the BHLR look a bit daft and many, many times more costly for local and national taxpayers.

So, what should the mix of high quality alternatives include?

  • Pedestrian and cycling improvements, including a redesign of the arrangements between Hastings station/college and Priory Meadow/Havelock Road. These are dangerous and insulting to pedestrians.
  • Evening and night bus services, with daytime ‘turn up and go’ levels of service at 4 buses per hour between Bexhill and Hastings, and Eastbourne, and at least 2 per hour on Sundays and Bank Holidays . The Conquest and Eastbourne District General  hospitals are now central to the needs of residents and visitors of all three towns. Currently evening visitors to the Conquest have a very hard time when it comes to finding buses home. Brighton standards provide a good model with all residential areas provided with 4 buses an hour from the Royal Sussex hospital up to 10 pm. That’s civilised and fair, and helps staff too.
  • A well marketed Bexhill and Hastings Travel Card ‘smart ticket’ for all buses and trains. That was recommended in 2002 in a major government funded study of the two towns and south coast towns in general.They’d be popular
  • Bus lanes: yes, we know they’re coming, but they were said to be coming in the ESCC Local Transport Plan (LTP1) for 2000. They’re long overdue – as is the Quality Bus Partnership route for Ore – Little Common; and one for The Ridge. They were also in the ESCC 2000 LTP1.
  • A railway station at Glyne Gap to serve the retail/leisure services, provide workers with access, give college students a good mix of non-car alternatives, make it easy for young families to have a day at the beach and with improved pedestrian/cycle access, give Pebsham residents a high quality mix of transport choice, and reduce traffic and climate change gas emissions on the A259.
  • All the above would be important pieces in the mosaic of measures that have been resolutely resisted by ESCC for so long to make the BHLR look such a good deal, though not according to the Department for Transport who could only rate it as giving ‘medium to poor value for money’.

GIVE A RED LIGHT TO THE RUDD ROUTE!

Now here’s a sure route to gridlock!

Friends of the Earth ran a campaign over a decade ago on the theme of ‘Better towns: Less traffic’. That principle still holds good. A noisy town choked by traffic and fumes is not a town to linger in and will deter visitors. The pressure of traffic and the degradation of open space taken up by cars cramming in to diminishing space does nothing for a town’s prosperity. It also holds up pedestrians, cyclists and the bus services.  The free parking petition set up by MP Amber Rudd will simply lead to more car trips for short distances, choking up local streets and getting in the way of traders, builders, plumbers, electricians and essential service vehicles which do need to get around to carry out their business. It’ll make walking and cycling unpleasant and dangerous, frustrate efforts to create more high quality public spaces where people will want to linger, encourage unhealthy lifestyles, increase emissions of climate change gases and  create a negative image of a great town.

WARNING! MAJOR ROAD BUILDING SPREE AHEAD.

There is a big push on in government to rush through studies assessing projects for new roads. Some are re-hashed old ones, dusted off and wheeled out. Most frightening is that the plans are based on assertions not backed by evidence  (think BHLR only on a national scale). This has many serious implications for generations to come. See the link to the national Campaign for Better Transport website:

New roads policy goes back to the 90s – help us take action

WATERY COMBE HAVEN – STILL PEACEFUL FOR NOW

Some images of the floods – 2nd February, 2014:

The peace of the valley is recognised by everyone as of value: within such easy (and affordable) reach of so many people: a perfect place to experience  wildlife and sense history  in a beautiful landscape setting. That combination will be lost. A scheme to ‘offset’ some of the habitat loss will be funded ‘in the Hastings/Brede area’. Of course this is of some value, but no one seems able to tell us where it is. Still, as Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, tells us, it’s quite an acceptable practice as long as it’s no more than an hour away by car, so cutting off kids from nature. What a cynic and what a cynical ideology.

CHWaterscape Berries CH Wintry Water CH Water Adams Fm CH Spit and Adams CH Flying Swans CH Flooded Gate CH Dinosaurs and Berries  CH Causeway Flood CH 1066 and Swans

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DELETION OF GLYNE GAP STATION PLAN ‘POINTLESS’/FLOODS BRING TEMPORARY TRANQUILLITY TO COMBE HAVEN

This gallery contains 15 photos.

