DELETION OF GLYNE GAP STATION PLAN ‘POINTLESS’/FLOODS BRING TEMPORARY TRANQUILLITY TO COMBE HAVEN

This gallery contains 15 photos.

To coincide with the opening of the new Marks and Spencers store at Ravenside (Glyne Gap) on the 28th November, Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex, and the Hastings Alliance, held a demonstration to publicise the absence of a … Continue reading

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COMBE HAVEN, OCTOBER 2013.

Combe Haven and its smaller tributary valleys are currently being transformed by construction works on a massive scale – and this is only the beginning.

Doubtless, many of those who have cherished the experience of walking in these valleys in their lifetimes feel powerless to do anything at all to prevent the progress of the road scheme that will deliver anything up to 30,000 vehicles a day through this exceptionally tranquil and beautiful environment.

A reminder of the scheme’s characteristics:

  • It is the worst scheme of 45 currently under development in England for CO2 emissions. Minister for climate change and MP for Bexhill Greg Barker is not bothered. It was the second worst of the 45 for ‘value for money‘, and cost increases of £14m since chancellor Osborne’s approval suggest that it’s now bottom.
  • There are no firm strategies for monitoring the environmental mitigation measures. As yet, we don’t know who will do the monitoring or even if it will be carried out. The status, extent and nature of monitoring remain ‘theoretical’.
  • Alternatives were never looked at. The Department for Transport was found by the independent Information Commissioner to be wrong to conceal from the public that immediately prior to the chancellor’s ‘green light’ to approve BHLR funding, a ‘public transport’ based strategy was also on offer to ministers  Shocking enough on its own.

Despite winning funding for this ‘gold plated’ road scheme, about which there is a great deal of information, there is a lack of information about the range of alternative and sustainable transport options that will be available as (if) the BHLR opens for traffic. There was less than half a page on the subject in the original 200 page bid to government in 2004, and there has been little hard information ever since. Even worse, following a rather secretive and poorly conducted study, Rother District Council want to kill off for good plans for a new station at Glyne Gap.

We can only conclude that those without access to a car (including everyone under 17), as well as those who would like to use their cars less, are apparently considered by those designing our future transport networks as somehow of a lower status. That’s disgraceful. The needs of this significant and growing constituency of people must be met and their numbers increased in order to limit the dire effects of climate change. In this respect, the BHLR is the worst possible option, with the consequent car dependent developments eating up scarce land and set to spew thousands of tonnes of climate change gases.

Back to that ‘feeling of powerlessness’: Harriet, a Crowhurst resident and artist, is recording this transformation on canvas as part of the story of the road. It is a commitment to telling that story – of how the road came to this stage in its construction.  So far, it’s a story of the triumph of dull, dangerous orthodoxy and profit over sustainability: a story of irresponsibility towards the next generation and its quality of life, and a failure to ensure for that generation a better and fairer world. Telling that story might prevent other similar unsustainable road based developments from tainting the planet. The Hastings Alliance and others like Harriet will continue to tell the story:

‘In just how many ways is this a story of how things should not be done?’

Harriet records the unfolding tragedy

Harriet records the unfolding tragedy

Concerned Crowhurst residents by Powdermill Stream

Concerned Crowhurst residents by Powdermill Stream

Habitat severance at Decoy Stream Valley - early Spring

Habitat severance at Decoy Stream Valley – early Spring

Decoy Stream Valley this week (Oct 6th)

Decoy Stream Valley this week (Oct 6th)

Buzzard circles over Watermill Stream. Vegetation replaced by extensive crushed rock

Buzzard circles over Watermill Stream. Vegetation replaced by extensive crushed rock

Alder - Combe Haven Valley. Oct 6th

Alder – Combe Haven Valley. Oct 6th

ROADS FIRST’ IS THE DEPRESSING PICTURE IN THE REST OF ENGLAND

Elsewhere in England, new Local Transport Bodies are now in place to bid for funding predominantly for, it turns out, road schemes. Their wish lists include not a single cycling scheme and ‘sustainable transport’ hardly features at all. In the South East  (Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Southend and Thurrock) the Transport Board scores 2.2 out  of 10 for sustainable transport, with new roads at the top of its agenda for funding. Download the full report here (pdf)

