Planning committee approves proposed Bexhill-Hastings link road

Three miles of road across countryside near Hastings was given the go ahead by East Sussex County Council today. Campaigners say the scheme, at nearly £100 million, is far too costly at a time of recession and is not a good use of taxpayers money. The road would cut across one of the most beautiful valleys in the South East. It would sever wildlife corridors across the valley used by dormice, owls and other protected species.

The Hastings Alliance, a coalition of local and national groups has called for a fraction of this money to be spent on other transport schemes which would benefit the local community by reducing traffic and providing better public transport and cycling facilities. They have also produced evidence to show that the area could be regenerated successfully without this damaging road.

Brenda Pollack, South East Campaigns Coordinator at Friends of the Earth said:
“I’m shocked that the County Council can believe that spending £100m of public money on this road is the best way of boosting the local economy. This project will increase traffic, increase carbon dioxide emissions and suck the life out of the existing town centres.”

Derrick Coffee, East Sussex Campaign for Better Transport said:
“We hope that common sense will prevail and the Government will step in and carefully examine the council’s case to see if the costs and benefits stack up. We don’t believe they do.”

Nick Bingham, Chair of the Hastings Alliance added:
“The link road will ruin this precious piece of countryside in order to save a few minutes journey time. Our landscape is irreplaceable: once destroyed it cannot be brought back”.

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Planning committee to consider proposed link road

Objectors will protest outside County Hall

After numerous delays, the proposed Bexhill to Hastings link road is to be considered by the Planning Committee at its meeting on 10th December 2008.

The meeting starts at 10:30 and objectors will be protesting outside County Hall from 9:30 onwards.

Organizers are hoping that as many people as possible will turn up on the day to take part in the peaceful protest.

The address is

East Sussex County Council
County Hall
St Anne’s Crescent
Lewes BN7 1UE

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Proposed Bexhill Hastings link road “Irrelevant and possibly damaging to regeneration”

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.

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Campaign for Better Transport calls for transport policies that lead to better health

Derrick Coffee
County Officer
Campaign for Better Transport, East Sussex
9 Mayfield Place, Eastbourne
BN22 8XJ

16th September 2008



WALKING, CYCLING – KEY TO A HEALTHIER POPULATION say local transport group Campaign for Better Transport.

In a response to a recent NHS South East Coast consultation, Healthier people, excellent care, the group concluded that alternatives to the car are an important route to healthy lifestyles and improvements in public health, particularly for the young. The recognition given in the draft document to the importance of healthy lifestyles is welcome.

Speaking for the East Sussex Group, County Officer Derrick Coffee said:

Although there is a greater appreciation of the importance of healthy lifestyles, we continue to plan for a car based future – the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road is a good example of this mistaken approach.

We would like the NHS to add their voice to a call for a speeding up of the provision of safe routes for walking and cycling in order to tackle what it sees as the major health issues of today, and to reduce dependence on the car. Ideally this should be accompanied by support for locally available services and shops which are walkable and cycleable.

Key objectives for those in the NHS concerned with health improvement include: reducing levels of obesity; improving diets; increasing exercise; increasing life expectancy; and improving mental health.

Campaign for Better Transport believes that the strategies to achieve these can be easily understood and explained, even though plans that should follow are slow to materialise:

Safe walking and cycling networks linking popular and important destinations for healthcare, shopping, education and leisure would promote better health. Even the walk to the bus stop or station can help

Such networks would support local shops and services such as those under threat in Bohemia, Ore, West Marina and Silverhill, allowing more people to obtain fresh produce to aid a healthy diet – particularly important for the elderly and those without access to a car

The resulting reduction in traffic, and through 20mph zones, the improvement in safety, would lead to more walking and cycling and public transport usage

Safer and quieter streets would create a better public realm and more opportunities for social interaction

All of this would create greater independence and reduce isolation for all vulnerable members of society and this would be likely to lead to improvements in mental health

"All of this fits perfectly with the aspirations of the consultation document, and could happen at a fraction of the cost of the £100m Link Road", concluded Derrick Coffee, "at the same time saving the NHS huge sums of money that could be better spent."