To coincide with the opening of the new Marks and Spencers store at Ravenside (Glyne Gap) on the 28th November, Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex, and the Hastings Alliance, held a demonstration to publicise the absence of a … Continue reading

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COMBE HAVEN, OCTOBER 2013.

Combe Haven and its smaller tributary valleys are currently being transformed by construction works on a massive scale – and this is only the beginning.

Doubtless, many of those who have cherished the experience of walking in these valleys in their lifetimes feel powerless to do anything at all to prevent the progress of the road scheme that will deliver anything up to 30,000 vehicles a day through this exceptionally tranquil and beautiful environment.

A reminder of the scheme’s characteristics:

  • It is the worst scheme of 45 currently under development in England for CO2 emissions. Minister for climate change and MP for Bexhill Greg Barker is not bothered. It was the second worst of the 45 for ‘value for money‘, and cost increases of £14m since chancellor Osborne’s approval suggest that it’s now bottom.
  • There are no firm strategies for monitoring the environmental mitigation measures. As yet, we don’t know who will do the monitoring or even if it will be carried out. The status, extent and nature of monitoring remain ‘theoretical’.
  • Alternatives were never looked at. The Department for Transport was found by the independent Information Commissioner to be wrong to conceal from the public that immediately prior to the chancellor’s ‘green light’ to approve BHLR funding, a ‘public transport’ based strategy was also on offer to ministers  Shocking enough on its own.

Despite winning funding for this ‘gold plated’ road scheme, about which there is a great deal of information, there is a lack of information about the range of alternative and sustainable transport options that will be available as (if) the BHLR opens for traffic. There was less than half a page on the subject in the original 200 page bid to government in 2004, and there has been little hard information ever since. Even worse, following a rather secretive and poorly conducted study, Rother District Council want to kill off for good plans for a new station at Glyne Gap.

We can only conclude that those without access to a car (including everyone under 17), as well as those who would like to use their cars less, are apparently considered by those designing our future transport networks as somehow of a lower status. That’s disgraceful. The needs of this significant and growing constituency of people must be met and their numbers increased in order to limit the dire effects of climate change. In this respect, the BHLR is the worst possible option, with the consequent car dependent developments eating up scarce land and set to spew thousands of tonnes of climate change gases.

Back to that ‘feeling of powerlessness’: Harriet, a Crowhurst resident and artist, is recording this transformation on canvas as part of the story of the road. It is a commitment to telling that story – of how the road came to this stage in its construction.  So far, it’s a story of the triumph of dull, dangerous orthodoxy and profit over sustainability: a story of irresponsibility towards the next generation and its quality of life, and a failure to ensure for that generation a better and fairer world. Telling that story might prevent other similar unsustainable road based developments from tainting the planet. The Hastings Alliance and others like Harriet will continue to tell the story:

‘In just how many ways is this a story of how things should not be done?’

Harriet records the unfolding tragedy

Harriet records the unfolding tragedy

Concerned Crowhurst residents by Powdermill Stream

Concerned Crowhurst residents by Powdermill Stream

Habitat severance at Decoy Stream Valley - early Spring

Habitat severance at Decoy Stream Valley – early Spring

Decoy Stream Valley this week (Oct 6th)

Decoy Stream Valley this week (Oct 6th)

Buzzard circles over Watermill Stream. Vegetation replaced by extensive crushed rock

Buzzard circles over Watermill Stream. Vegetation replaced by extensive crushed rock

Alder - Combe Haven Valley. Oct 6th

Alder – Combe Haven Valley. Oct 6th

ROADS FIRST’ IS THE DEPRESSING PICTURE IN THE REST OF ENGLAND

Elsewhere in England, new Local Transport Bodies are now in place to bid for funding predominantly for, it turns out, road schemes. Their wish lists include not a single cycling scheme and ‘sustainable transport’ hardly features at all. In the South East  (Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Southend and Thurrock) the Transport Board scores 2.2 out  of 10 for sustainable transport, with new roads at the top of its agenda for funding. Download the full report here (pdf)