John Shaw, long time BHLR fan, advises the Local Transport Board, chaired by former East Sussex County Council leader, Peter Jones. Of the 31 attendees – or would be attendees – 31 out of 33 are male. The parallel Local Enterprise Partnership for the South East is also chaired by Peter Jones and has 40 male and 4 female members. These are very interesting statistics which do nothing to instil confidence in decisions taken. Jobs for the boys? We have to say that the ‘development pool’ process (as highlighted in the report above) produced a far more mature and responsible approach than that being adopted by the new Local Transport Body setup. The environment and sustainability are way down the list.

FOOTNOTE

We have been privileged to contribute evidence in support of those of the Combe Haven Defenders tried in court in Hastings in September. Trials continue and there will be more news about their fate and other matters in the weeks ahead.

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LINK ROAD – ESCC COUNCILLOR: ‘INVESTMENT AN EXACT SCIENCE’ ; GATHERING IN THE VALLEY

BHLR – COSTS RISE £13.35m.

The costs increase, funded entirely by the county’s council tax payers, was approved by ESCC 0n the 10th July, bringing the current total of public funding required to £113.35m. This increase alone could have funded  a step change in bus services for Bexhill and Hastings, a new station at Glyne Gap – and area wide walking and cycling facilities. The funds were voted through in a knockabout full council meeting almost devoid of evidence, with no councillors opposing the increase. An account of proceedings follows, accompanied by a summary of the preceding Planning Committee meeting where almost all concerns around the supposedly non-material amendments to the BHLR scheme – including removal of a bus lane –  were swept aside. (see ‘A Day at County Hall’ below.)

BHLR – A DAY AT COUNTY HALL

ESCC PLANNING COMMITTEE

On July 10th,  2013, East Sussex County Council Planning Committee considered their authority’s ‘non-material amendments’ (NMAs) to the BHLR scheme. Three objectors to the NMAs had registered a wish to address the Planning Committee and did so on the proposed amendments concerning Drainage and Flooding contingencies, the bus lane removal, and ‘Greenway’ alterations. Pete Caunter spoke on the first of these, Derrick Coffee on the second, and Andrea Needham on the third. All three speakers held that the amendments were material amendments departing significantly from the original BHLR plans, and that therefore the planning process would need to be re-run.

Before this, Planning Officer Tony Cook argued that the amendments were relatively minor, and the effects were predicted to be either neutral or environmentally beneficial.

With ‘extreme weather events’ on the increase, increased surface runoff from roads and the newly built up environment, and rising sea level all adding to uncertainties around the capacity of drainage infrastructure to cope, Pete Caunter’s concerns were legitimate and were echoing neighbours’ worries about these matters: Pete and the neighbours live along the line of the Egerton Stream which at intervals in the past, has caused flooding problems both near their homes and also in Egerton Park which floods regularly. Pete flagged up the issue of frequent flooding in the Combe Haven valley and the danger and impracticability of substituting fords for bridges.

Derrick Coffee’s concerns were around the contradiction between ESCC’s expression of certainties supporting the case for the bus lane removal and uncertainties or complete ignorance around future levels of bus services: the nature and extent of those services is after all, unknown, including to ESCC. Consultants working for ESCC have suggested that services could be expanded and the two regional hospitals of Eastbourne and Hastings have both talked openly of the need for bus services linking the two to provide access to the different clinical services that each will in future offer. Those consultants have made no reference though to evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services. Derrick Spoke on behalf of the Hastings Alliance.