Derrick Coffee, County Officer, Campaign for Better Transport, East Sussex

9 Mayfield Place, Eastbourne. BN22 8XJ 01323 646866/01424 446373

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Update July 2008


Hastings Alliance for Sustainable Transport Solutions says:
Time for intelligent debate as link road costs more than double.

Speaking for the Alliance, Chairman Nick Bingham said: Costs have more than doubled from £47m to close on £100m [See note 1]. 

At a time of belt tightening, as well as huge increases in the costs of road transport and concerns over climate change, it is alarming to see East Sussex County Council and co-promoters of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) pretending that the hugely environmentally damaging road project is still value for money. 

He went on: It is absolute madness to commit huge sums of money to build transport infrastructure that will see an increase in dependence on the car. This is especially true in Bexhill and Hastings where journeys are overwhelmingly short distance, and school run traffic is well above average for the UK. With BHLR, the future would look bleak, with those living in any new planned communities more likely to place the car first in a list of travel options. The communities themselves would be far less likely to include high quality alternatives to the car; public transport would be undermined.

The Hastings Alliance for Sustainable Transport Solutions has done some calculations
[See note 2] that answer the legitimate question: What else could you get for the money?

For around one tenth of the current cost of BHLR (and these are likely to go up further), Bexhill and Hastings could enjoy:

  • · A Real Time bus information system.
  • · A new cycleway by the sea between Bexhill and Hastings
  • · A cycle link between the two new college sites at Hastings station, and Ore
  • · A new railway station at Glyne Gap

· A substantial start on creating 20mph zones in residential areas 

Several huge bonuses would flow from a cancellation of BHLR, including:

  • · Strong growth in walking and cycling and a healthier population
  • · A predicted reduction of 6000 tonnes per year of CO2 
  • · A better market for public transport
  • · More sustainable urban design and land use
  • · More high quality and attractive public spaces in town and neighbourhood centre
  • · A stronger local economy with more successful district centres such as Sidley, Silverhill, Bohemia and Ore

Importantly, the beautiful Combe Haven valley would remain the tranquil place it still is, to be enjoyed by this and future generations, residents and tourists alike. 

Notes for Editors:

1. ESCC quarterly progress report to Gov Office for SE, fourth quarter, 2007 -8. (£96,095,000)
2. Figures for Real Time bus information system from ESCC based on an unsuccessful bid for funding as part of the Local Transport Plan 2. Figures for CO2 from the Appraisal Summary Table (AST) of the bid document for BHLR. Cycleway construction costs from Sustrans/ESCC. Station costs based on Network Rail"s new modular station design (Local Transport Today, 11th July 2008 c £5. 8m. Costs of 20mph zone implementation based on Hull City scheme (£23,500 per kilometre (2002) plus inflation c£53,000 in 2008)

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Update June 2008

A year ago, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) applied for planning consent for the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR).

Government"s own bodies object to BHLR

There were almost 2000 objections to the scheme and only a handful of representations in support. The objectors included two of the three Statutory Environmental Bodies (SEBs): The Environment Agency, and Natural England. The third body, English Heritage, raised significant doubts about the scheme being presented.

These three government bodies are charged with protecting and enhancing landscapes, biodiversity and common heritage for all of us, and for future generations. Protection of water quality and prevention of pollution are included in the Environment Agency"s responsibilities.

To accompany its planning application, ESCC had to produce an Environmental Statement (ES) describing the negative environmental impacts of BHLR, and how ESCC was planning to overcome them. As a result of the objections raised by the SEBs, and other organisations and individuals, ESCC has had to look again at its ES. The latest information we have is that a draft has been sent to the planning department and that the publication of the fully revised ES will be in mid-June.

The most recent conversation with ESCC officers suggest that:

Public consultation based on the new ES, and also necessary because the BHLR road scheme was absent from district, borough and county planning documents, could take place in July.

Their current aspiration is for the BHLR scheme to be considered at the planning committee on October 8th.

The objections and significant doubts raised by the SEBs are of concern to us because one of the conditions placed alongside ministerial approval for BHLR was that ESCC, the promoters of the scheme, should –

– work closely with the Statutory Environmental Bodies to ensure that appropriate environmental mitigation measures are incorporated as the scheme is taken forward, particularly in view of the adverse environmental impacts identified in the appraisal.