John Shaw, long time BHLR fan, advises the Local Transport Board, chaired by former East Sussex County Council leader, Peter Jones. Of the 31 attendees – or would be attendees – 31 out of 33 are male. The parallel Local Enterprise Partnership for the South East is also chaired by Peter Jones and has 40 male and 4 female members. These are very interesting statistics which do nothing to instil confidence in decisions taken. Jobs for the boys? We have to say that the ‘development pool’ process (as highlighted in the report above) produced a far more mature and responsible approach than that being adopted by the new Local Transport Body setup. The environment and sustainability are way down the list.

FOOTNOTE

We have been privileged to contribute evidence in support of those of the Combe Haven Defenders tried in court in Hastings in September. Trials continue and there will be more news about their fate and other matters in the weeks ahead.

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LINK ROAD – ESCC COUNCILLOR: ‘INVESTMENT AN EXACT SCIENCE’ ; GATHERING IN THE VALLEY

BHLR – COSTS RISE £13.35m.

The costs increase, funded entirely by the county’s council tax payers, was approved by ESCC 0n the 10th July, bringing the current total of public funding required to £113.35m. This increase alone could have funded  a step change in bus services for Bexhill and Hastings, a new station at Glyne Gap – and area wide walking and cycling facilities. The funds were voted through in a knockabout full council meeting almost devoid of evidence, with no councillors opposing the increase. An account of proceedings follows, accompanied by a summary of the preceding Planning Committee meeting where almost all concerns around the supposedly non-material amendments to the BHLR scheme – including removal of a bus lane -  were swept aside. (see ‘A Day at County Hall’ below.)

BHLR – A DAY AT COUNTY HALL

ESCC PLANNING COMMITTEE

On July 10th,  2013, East Sussex County Council Planning Committee considered their authority’s ‘non-material amendments’ (NMAs) to the BHLR scheme. Three objectors to the NMAs had registered a wish to address the Planning Committee and did so on the proposed amendments concerning Drainage and Flooding contingencies, the bus lane removal, and ‘Greenway’ alterations. Pete Caunter spoke on the first of these, Derrick Coffee on the second, and Andrea Needham on the third. All three speakers held that the amendments were material amendments departing significantly from the original BHLR plans, and that therefore the planning process would need to be re-run.

Before this, Planning Officer Tony Cook argued that the amendments were relatively minor, and the effects were predicted to be either neutral or environmentally beneficial.

With ‘extreme weather events’ on the increase, increased surface runoff from roads and the newly built up environment, and rising sea level all adding to uncertainties around the capacity of drainage infrastructure to cope, Pete Caunter’s concerns were legitimate and were echoing neighbours’ worries about these matters: Pete and the neighbours live along the line of the Egerton Stream which at intervals in the past, has caused flooding problems both near their homes and also in Egerton Park which floods regularly. Pete flagged up the issue of frequent flooding in the Combe Haven valley and the danger and impracticability of substituting fords for bridges.

Derrick Coffee’s concerns were around the contradiction between ESCC’s expression of certainties supporting the case for the bus lane removal and uncertainties or complete ignorance around future levels of bus services: the nature and extent of those services is after all, unknown, including to ESCC. Consultants working for ESCC have suggested that services could be expanded and the two regional hospitals of Eastbourne and Hastings have both talked openly of the need for bus services linking the two to provide access to the different clinical services that each will in future offer. Those consultants have made no reference though to evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services. Derrick Spoke on behalf of the Hastings Alliance.

Speaking for the Combe Haven Defenders, Andrea Needham pointed out that the exercise in amendments was a purely ‘cost cutting’ (‘value engineering’) one, dressed up as inconsequential, minor and very sensible changes to the scheme. She gave an example of an application to a planning committee for the provision of a canopy to a small area of a school playground being viewed as ‘material’, while major amendments in today’s BHLR plan were somehow ‘non-material’. Diversions of the ‘Greenway’ would make it less attractive to non-vehicle users, resulting in more car trips, provision of a ford instead of a bridge would create hazards in flood conditions, and arrangements for combining equestrians, pedestrians an cyclists would cause conflict.