Speaking for the Combe Haven Defenders, Andrea Needham pointed out that the exercise in amendments was a purely ‘cost cutting’ (‘value engineering’) one, dressed up as inconsequential, minor and very sensible changes to the scheme. She gave an example of an application to a planning committee for the provision of a canopy to a small area of a school playground being viewed as ‘material’, while major amendments in today’s BHLR plan were somehow ‘non-material’. Diversions of the ‘Greenway’ would make it less attractive to non-vehicle users, resulting in more car trips, provision of a ford instead of a bridge would create hazards in flood conditions, and arrangements for combining equestrians, pedestrians an cyclists would cause conflict.

Following our addresses, various councillors’ commented, mostly in support of the ESCC position. Only Cllr Field agreed that the bus lane removal was a ‘material amendment’ and that there was a danger of traffic backing up behind buses.

Cllr Ensor’s views (Bexhill) would, he said, exclude all representations of those not living in his locality.

Tony Cook summed up and demonstrated a misunderstanding of Derrick’s point around the anticipated ‘low’ level of bus services. Derrick described this expectation of bus services as ‘pessimistic and unimaginative’; Tony Cook referred to that pessimism as a description of the function of the amendment to the junction without the bus lane. He thus missed the point altogether that the ‘low level’ of bus services cannot be assumed because no-one on the planning committee has any idea of the future extent or nature of bus services. There is no bus strategy.

FULL COUNCIL MEETING – SAME DAY

Summary:

The funding increase of over £13m was agreed after almost 2 hours of overwhelmingly evidence free dialogue: you couldn’t call it debate.

Accusations of incompetent management of finances came from the Lib Dems and Labour, accompanied by calls for Lead Member for Transport Economy and Environment to resign. These were very soon laid aside with assertions of support in the light of the ‘higher costs of cancellation’. There was fear expressed of then losing the government’s £56m (now less than half the costs). This of course ignored the ‘non-BHLR, public transport option’ that we now know was offered to ministers so, no, the funds would not necessarily be lost. That’s of no interest: they will have their road whatever the cost.

Just one councilor (Rosalyn St Pierre, Lib Dem, Ringmer and Lewes Bridge) queried the BHLR ‘jobs assertions’ mentioning the DfT assessment of ‘1,000’, flowing from the road and developments. That was the sole piece of evidence featured in the whole session. She also queried the levelling of blame at protestors. She suggested that it had been foolish to pretend that protests would not arise: they were predictable. “Many young people hate road building” she said.

Cllr Field (Lib Dem Battle/Crowhurst) didn’t want this road but supported a road. She also supported some development in villages to ensure viable services were available.

Cllr Hodges, (Labour, Hastings) believed that the (3,500!) jobs would flow to the premises (and their vast car parks?) and create clusters.

Cllr Shuttleworth (Lib Dem, Eastbourne) warned that there may be further requests for even more money from ESCC coffers.

Cllr Pragnell (Con, Hastings) Defended the increase ‘…benefits the whole county…3,000 jobs’, while Cllr Elkin, (Con Eastbourne) spoke in similar vein – panacea for jobs, etc.

Cllr Carstairs (UKIP) simply offered support. Clr Keeley (UKIP) – known to be opposed to BHLR, was not present.

Cllr Wallis (Lib Dem, Eastbourne) echoing Cllr St Pierre’s scepticism, alone expressed doubt over the links between roads and jobs.

The low points of the meeting (there were many) were characterised by comments on:

Jobs – there would be 3,000; there would be 3,500. It varied during the meeting. These would all be ‘high quality’ jobs.

Environment –  cancelling the BHLR would lead to desecration of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – it would be opened up for developers. The Combe Haven is less important than the AONB. BHLR would allow people to enjoy the scenery as they drive through. People could get to the countryside more easily.

Costs –  Cllr Tutt – Lib Dem, Eastbourne, quoted the costs of BHLR to local council tax payers as £288.00 for every inhabitant of East Sussex. He then went on to support the increase.

Costs for the BHLR were described as rising from £50m to £113m now. (This ignored the 2002 cost assessment of £24m (South Coast Multi-Modal Study), and misquoted the government’s conditional approval in 2004 of £47m).

