A report published today by the Hastings Alliance for Sustainable Transport Solutions (HASTS) casts doubt on the claims made by promoters of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road for its regeneration potential. It concludes that there are cheaper and more effective ways of delivering regeneration benefits to Hastings and Bexhill, and that these would be much closer to the original Five Point Plan produced by the Regional Development Agency (SEEDA) and the local authorities.
The report "Bexhill to Hastings Link Road regeneration issues revisited" was commissioned by HASTS and produced by consultants Urban and Regional Policy. The key conclusions of the report are:
Despite design and transport purposes of the BHLR remaining the same since the bid for funding was made, the costs have escalated by "up to 50%" while the benefits are estimated to have increased by over 130% There is no explanation for this huge difference and therefore doubts as to the usefulness of the figures for decision making. Headline costs (£98m) are now over double the original approved figure of £47m.
The scheme is justified primarily in terms of "regeneration" but the vast bulk (80%) of the quantified benefits is in the form of time savings to road users. Given that most of the trips will be local, and time savings minimal, conversion of these savings into economic or regeneration benefits is of dubious validity. The BHLR may even be counterproductive in these terms.
There has been no proper investigation of means cheaper than the BHLR in securing access to the North Bexhill Business Park developments, and the promoters admit that the Business Park is unlikely to be attractive to inward investment.
Current scheme justification suggests that rather than BHLR supporting regeneration, it is now a case of regeneration supporting BHLR!
The recommendations of the previous report by Urban and Regional Policy (Bexhill to Hastings Link Road: regeneration issues, August, 2004) remain valid. These were essentially that a more balanced package of rail, traffic management and limited road improvements, integrated with environmental, housing and training measures, in the spirit of the original Five Point Plan would be both cheaper and more effective in fostering the regeneration of Hastings and Bexhill.