Following our addresses, various councillors’ commented, mostly in support of the ESCC position. Only Cllr Field agreed that the bus lane removal was a ‘material amendment’ and that there was a danger of traffic backing up behind buses.

Cllr Ensor’s views (Bexhill) would, he said, exclude all representations of those not living in his locality.

Tony Cook summed up and demonstrated a misunderstanding of Derrick’s point around the anticipated ‘low’ level of bus services. Derrick described this expectation of bus services as ‘pessimistic and unimaginative’; Tony Cook referred to that pessimism as a description of the function of the amendment to the junction without the bus lane. He thus missed the point altogether that the ‘low level’ of bus services cannot be assumed because no-one on the planning committee has any idea of the future extent or nature of bus services. There is no bus strategy.

FULL COUNCIL MEETING – SAME DAY

Summary:

The funding increase of over £13m was agreed after almost 2 hours of overwhelmingly evidence free dialogue: you couldn’t call it debate.

Accusations of incompetent management of finances came from the Lib Dems and Labour, accompanied by calls for Lead Member for Transport Economy and Environment to resign. These were very soon laid aside with assertions of support in the light of the ‘higher costs of cancellation’. There was fear expressed of then losing the government’s £56m (now less than half the costs). This of course ignored the ‘non-BHLR, public transport option’ that we now know was offered to ministers so, no, the funds would not necessarily be lost. That’s of no interest: they will have their road whatever the cost.

Just one councilor (Rosalyn St Pierre, Lib Dem, Ringmer and Lewes Bridge) queried the BHLR ‘jobs assertions’ mentioning the DfT assessment of ‘1,000’, flowing from the road and developments. That was the sole piece of evidence featured in the whole session. She also queried the levelling of blame at protestors. She suggested that it had been foolish to pretend that protests would not arise: they were predictable. “Many young people hate road building” she said.

Cllr Field (Lib Dem Battle/Crowhurst) didn’t want this road but supported a road. She also supported some development in villages to ensure viable services were available.

Cllr Hodges, (Labour, Hastings) believed that the (3,500!) jobs would flow to the premises (and their vast car parks?) and create clusters.

Cllr Shuttleworth (Lib Dem, Eastbourne) warned that there may be further requests for even more money from ESCC coffers.

Cllr Pragnell (Con, Hastings) Defended the increase ‘…benefits the whole county…3,000 jobs’, while Cllr Elkin, (Con Eastbourne) spoke in similar vein – panacea for jobs, etc.

Cllr Carstairs (UKIP) simply offered support. Clr Keeley (UKIP) – known to be opposed to BHLR, was not present.

Cllr Wallis (Lib Dem, Eastbourne) echoing Cllr St Pierre’s scepticism, alone expressed doubt over the links between roads and jobs.

The low points of the meeting (there were many) were characterised by comments on:

Jobs – there would be 3,000; there would be 3,500. It varied during the meeting. These would all be ‘high quality’ jobs.

Environment -  cancelling the BHLR would lead to desecration of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – it would be opened up for developers. The Combe Haven is less important than the AONB. BHLR would allow people to enjoy the scenery as they drive through. People could get to the countryside more easily.

Costs –  Cllr Tutt – Lib Dem, Eastbourne, quoted the costs of BHLR to local council tax payers as £288.00 for every inhabitant of East Sussex. He then went on to support the increase.

Costs for the BHLR were described as rising from £50m to £113m now. (This ignored the 2002 cost assessment of £24m (South Coast Multi-Modal Study), and misquoted the government’s conditional approval in 2004 of £47m).