Lead member for Economy, Transport and Environment, Cllr Carl Maynard, spoke of the benefits to the ‘travel to work area’ (with BHLR, to become the ‘drive to work area’?). Cllr Simmons described the investment in the road as ‘an exact science’. An amazing claim which shows  clearly that he has never read the Department for Transport’s analysis of the case for the Link Road. But hang on: we haven’t yet met a councillor who has read it. Obsessive progress of this great and expensive ‘vanity project’ doesn’t permit an analytical approach.

One councillor was barracked for suggesting that the rising costs from the capital budget were unpalatable in the light of cuts to services. He wasn’t evidently understanding the separation of budgets. But the public’s anger of this profligate use of their money in a time of cuts is real, and we should remember the threat made by former leader Cllr Peter Jones to use capital from the education budget to fund the road if he didn’t get a government contribution.

Blame for delay was laid by some councillors at the door not only of the protestors but that of the Department for Transport. Clearly the conduct of the BHLR project by the County Council is viewed by councillors as ‘perfect’. The awful truth is that most delays are due to mismanagement by the council itself, and that is in no small part due to their pursuit at any cost of what is at best a mediocre road scheme irrelevant to the needs of Bexhill and Hastings, and at worst a disaster for the county as a whole and Bexhill and Hastings in particular. Failure of ESCC to work effectively with the government’s statutory environmental bodies – Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage – cost them a delay of almost three years between the 2004 ministerial approval  and the 2007 planning application to which all three raised objections, two formally. The 2004 approval, incidentally, costed the BHLR at £47m!

GATHERING IN THE VALLEY – 13th JULY AT CROWHURST

Hundreds turned up for the national rally at Crowhurst recreation ground on a glorious day to hear music, speeches from local and national figures, enjoy a coconut shie and great food. Walkers arrived with guides from Bexhill, St Leonards, Hastings and Crowhurst stations to see the valley, scarred but still tranquil.

Speakers included Stephen Joseph, Director of the Campaign for Better Transport; John Stewart, veteran campaigner from Clear Skies/Plane Stupid (Heathrow, third runway issue); Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner at CPRE; Georgia Wrighton of CPRE Sussex; Tony Whitbread, CEO of Sussex Wildlife Trust, also speaking for Wildlife Trusts UK.

Andrea Needham of Combe Haven Defenders, Derrick Coffee of Campaign for Better Transport- East Sussex, Michael Bernard of BLINKRR and Sonia Howley of Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group gave a local take on the history of the scheme, heritage of the valley(s) and the habitat destruction evident to all who passed through the valley on this day.

The successful event was organised by Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group; Combe Haven Defenders and Campaign for Better Transport.

The  Combe Haven Defenders website carries excellent coverage of the day’s events and other news:

Combe Haven Defenders | Stop Osborne’s Roads to Nowhere: Stop

Two excellent letters from the Hastings Observer express the continuing anger over the destructive and ever more costly road scheme:

H Obs Letters Jul 13_NEW

Decoy Stream Valley - Protest Camp Site - a once peaceful and beautiful little valley.

Decoy Stream Valley – Protest Camp Site – a once peaceful and beautiful little valley.

Attentive Audience

Attentive Audience

Georgia Wrighton, CPRE Sussex

Georgia Wrighton, CPRE Sussex

Tony Whitbread, Sussex and UK Wildlife Trusts

Tony Whitbread, Sussex and UK Wildlife Trusts

Veteran campaigner, John Stewart

Veteran campaigner, John Stewart

A shock to those who have known the valley

A shock to those who have known the valley

 

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ROADS TO NOWHERE – NATIONAL RALLY, CROWHURST, JULY 13TH/MEETING WITH AMBER RUDD, MP/FATE OF LAPWINGS’ YOUNG

THE RALLY

A national rally will be held at Crowhurst recreation ground on Saturday, July 13th to protest against the government’s aggressive and destructive roads programme. Come along to hear speakers and learn more about the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR). It is not too late to halt the destruction, and it’s never too late to demand an end to forced car dependency and its inevitable accompaniments: second rate public transport, dangerous walking and cycling environments, congestion (it’ll be shifted around), worsening public health and wasteful urban sprawl.  There’ll be guided walks, refreshments, music and poetry – an enjoyable and educational day out.

Details here: View it in your browser.

AMBER RUDD, MP, MEETING

Dr Judy Clark and Derrick Coffee met Amber Rudd MP at her surgery in Hastings Town Hall on Saturday, June 15th in response to her general invitation to hear views on matters including the BHLR, post disclosure of concealed information.

Observers may wonder of there was any point in going along, but our view was that the meeting had been offered to interested parties; the MP had publicly anticipated questions on the Link Road, and so it seemed sensible. We were well aware that the effort was highly unlikely to achieve any u-turn, or even a pause in the current destruction along and around the line of the route. In the end though, the dialogue was quite revealing, and the MP undertook to respond in writing to our concerns expressed through written questions read out and passed to her on the day.

We had a good half hour to present our concerns and describe the history of our involvement, though there was no debate to speak of around the core issues. The MP listened, but was resolute in her support for the scheme and although we represented the doubts expressed in DfTs’s own analysis, she remained fully supportive of the claims around jobs that the promoters expect to flow from it, and confident that the GENECON report’s forecasts were sound. This report calculated that the number of jobs produced through developments along the Link Road would equal the number of people that could be fitted in to the offices/factories built. This was aptly described by a leading UK academic as ‘nonsense on stilts’. For her, the DfT, and other experts,  are wrong, and nothing else would work because it isn’t the BHLR.

Nor was the MP troubled by the concealment from the public for nearly a year of a (much cheaper) ‘non-BHLR public transport based’ option, or that analysis of this option had been prematurely stopped in its tracks with the consequence that any measures that might have flowed from it never saw the light of day.

We gave our thanks for the 40 minute ‘exchange of views’, and Amber took our questions away with a promise to respond. The question, signed, and as left with the MP, is here:

Amber Rudd Q June 13

and her response, just received, is here:

Amber Rudd Letter 6 13

Disappointingly, Amber is taking a stance sincerely, but founded in a very shaky evidence base, while chancellor Osborne has no interest in evidence at all. On this particular issue, the Department for Transport appears to have been parked, and its very real and substantiated doubts swept aside at great cost to the public purse. The ‘environmental credentials’ of government look very shaky indeed.

LAPWINGS

A ‘red list’ species at particular risk of disappearing from large tracts of farmland where once they were a familiar and uplifting sight and sound, the lapwings breeding in Combe Haven were a symbol of success in adversity. Absent for a number of years, they bred several chicks this spring. Tragically, disturbed by the ESCC contractors, they appear to have abandoned their young to an unknown fate. Local ornithologist Cliff Dean has told the story on his website, link here: Combe Haven | Birding Walks in RXland

Greg Barker, MP, Minister for Climate Change (NB:BHLR=the dirtiest English road scheme for CO2 emissions), sat on a committee which published a report: ‘Halting Biodiversity Loss’, 2007/8. Well, almost, because according to the minutes of that committee, it appears he didn’t attend any of its meetings.

If he wasn’t comfy with that report’s ethos, maybe he should have a read of the ‘State of Nature’ report, reminding us of the central role of nature in the small matter of a decent quality of life for all and the not so small matter of survival itself. Report here: “State of Nature”

Certainly, people who can now enjoy the landscapes, wildlife and history of Combe Haven in a tranquil and remote setting within a short walk of home will have no equivalent after BHLR punches through the valley, accompanied by 25 – 30,000 vehicles a day. They’ll need to buy a car or find a bus (if there is one).

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MP AMBER RUDD AND CHANCELLOR OSBORNE CLOSE EYES TO EVIDENCE

In the Hastings Observer of 31st May, Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, repeats the call for the Baldslow Link in order to solve congestion problems on The Ridge. It would do no such thing.

Hastings Observer Srticle, 31/5

Read our counter letter:

amber-counter-letter-v31.doc

The article here, from last week’s Hastings Observer is hugely symbolic. It………….

……….demonstrates that Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Chancellor Osborne’s Private Parliamentary Secretary, is still happy to repeat the very shaky assertions of ESCC on jobs they claim will flow from BHLR scheme: 3,000 plus, as against the Department for Transport’s analysis of 900 – 1,000. She is misleading her constituents.

The disclosure by the DfT of their officials’ recommendation immediately prior to the funding announcement in the 2012 is to say the least, revealing. As reported in the local and national press, the recommendations included an option of not funding the BHLR, but instead offering:

‘support  (for) development of a package of alternative transport measures of benefit to the area’.

 Read the disclosures here:

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT DOCUMENTS DISCLOSED AT LAST!

There has certainly been an ‘economy of truth’ here, and because of Chancellor Osborne’s pressure to get the funding announcement into the budget, research into the alternative option was halted prematurely. We want, and the public need to know, what that (inevitably much cheaper) alternative might have delivered. The research should be completed.

In the same article, Amber Rudd claims that the building of the Baldslow Link to the A21 would relieve traffic on The Ridge. ESCC’s evidence to the public inquiry suggested otherwise. By far the largest proportion of traffic is internal to Bexhill and Hastings as illustrated by the ESCC figure here:

Traffic Flows Hastings Bex PI Fig 3.8

This scheme is controversial because of the uncertainty and evident exaggeration around anticipated benefits, the certainty of its destruction of habitats and landscape, huge cost to the public purse and most worringly, the ignorance of evidence on the part of its promoters. Let’s not forget that after its comprehensive assessment process, the Department for Transport rated it second from bottom for value for money, and worst by far for CO2 emissions out of 45 current schemes in England.

Meanwhile, the Rother District Council planning application for the link road from the BHLR to serve developments has attracted over 450 objections. Rother’s consultants helping them progress the application include ‘Genecon’ who came up with the fantasy unchallenged assertion of 3,000 jobs for ESCC.

Amber Rudd, Greg Barker (minister for Climate Change – you couldn’t make it up!) are dismissing evidence, talking rubbish, and in the process of delivering rubbish.

Against this background, and as the photos here show, the destruction and degradation of the Combe Haven and Watermill Stream valleys progresses.

One photo, taken on June 2nd, shows  a pair of supposedly protected lapwings attending to and seeking to protect their nest their within the construction site perimeter.

PHOTOS, June 1st, 2013:

1. Barn at Adams Farm – bat roost to be demolished and relocated. Prospects for bats: uncertain. The ‘haul road’ is in the distance.

Bat Barn Haul Road

2. Remains of the hedgerow, Buckholt Lane,  now completely grubbed

Hedge Grubbed

3. Stump of a once mature oak at the foot of Watermill Stream valley

Stump and Notice

Below:

4. Lapwing circling. One of a pair of these protected birds, currently nesting within the construction site, and not seen breeding in the valley for some time.

5.The haul road has now extended to the foot of Watermill Stream valley. If it goes further east, it will interrupt the lapwings. ESCC ecological surveys have dismissed the needs of these birds.  lapwing Flight Watermill Stream Cross

6. Damaged sign. These high quality signs are felt by many to be hugely ironic.

Damaged information board

Damaged information board

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DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT DOCUMENTS DISCLOSED AT LAST!

The DfT has now published its documents including previously redacted recommendations to its ministers. Today’s press release (link below) gives a summary of the content. The documents can be viewed here too (links below). There was no clear recommendation for the Link Road! There was huge pressure from Chancellor Osborne to approve funding. Document 2a reveals that there was a clear option to develop less damaging public transport alternatives for which funds would have been made available.

BHLR Post Disclosure PRESS RELEASE – IMMEDIATE 

DfT Disclose 2a

DfT Disclose 2b

DfT Disclose FER0464382 – Letter to Derrick Coffee-1.

To see the press release from Campaign for Better Transport, the link is here:

Bexhill Hastings Link Road – released documents show Treasury forced DfT into a rushed decision that ignored alternatives

Combe Haven Defenders  also campaigned hard for release of the documents – website link here:  Combe Haven Defenders | Stop Osborne’s Roads to Nowhere: Stop

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BHLR – Car culture first, Humanity second, Nature, Landscape and Tranquillity last.

NATURE, LANDSCAPE, TRANQUILLITY – ALL EXPENDABLE

The unbridled optimism at East Sussex County Council continues unchecked as Combe Haven and its tributary valleys face irreversible damage from construction of the BHLR – its exclusive and obsessively pursued 1960s transport vanity scheme. The landscape has already been stripped of hundreds of trees – many of them significant landscape features and up to 400 years old.

It’s not all over yet though: resistance continues as it must and the story has to be told. Here’s a summary of how things stand:

The preparatory tree and hedge cutting on a major scale appears to have been completed. This includes additional clearance for which permission appears not to have been granted, with an area of designated ‘ancient semi- natural woodland’ being felled (Chapel Wood, photo, map.) The map shows clearly that only the area within the solid brown line was to have been cleared. The photo shows clearance up to the road.

Chapel Wood Grabbed

Chapel Wood Clearance 1

Torn reptile fencing has been repaired. The damage was on quite a large scale and was left unrepaired for days on end. It would seem to us that surveys of reptile populations and behaviour need to be redone. Several reports have come in from farmers of numbers of trapped newts providing easy pickings for birds. Certainly, the traps within the zig zags of fencing held no trace of reptiles. The fences are conspicuous against a background of  a barren and now treeless landscape. (Photo). Birds returning to nesting sites have been seen flying around along Decoy Pond stream, near Actons Farm and around Adams Farm where their recently cleared habitual  sites used to be. A pair of lapwings have been seen displaying their courtship flight on the path of the BHLR route, sadly futile. Individuals walking in the valley have reportedly been aggressively challenged by security staff.

Newt Fence zig zag

SMALL VICTORY

Following our appeal to the Information Commissioner (ICO), the Department for Transport (DfT) was judged to be wrong to withhold key information on recommendations to ministers on the question of funding for the BHLR. These recommendations – which we believe fell far short of recommending that ESCC should get the money – were made just 2 days before George Osbourne’s approval of £56.8m, announced in the 2012 Budget Statement. The Department for Transport has a right of appeal but we hope they will respect the ICO decision and disclose the information to us, and the general public.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE CAR – LATE, SECOND RATE, OR COMPLETELY ABSENT

After 11 years of planning and expense devoted to the massively subsidised Link Road, East Sussex County Council are only now looking at the nature and extent of public transport that will have to compete on the far from level playing field. What a contrast to all the money and time wasted on the road. Clearly public transport and its users are considered of lesser importance. Initial plans for buses on the Link Road envisage none on Sundays and Bank Holidays; none at all after 7pm; none between Bexhill and the Conquest Hospital – instead change at Tesco. A bus lane is now proposed to be removed from the original link road plans. A station at Glyne Gap (30 years late) is under study but we’re not holding our breath, and the extra train per hour passing through and serving stations between Ore and Cooden recommended in 2000 is unlikely to arrive any time soon.

Based on figures from the Access to Hastings Study of 2000, rail passenger numbers will fall by anything up to 40% as car travel (and congestion) increase.  And we all know of the CO2 increases that will follow the road – the worst of all 45 currently planned English local authority road schemes. Oh yes, and second to bottom for ‘value for money’ and the only one described by the DfT as ‘poor’. That’s second rate then. Hastings and Bexhill deserve better.

