THE EXPERT VIEW: BHLR – THE WRONG STRATEGY AND POOR VALUE FOR MONEY
Reports commissioned by the Hastings Alliance from two highly regarded experts in transport and planning policy have judged the county council’s £93m ‘Best and Final Funding Bid’ for the BHLR scheme as nothing short of disastrous, offering:
- Poor, or even negative, value for money
- An unsustainable and car based transport future
- An unacceptably large impact on sensitive landscapes and natural environments for which there is no comparable replacement
The reports by Professor Alan Wenban-Smith (1) of Urban and Regional Policy, and Keith Buchan (2) Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU) both found that East Sussex County Council had failed to properly assess alternative strategies to the BHLR, despite government guidance – and seven years in which to do so.
The findings also conclude that the BHLR scheme forms no part of any coherent regeneration strategy for the two towns, and that transport needs for regeneration, employment and housing can and should be met in other ways, more compatible with public policy.
The consultants also note that:
- The scheme increases carbon emissions
- The scheme is entirely dependent on taxpayers’ money with no business contributions forthcoming
- No attempt has been made to discern or put forward possible better uses of public funds (£93m, including at least £36m of council tax payers’ money)
- Impacts on landscape have been seriously underestimated
- There is an overall impression of the BHLR simply moving traffic problems around the area to the detriment of the rural and urban environment
- Public transport improvements have not been properly investigated, denying the people of Hastings and Bexhill the high quality choices enjoyed in other parts of the UK.
- Any additional traffic generated by new developments could easily be accommodated by a range of ‘smarter choices’ provided as alternatives to the BHLR and therefore, the car.
Commenting on the findings, chairman of Hastings Alliance, Nick Bingham, said:
“The BHLR appeared in strategies for Hastings and Bexhill not through any objective assessment of transport measures, but because East Sussex County Council were obsessed with the road. That has not changed. Our reports say with conviction and clarity that cost effective ways of improving transport and accessibility have been sidelined, and that the big, expensive and damaging BHLR would do the opposite. There is however a pressing need to help Hastings and Bexhill to build on their strengths as they have begun to do without the BHLR. It seems as if ESCC does not regard the people of Bexhill and Hastings – or visitors to the area – as worthy of the best practice in transport improvements which have been introduced elsewhere in the UK.”
Bexhill to Hastings Link Road, ‘Best and Final Bid’, East Sussex County Council, September, 2011.
– ‘A Review of the Transport Business Case for the Hastings Alliance, 14th October, 2011’, Alan Wenban-Smith, Urban and Regional Policy
‘Review of the East Sussex County Council Best and Final Bid to DfT for the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road, October, 2011’, Keith Buchan, MetropolitanTransport Research Unit