BHLR: DELAY – COSTS INCREASE – APOLOGIES – BLAME

There has been a long time lapse since the last update – apologies for that. This is a quick update and will be followed in the next two weeks with latest news and also comment on transport issues in Hastings, Bexhill and the wider county.

The saga of the BHLR continues. With the county council website behind events and still displaying information on the 10k running event for the 20th September, we have since seen elsewhere in the news revelations of delay, apologies, blame and staggering multi-million pound costs increases.

The latest information we have is:

  • the road will open on or around the 2nd November
  • there will be a new bus service operating between Bexhill – Tesco – Hastings. It will be an extension of the current 21 route with three vehicles available
  • bus lane construction along the existing A259 will begin in February 2016

All of this is, of course, subject to confirmation and possible revision, and  no details of frequencies of the proposed bus service were given. Will it happen on November 2nd?

The recent televised apology for the delay made by county council leader Cllr Keith Glazier was tempered by an assertion that ‘protestor action’ had been a significant cause. It may have delayed construction by a few weeks, but the years of delay are due to the mis-management of the scheme, with a gap of three years (2004-7) due to legally required consultation meetings with government ‘environment protection bodies’ to devise measures to mitigate (make ‘less worse’) inevitable environmental damage.

The meetings must have been less than effective, because all three government Statutory Environmental Bodies ( SEBs: Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage) raised serious doubts about the quality of the planning application for the Link Road scheme when it was submitted to the county’s own planning committee: the first two objected formally and the third raised questions about the size of the budget to conserve for the nation the archeological treasures already known, and those judged almost certainly  present – but yet unknown – in the Combe Haven valleys.

It took until 2009 to determine the planning application and then came the Public Inquiry late in that year. The inspector’s report didn’t appear for a further two years.

The government’s ranking of the Link Road in the ‘value for money’ league table for all English local authority road schemes was bottom of 23 and the worst for CO2 emissions: the environmental impact of the road was calculated by the Department for Transport as incurring a cost of between £77m and £123m. Nevertheless, our ‘prudent’ austerity conscious chancellor, George Osborne, ignored that, as well as the Department for Transport analysis that the jobs claimed to follow the road were grossly inflated by a factor of 3.5, and awarded East Sussex County Council £56m. Local taxpayers have been and are liable for the continuing cost overruns with the bill now standing at £65m.

See this link to the published Observer letter of 28th August, 2015:

Council is to blame for delays – Hastings and St. Leonards Observer

While the Observers published our concerns over the latest £4.4m cost increase:

H Obs Art Latest

The appetite for further road building goes on and shows no sign of abating: valued accessible, attractive and ecologically important countryside on the urban fringe is under threat of insensitive and inappropriate development. The nature of that development is highly likely to be ‘car dependent’ and therefore unsustainable and unhealthy, ignoring the needs of the next generation. Alternatives to that failed model of planning have been tried and tested in other locations and shown to deliver a better quality of life: nothing less is acceptable. The Queensway Gateway Road – recently quashed after a High Court action for its failure to properly consider air quality infringements, will be back before the Hastings Borough planning committee before long (objection advice  here). While the Bexhill Northern Access Road planning application has been lodged with Rother District Council. That unnecessary scheme would have major negative environmental impacts on presently quiet rural areas bordering Bexhill and Sidley

We believe that this poses serious problems for quality of the urban developments that will certainly follow. Details from the Seachange development company  website can be seen here. Objections may still be made to Rother District Council (Planning Application: RR/2015/2260/P)

This post concludes with two images taken on 6th September of the formerly intimate, tranquil Decoy Pond Stream Valley showing the BHLR separating Decoy Pond Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Little Bog Wood (left of the road site). Silent no more, Little Bog wood is classified as ‘Ancient’ and along with Decoy Pond Wood is visible on maps from the 1700s but existed in medieval times. Decoy 6 9 15 B

Decoy Pond Stream Valley, September 2015

Decoy Pond Stream Valley, September 2015

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