Lead member for Economy, Transport and Environment, Cllr Carl Maynard, spoke of the benefits to the ‘travel to work area’ (with BHLR, to become the ‘drive to work area’?). Cllr Simmons described the investment in the road as ‘an exact science’. An amazing claim which shows  clearly that he has never read the Department for Transport’s analysis of the case for the Link Road. But hang on: we haven’t yet met a councillor who has read it. Obsessive progress of this great and expensive ‘vanity project’ doesn’t permit an analytical approach.

One councillor was barracked for suggesting that the rising costs from the capital budget were unpalatable in the light of cuts to services. He wasn’t evidently understanding the separation of budgets. But the public’s anger of this profligate use of their money in a time of cuts is real, and we should remember the threat made by former leader Cllr Peter Jones to use capital from the education budget to fund the road if he didn’t get a government contribution.

Blame for delay was laid by some councillors at the door not only of the protestors but that of the Department for Transport. Clearly the conduct of the BHLR project by the County Council is viewed by councillors as ‘perfect’. The awful truth is that most delays are due to mismanagement by the council itself, and that is in no small part due to their pursuit at any cost of what is at best a mediocre road scheme irrelevant to the needs of Bexhill and Hastings, and at worst a disaster for the county as a whole and Bexhill and Hastings in particular. Failure of ESCC to work effectively with the government’s statutory environmental bodies – Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage – cost them a delay of almost three years between the 2004 ministerial approval  and the 2007 planning application to which all three raised objections, two formally. The 2004 approval, incidentally, costed the BHLR at £47m!

GATHERING IN THE VALLEY – 13th JULY AT CROWHURST

Hundreds turned up for the national rally at Crowhurst recreation ground on a glorious day to hear music, speeches from local and national figures, enjoy a coconut shie and great food. Walkers arrived with guides from Bexhill, St Leonards, Hastings and Crowhurst stations to see the valley, scarred but still tranquil.

Speakers included Stephen Joseph, Director of the Campaign for Better Transport; John Stewart, veteran campaigner from Clear Skies/Plane Stupid (Heathrow, third runway issue); Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner at CPRE; Georgia Wrighton of CPRE Sussex; Tony Whitbread, CEO of Sussex Wildlife Trust, also speaking for Wildlife Trusts UK.

Andrea Needham of Combe Haven Defenders, Derrick Coffee of Campaign for Better Transport- East Sussex, Michael Bernard of BLINKRR and Sonia Howley of Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group gave a local take on the history of the scheme, heritage of the valley(s) and the habitat destruction evident to all who passed through the valley on this day.

The successful event was organised by Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group; Combe Haven Defenders and Campaign for Better Transport.

The  Combe Haven Defenders website carries excellent coverage of the day’s events and other news:

Combe Haven Defenders | Stop Osborne’s Roads to Nowhere: Stop

Two excellent letters from the Hastings Observer express the continuing anger over the destructive and ever more costly road scheme:

H Obs Letters Jul 13_NEW

Decoy Stream Valley - Protest Camp Site - a once peaceful and beautiful little valley.

Decoy Stream Valley – Protest Camp Site – a once peaceful and beautiful little valley.

Attentive Audience

Attentive Audience

Georgia Wrighton, CPRE Sussex

Georgia Wrighton, CPRE Sussex

Tony Whitbread, Sussex and UK Wildlife Trusts

Tony Whitbread, Sussex and UK Wildlife Trusts

Veteran campaigner, John Stewart

Veteran campaigner, John Stewart

A shock to those who have known the valley

A shock to those who have known the valley

 

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ROADS TO NOWHERE – NATIONAL RALLY, CROWHURST, JULY 13TH/MEETING WITH AMBER RUDD, MP/FATE OF LAPWINGS’ YOUNG

THE RALLY

A national rally will be held at Crowhurst recreation ground on Saturday, July 13th to protest against the government’s aggressive and destructive roads programme. Come along to hear speakers and learn more about the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR). It is not too late to halt the destruction, and it’s never too late to demand an end to forced car dependency and its inevitable accompaniments: second rate public transport, dangerous walking and cycling environments, congestion (it’ll be shifted around), worsening public health and wasteful urban sprawl.  There’ll be guided walks, refreshments, music and poetry – an enjoyable and educational day out.

