County Council could have forseen costs of flooding work

The Hastings Alliance is questioning the competence of transport planners at County Hall for not establishing more accurate costs for the proposed Link Road between Hastings and Bexhill.
The government approved £47 million of national funding for the scheme back in 2004 with the condition that it received proper planning approval and that the costs did not rise. Yet East Sussex County Council has recently re-estimated the costs at £89 million – a rise of £42 million.

The Council has said it should not be penalised for being open about the increase in costs from £47million to £89 million, but the Alliance believe that the significant proportion of the cost increase attributable to the need for flood storage tanks can hardly have come as a surprise. An earlier cost estimate of £60 million in 2004 might have been closer to the mark. A cynic might believe that a lower figure had been arrived at to increase the chance of government approval.

The need for flood amelioration as a result of runoff from the road during heavy rain has been known for a long time.[1] The Environment Agency advised in 2002 that the flood storage should be able to cope with a storm with a 1 in 100 years’ severity, with an additional capacity of 20% to deal with the increased severity of storms due to global warming. [2] The area is known to be prone to flooding and the issue of adequate floodwater storage has been well understood for some considerable time.

The Government only gave approval to the Link Road on condition that the gross and net costs of the scheme remain unchanged. [3]

Alliance Chairman Nick Bingham said:
The plaintive call from East Sussex County Council for more money for this highly damaging road should be thrown out. Commitment of yet mor e public money from the Department for Transport to cover the near doubling of costs is throwing good money after bad.

The Hastings Alliance has consistently called for this scheme to be scrapped as it will be a scar on the landscape and will impact on wildlife and air quality in the area. It will also encourage urban sprawl, not only with the planned large housing and business development at Worsham Farm, but also with ribbon development along the road if it gets built.

At the very least, the scheme should be placed on hold while alternative non-road options are fully investigated in line with government guidance. The council has never properly costed a package of alternative measures to see how they might provide better value for money in dealing with congestion problems on the A259. If this investigation formed part of the revised value for money assessment which will now be carried out by the Department for Transport (4), then that would itself add value to the exercise. With a doubling of costs, alternatives surely look better value for money, concluded Nick Bingham.

  1. It was highlighted in an earlier enquiry into the bypasses and Bexhill Northern Approach Road (BNAR) in 1994. What was the BNAR is now the proposed BHLR route into Bexhill. At that time, the Department of the Environment advised that to avoid flooding in Bexhill, there should be flood storage to cope with a storm with a 1 in 50 years severity.
  2. As part of studies connected with the South Coast Corridor Multi-Modal Study (SoCoMMS),
  3. Letter from Secretary of State, Alistair Darling date, to ESCC
  4. Letter from Secretary of State to South East Regional Transport Board. (March 2007)

Nick Bingham, Chairman,

Hastings Alliance for Sustainable Transport Solutions
Court Lodge Oast
East Sussex
TN31 6BB

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