Early in the week beginning 12th March, Campaign for Better Transport sent out a press release to the national and local media on the subject of an appeal by the Alliance to Secretary of State Justine Greening not to fund the BHLR. The Hastings, Bexhill and Rye and Battle Observers picked up the story and published the press release in full. Meridian TV did too, and filmed a piece in the valley at Ray and Laura Boggis’s Bynes Farm. BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey also picked it up. In each case Derrick got the callout and shared the broadcast with Cllr Peter Jones, leader of the county council.
Cllr Jones made the usual claims for the untold riches which would be delivered – along with a new one that the road’s benefit to Cost Ratio had shot up to a miraculous 10:1! ‘Nonsense on stilts’ was the considered response of our expert to a rapidly commissioned report referred to by Cllr Jones. Alliance predictions include a realistic scenario that in fact the ratio could well be in the realms of the negative.
The press release:
For immediate release
Green groups urge Government not to destroy environmental credentials by building destructive new road
Leaders of green groups have written to the Secretary of State for Transport urging her not to approve the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road on the basis it would do huge irreparable environmental damage without delivering the local regeneration claimed by road’s promoters.
Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth, Hastings Alliance, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Sussex Countryside Trust have written to Justine Greening urging her not to approve what they say is the most environmentally harmful and least economically justifiable road scheme currently being proposed in England.
Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s sustainable transport campaigner, said: “We see this decision as a key test for Government, one that will determine whether its aspiration to be the ‘greenest government ever’ is being overridden by a new drive to spend public money on infrastructure, no matter how damaging or ineffective it will be. Not only would approving it shred the Government’s environmental credentials, it would also be a poor use of public money and will not provide the sustainable regeneration Hastings needs.”
The Bexhill-Hastings Link Road’s proposed route is through the middle of the Combe Haven Valley, an area vital for nature and recreation, passing within metres of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and several Sites of Nature Conservation. The area is also important historically as it includes the possible landing site for the Norman invasion in 1066 and could contain important archeological remains.
The road is the final major road scheme awaiting a funding decision from the Department for Transport. The funding decision was postponed in December 2011 when Ministers ordered East Sussex County Council to examine alternative road and public transport options for new housing and businesses that would be less environmentally damaging, something campaigners argue has never been properly completed. Campaigners are concerned that Treasury sources are pushing for the scheme to be approved so that it can be announced in the Budget on 21 March.
The link to the letter to Secretary of State Justine Greening is below:
The meeting with the DfT followed this flurry of media activity – here’s a report:
A quick update on Thursday’s meeting with the Department for Transport.
We had with us our four experts – Judy Clark, Alan Wenban-Smith, Keith Buchan and Mark Sullivan giving presentations on issues of biodiversity/landscape, economic credentials, transport and sustainability, and planning.
The four DfT staff present listened carefully to the presentations and asked questions throughout the 90 minute meeting which was efficiently chaired by Robert S Fox of DfT, and very well steered by our chairman, Nick Bingham. It was open and cordial throughout and gave every opportunity for all of our team – including Nick, Gillian and Derrick – to make useful contributions to the discussions.
We are very confident that a great deal of light was shed on matters which otherwise might have been passed by, and that the case presented by the promoters is not only being legitimately challenged by the Hastings Alliance, but that there are very powerful arguments in every area covered by our presentations that support and justify such a challenge. The meeting was evidently valued by the DfT team.
We believe that we did our best, and that thanks to the work put in by our presenters, our best was pretty good!
One telling post meeting assessment from an attendee: ‘…it got across the key points: huge environmental damage, lack of robust justification (ludicrous economic arguments, modelling changes all the time), stubborn refusal to take obvious and available alternatives seriously’.
The DfT told us that they were in constant dialogue with ministers but that they couldn’t anticipate a ‘decision date’. We deduce that there is a chance that the budget statement on Wednesday 21st could include such a decision, but that the decision in any case is likely to be very soon.
Photos of the team outside DfT offices, and the Meridian presenter in action at Laura and Ray Boggis’s Bynes Farm overlooking the valley are featured below: