PRESS RELEASE – IMMEDIATE
Report from Government Transport Adviser supports case for re-appraisal of Bexhill to Hastings Link Road, a flawed major road scheme.
National environmental organisations (1) today backed a call for a number of highly environmentally damaging road schemes – including the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) – to be sent back to the drawing board. They are seeking a meeting with Secretary of State for Transport Douglas Alexander to discuss what can only be described as a failure to properly interpret government transport and environment policy. (2/8)
This call follows publication of a report by traffic expert and government adviser Dr Denvil Coombe (3) on the consideration of non-road alternatives to BHLR.
The report – Bexhill to Hastings Link Road: Investigation of Alternatives – found that in the case of BHLR, the scheme had been chosen before all options had been developed and considered for further appraisal. In the government’s own guidance, the advice is strongly given that when setting local objectives for transport solution development, the objectives ‘must avoid at all costs indications of preferred solutions as these may cause other better solutions to be overlooked in the process of establishing a strategy or plan’ . In ignorance of this, the BHLR was selected as the preferred solution, and other non-road measures were not investigated. This is completely at odds with claims made by the scheme promoters, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) that alternatives were sufficiently considered by the South Coast Multi-Modal Study (SoCoMMS) in 2002 in their Hastings Strategy Development Plan (5) and that further analysis was therefore unnecessary.
Dr Coombe’s report found that contrary to ESCC’s claim,
There is little in the Hastings Strategy Development Plan prepared as part of SoCoMMS to show that the problems on the A259 and their causes were analysed in detail and that the full range of potential solutions which logically follow from these analyses of the problems and their causes was investigated, as recommended in the Government’s advice which should have governed the conduct of SoCoMMS’.
Notably, Dr Coombe was an author of that advice.
The Hastings Alliance (6), a coalition of local environmental and community groups, has always opposed the BHLR on environmental grounds – it would cause huge environmental damage to an unspoilt, tranquil and beautiful valley. Commissioned by East Sussex Transport 2000, with support from the Alliance, this report gives further impetus to the strong case against the road.
Speaking for the Hastings Alliance, lead campaigner Derrick Coffee said:
Government policy (7) already states that ‘for all environmentally sensitive areas or sites there will be a strong presumption against new or expanded transport infrastructure which would significantly affect such sites or important species, habitats or landscapes’. Undoubtedly, BHLR would do so. The fact that alternatives have not been properly investigated makes the road an even greater mistake.
In the light of the Stern Report, the Eddington Review on Transport and widespread and growing concern over climate change, a different approach is needed. Instead of a land hungry road based strategy producing increasing levels of CO2, we need proper and thorough investigation of alternatives that would be certain to present huge opportunities for an innovative showcase sustainable transport strategy for Hastings and Bexhill. This should now be a priority and the BHLR should be scrapped. At the very least, BHLR should be put on hold until the wider public can work together with professionals to create alternative solutions to transport needs fit for the 21st century, and far more likely to offer value for money.
Notes for Editors:
1. Organisations include: Transport 2000, Roadblock, Woodland Trust, Council for the Protection of Rural England, Friends of the Earth and SUSTRANS.
2. Letter signed by national NGOs to Secretary of State for Transport Douglas Alexander (attached)
3. Bexhill to Hastings Link Road. A report for East Sussex Transport 2000 – Investigation of Alternatives, 2006
4. WebTAG Unit 2.2, paragrpah 1.4.3
5. Hastings Strategy Development Plan, South Coast Multi Modal Study, Halcrow, 2002.
6. The Hastings Alliance is made up of: Friends of the Brede Valley, Hastings Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Earth South East, East Sussex Transport 2000, Hastings Urban Wildlife, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Railfuture Coastway Group, Council for the Protection of Rural England – Sussex, SUSTRANS, Wishing Tree Residents Association.
7. Government policy is very clear that “the testing of alternatives is not an add-on to the appraisal but an integral part of the process of determining the preferred option.” and that “the assessment of alternatives should start from an initial wide base of possible options” Government guidance at WebTAG Unit 1.4, paragraph 2.9.1 and 2.9.3
8. The Bexhill to Hastings Link Road has been provisionally approved by the Department for Transport.
Hastings Alliance (Chairman: Nick Bingham)
Court Lodge Oast
Contact: 01424 446373/883319, or 01323 646866 for Hastings Alliance
Lead Campaigner: Derrick Coffee