Well, there certainly were meetings with the SEBs prior to the planning application. But these appear to have been a waste of time and money since in the end, two SEBs objected, and one raised significant doubts. It seems that either the minister’s condition was ignored, or the design work and processes were not competently carried out, understood, or fit for purpose.

The SEB’s objections and concerns can be briefly summarised as follows:

Environment Agency – Insufficient attention given to flood risk in north Bexhill; severance of habitats by the road, making the divided parts unviable for survival of species; loss or disruption of several types of habitat of national importance; failure to quantify impacts; ignorance of government guidance.

Natural England – Failure to identify a protected site of national importance for wildlife; threats to nationally important sites from polluted runoff not acknowledged; landowners not consulted on mitigation measures proposed on their land; effects of the road are described as being both beneficial and adverse to the survival prospects of protected dormice populations; general ignorance of adverse effects of the BHLR and its traffic on several species, habitats and ecosystems.

English Heritage – Incomplete investigations into heritage resources within Coombe Haven which together represent over three thousand years of human habitation and activity; consequent ignorance of mitigation measures that would protect or enhance the resources, anticipated to be of national significance; in the light of all this, ignorance over the resource implications of implementing the necessary mitigation measures.

Will the new Environmental Statement be any better than the failed old one?

How effectively ESCC have addressed the concerns of the SEBs we won’t know until the revised ES is published. We don’t believe that any ‘close working’ with the SEBs has taken place since objections were lodged, so the revised ES will have to be closely examined.

There will be a need for ESCC to ‘re-advertise’ the BHLR scheme because it had not been included in local planning documents. This was a serious and probably costly error. The re-advertising will include press releases as well as exhibitions, with information from the revised ES, and we will have to be ready for this. This is the point at which we have to object and it is likely that we’ll have three weeks to do so. Watch out for information in the media and also on the Hastings Alliance website!

BHLR – Double the original cost.

Another condition imposed by the minister on approving the scheme was that:

‘ the gross and net costs of the scheme remain unchanged’

The approved figure for BHLR was £47m (2004); the current figure is £89m – almost double the original costs. The condition has therefore been seriously breached. The ‘current’ figure is at least 17 months old now, so it may have to be revised, especially in the light of any extra mitigation measures needed to meet the concerns of the SEBs.

The Regional Assembly’s ‘Regional Transport Board’, which bids to government for funds, has asked ESCC to prepare a new economic appraisal of BHLR. When this is done, the Department for Transport will carry out its own ‘revised value for money assessment’ in the light of the major cost increase.

What else could be provided for the same, or even a lot less money?

Although it’s not quite that simple, it’s a perfectly valid question to ask. Member groups of the Hastings Alliance have been campaigning for alternatives to car travel for decades, and politicians have begun to listen:

Once a key proposal among regeneration schemes for Hastings and Bexhill, Glyne Gap station seems to have been quietly forgotten. It has been one our aims for twenty years. The leisure and retail complex sits at a point on the A259 where it fills up with 31,000 vehicles a day. The Alliance is working to get politicians working on getting the station built.

The Alliance supported Sustrans in their campaign to win Lottery funding to build a safe cycle route between Bexhill and Hastings. Funding of £380,000 has been pledged; that’s roughly half the cost. Now we need ESCC to progress the scheme and add their share of funding.

We have also worked hard – without success so far – to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas of Hastings and other East Sussex towns to create conditions for safe walking and cycling conditions, particularly for children.

Towns such as Peterborough, Darlington and Worcester have invested in alternatives and achieved huge reductions in traffic (on average: 12%), accompanied by impressive increases in walking (22%);

Cycling (47%) and public transport (16%). (Figures from Department for Transport, 2006)

Why not Hastings and Bexhill?

In an era of concern over the effects of climate change gas emissions and with finite supplies of oil currently at $130 a barrel, the Alliance is strongly committed to seeking and promoting sustainable transport solutions for a better local and global environment.

Watch our website for further updates.

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TV appearance November 2007

The Hastings Alliance will gain valuable publicity by appearing in an ITV documentary “Focus” on 13th November 2007.

The programme will feature Jenny Yeo, who has been driven from her farm in the Combe Valley by the proposal to build a new road, and Nick Bingham, chairman of the Hastings Alliance.

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