(See archive photos Glyne Gap station site/bus stop, July 2012)

A separate planning application from Seachange will go in shortly for the additional road between the BHLR and Wrestwood Road to open up land for business and housing.  Chief Executive John Shaw has little idea of how people would get to work other than by car. We pointed out to him that the people most in need of jobs don’t have access to a car. He describes the sites as ‘accessible’ and as a ‘coastal location’.  There’s also an optimistic prediction of high occupancy of the business site arrived at by comparing the successful town centre office developments, close to public transport links, with this ‘car based’ out of town site. There’s no comparison.

COST CUTTING AMENDMENTS TO SCHEME

A number of amendments to the BHLR plan have been submitted. These are cost cutting measures considered to be ‘non-material’ amendments (NMAs) to the scheme. This means that in the eyes of ESCC, they don’t fundamentally alter the plan or function. If this is accepted, it means they can avoid going back to the DfT and rush the amendments through. We disagree. We believe the amendments are material changes and will make a difference to the function of the scheme and have submitted objections to their proposals. These include: changes to flood control measures in Sidley and Bexhill along the line of Egerton Stream; combining cycle, pedestrian and equestrian routes instead of segregating them; narrowing the carriageway in places; replacing bridges with fords (remember the annual floods); and removing a bus lane. We had asked to speak at the Planning Committee meeting, but…..

We now learn that the Planning Committee, due to meet on Wednesday 24th April, will NOT now determine the amendments to the BHLR plan. This means that Derrick Coffee of the Hastings Alliance and Andrea Needham of the Combe Haven Defenders, both having asked to attend and speak at the meeting, have no right to speak. Instead, Rupert Clubb, Head of Economy, Transport and Environment has taken delegated powers to determine the amendments himself as they are considered ‘non-material’.

A SOCIAL EQUITY ISSUE

In our objections to the above we point out the low aspirations for bus services (see above) and consequently a large risk of failure to carry out conditions attached by the minister to the approval of funding in April. He required ESCC to ensure that public transport measures, including meeting the objective to give unemployed people access to jobs – which includes public transport provision, and buses on the Link Road – were provided. The changes to conditions for cyclists mean that journeys could be longer and time consuming; and as a result, cyclists may be using the (unsafe) Link Road. Of course, much of this is academic because the ESCC jobs calculations are in fantasy land and over 4 times the numbers calculated by the DfT.

INCONSISTENCIES OF UNIVERSITIES

The arrival of the University of Brighton campus in Hastings has brought prestige and vitality to the town – a sustainable element in the regeneration plan for the town centre and area, and something the Hastings Alliance supported from the start. The University has in the last 12 months received a silver award for introducing procedures to cut energy use and increase sustainable practices. Credit is certainly due there.

Universities can be said to be the repositories of widely and deeply held values of the societies of which they are an important part. That is true of this University, and also of Trinity College Cambridge, which stands to make huge financial gains from the sale of land to be developed following the construction of the BHLR. Many local people find it difficult to comprehend how these seats of higher education can freely associate themselves with the BHLR project – a risky and speculative car based development involving the devastation of treasured local habitats and landscapes, and seemingly ignorant of pressing climate change issues. The University of Brighton is a member of East Sussex Energy, Infrastructure and Development Company, also known as ‘Seachange’ which is promoting the north Bexhill development along with the Link Road. Associations with projects like the BHLR can only tarnish the Universities’ hard earned reputations.

IF ONCE YOU CRAVED AND ENJOYED TRANQUILLITY IN COMBE HAVEN – GO (BY CAR) SOMEWHERE ELSE!

The ‘offsetting’ measures ‘in the Brede/Hastings area’ approved by the DfT as one condition of funding approval were apparently designed to ‘offset’ some of the BHLR’s negative impacts on biodiversity. However, while residents of Bexhill and Hastings were able to walk to Combe Haven to see wildlife, how to access the area where offsetting will be implemented is not at all clear. What is clear is that anyone looking to experience this new and enhanced natural area will have to exchange the  ‘walkable’ and soon to be degraded asset of Combe Haven, for a car or bus journey to a location further afield. This is hardly socially equitable, certainly unsustainable, and clearly no substitute for anyone, people or wildlife. A bad joke really.

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