Details here: View it in your browser.

AMBER RUDD, MP, MEETING

Dr Judy Clark and Derrick Coffee met Amber Rudd MP at her surgery in Hastings Town Hall on Saturday, June 15th in response to her general invitation to hear views on matters including the BHLR, post disclosure of concealed information.

Observers may wonder of there was any point in going along, but our view was that the meeting had been offered to interested parties; the MP had publicly anticipated questions on the Link Road, and so it seemed sensible. We were well aware that the effort was highly unlikely to achieve any u-turn, or even a pause in the current destruction along and around the line of the route. In the end though, the dialogue was quite revealing, and the MP undertook to respond in writing to our concerns expressed through written questions read out and passed to her on the day.

We had a good half hour to present our concerns and describe the history of our involvement, though there was no debate to speak of around the core issues. The MP listened, but was resolute in her support for the scheme and although we represented the doubts expressed in DfTs’s own analysis, she remained fully supportive of the claims around jobs that the promoters expect to flow from it, and confident that the GENECON report’s forecasts were sound. This report calculated that the number of jobs produced through developments along the Link Road would equal the number of people that could be fitted in to the offices/factories built. This was aptly described by a leading UK academic as ‘nonsense on stilts’. For her, the DfT, and other experts,  are wrong, and nothing else would work because it isn’t the BHLR.

Nor was the MP troubled by the concealment from the public for nearly a year of a (much cheaper) ‘non-BHLR public transport based’ option, or that analysis of this option had been prematurely stopped in its tracks with the consequence that any measures that might have flowed from it never saw the light of day.

We gave our thanks for the 40 minute ‘exchange of views’, and Amber took our questions away with a promise to respond. The question, signed, and as left with the MP, is here:

Amber Rudd Q June 13

and her response, just received, is here:

Amber Rudd Letter 6 13

Disappointingly, Amber is taking a stance sincerely, but founded in a very shaky evidence base, while chancellor Osborne has no interest in evidence at all. On this particular issue, the Department for Transport appears to have been parked, and its very real and substantiated doubts swept aside at great cost to the public purse. The ‘environmental credentials’ of government look very shaky indeed.

LAPWINGS

A ‘red list’ species at particular risk of disappearing from large tracts of farmland where once they were a familiar and uplifting sight and sound, the lapwings breeding in Combe Haven were a symbol of success in adversity. Absent for a number of years, they bred several chicks this spring. Tragically, disturbed by the ESCC contractors, they appear to have abandoned their young to an unknown fate. Local ornithologist Cliff Dean has told the story on his website, link here: Combe Haven | Birding Walks in RXland

Greg Barker, MP, Minister for Climate Change (NB:BHLR=the dirtiest English road scheme for CO2 emissions), sat on a committee which published a report: ‘Halting Biodiversity Loss’, 2007/8. Well, almost, because according to the minutes of that committee, it appears he didn’t attend any of its meetings.

If he wasn’t comfy with that report’s ethos, maybe he should have a read of the ‘State of Nature’ report, reminding us of the central role of nature in the small matter of a decent quality of life for all and the not so small matter of survival itself. Report here: “State of Nature”

Certainly, people who can now enjoy the landscapes, wildlife and history of Combe Haven in a tranquil and remote setting within a short walk of home will have no equivalent after BHLR punches through the valley, accompanied by 25 – 30,000 vehicles a day. They’ll need to buy a car or find a bus (if there is one).

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MP AMBER RUDD AND CHANCELLOR OSBORNE CLOSE EYES TO EVIDENCE

In the Hastings Observer of 31st May, Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, repeats the call for the Baldslow Link in order to solve congestion problems on The Ridge. It would do no such thing.

Hastings Observer Srticle, 31/5

Read our counter letter:

amber-counter-letter-v31.doc

The article here, from last week’s Hastings Observer is hugely symbolic. It………….

……….demonstrates that Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Chancellor Osborne’s Private Parliamentary Secretary, is still happy to repeat the very shaky assertions of ESCC on jobs they claim will flow from BHLR scheme: 3,000 plus, as against the Department for Transport’s analysis of 900 – 1,000. She is misleading her constituents.

The disclosure by the DfT of their officials’ recommendation immediately prior to the funding announcement in the 2012 is to say the least, revealing. As reported in the local and national press, the recommendations included an option of not funding the BHLR, but instead offering:

‘support  (for) development of a package of alternative transport measures of benefit to the area’.

 Read the disclosures here:

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT DOCUMENTS DISCLOSED AT LAST!

There has certainly been an ‘economy of truth’ here, and because of Chancellor Osborne’s pressure to get the funding announcement into the budget, research into the alternative option was halted prematurely. We want, and the public need to know, what that (inevitably much cheaper) alternative might have delivered. The research should be completed.

In the same article, Amber Rudd claims that the building of the Baldslow Link to the A21 would relieve traffic on The Ridge. ESCC’s evidence to the public inquiry suggested otherwise. By far the largest proportion of traffic is internal to Bexhill and Hastings as illustrated by the ESCC figure here:

Traffic Flows Hastings Bex PI Fig 3.8

This scheme is controversial because of the uncertainty and evident exaggeration around anticipated benefits, the certainty of its destruction of habitats and landscape, huge cost to the public purse and most worringly, the ignorance of evidence on the part of its promoters. Let’s not forget that after its comprehensive assessment process, the Department for Transport rated it second from bottom for value for money, and worst by far for CO2 emissions out of 45 current schemes in England.

Meanwhile, the Rother District Council planning application for the link road from the BHLR to serve developments has attracted over 450 objections. Rother’s consultants helping them progress the application include ‘Genecon’ who came up with the fantasy unchallenged assertion of 3,000 jobs for ESCC.

Amber Rudd, Greg Barker (minister for Climate Change – you couldn’t make it up!) are dismissing evidence, talking rubbish, and in the process of delivering rubbish.

Against this background, and as the photos here show, the destruction and degradation of the Combe Haven and Watermill Stream valleys progresses.

One photo, taken on June 2nd, shows  a pair of supposedly protected lapwings attending to and seeking to protect their nest their within the construction site perimeter.

PHOTOS, June 1st, 2013:

1. Barn at Adams Farm – bat roost to be demolished and relocated. Prospects for bats: uncertain. The ‘haul road’ is in the distance.

Bat Barn Haul Road

2. Remains of the hedgerow, Buckholt Lane,  now completely grubbed

Hedge Grubbed

3. Stump of a once mature oak at the foot of Watermill Stream valley

Stump and Notice

Below:

4. Lapwing circling. One of a pair of these protected birds, currently nesting within the construction site, and not seen breeding in the valley for some time.

5.The haul road has now extended to the foot of Watermill Stream valley. If it goes further east, it will interrupt the lapwings. ESCC ecological surveys have dismissed the needs of these birds.  lapwing Flight Watermill Stream Cross

6. Damaged sign. These high quality signs are felt by many to be hugely ironic.

Damaged information board

Damaged information board

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DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT DOCUMENTS DISCLOSED AT LAST!

The DfT has now published its documents including previously redacted recommendations to its ministers. Today’s press release (link below) gives a summary of the content. The documents can be viewed here too (links below). There was no clear recommendation for the Link Road! There was huge pressure from Chancellor Osborne to approve funding. Document 2a reveals that there was a clear option to develop less damaging public transport alternatives for which funds would have been made available.

BHLR Post Disclosure PRESS RELEASE – IMMEDIATE 

DfT Disclose 2a

DfT Disclose 2b

DfT Disclose FER0464382 – Letter to Derrick Coffee-1.

To see the press release from Campaign for Better Transport, the link is here:

Bexhill Hastings Link Road – released documents show Treasury forced DfT into a rushed decision that ignored alternatives

Combe Haven Defenders  also campaigned hard for release of the documents – website link here:  Combe Haven Defenders | Stop Osborne’s Roads to Nowhere: Stop

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