Ongoing Hastings link road saga is back in gear

It is hoped the link road would spell an end to traffic jams like this
It is hoped the link road would spell an end to traffic jams like this

CONTROVERSIAL plans for the link road are back on the agenda – and this time the county council is set to stump up almost £29 million towards the scheme.

Last year proposals for the Hastings to Bexhill Link Road were put on hold because of the change in Government and subsequent budget cuts.

But this week East Sussex County Council (ESCC) submitted a fresh bid for £56 million of money from the Department of Transport to help build the new road.

The total cost of the link road is £85.9 million.

And the county council said its contribution to the scheme had been increased by almost £19 million, compared to its original proposal.

Objectors from the Campaign for Better Transport and the Hastings Alliance have slammed the county council’s plan at a time of service cutbacks. They said the authority had recently slashed its budget by £37 million and axed 200 jobs.

Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s sustainable transport campaigner, said: “The cost to local taxpayers of this road is staggering at a time when vital public services are being slashed.

“The expense of this scheme is all the more hard to justify when there are other proven solutions which are cheaper, will cut congestion and reduce car usage.

“Local people should be outraged at just how much this road to nowhere is going to cost them.”

Derrick Coffee, from the Hastings Alliance, said: “The dogged pursuit of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road over the last decade by the county council, while ignoring or dismissing alternatives, has denied tens of thousands of residents, workers, students and visitors the opportunity to benefit from world class sustainable transport choices.

Mr Coffee added: “That opportunity could still be grasped, but only if this obscenely expensive scheme is dropped. That would close the door to the kind of unsustainable car- based development that would follow the road, along with the urban sprawl that has wasted so much of our countryside and undermined our town centres and their economies. We can and must do better than that.”

Planning permission for the link road was granted in 2009 following a public inquiry, which looked at the land needed for the road and for new environmental habitats.

The link road is one of 45 transport schemes across the country vying for £630 million of Government funding.

The county council said the road was ‘essential’ for future prosperity.

Councillor Carl Maynard, the authority’s lead cabinet member for transport and environment said: “The link road is an essential part of the comprehensive regeneration strategy for Hastings and Bexhill. More than £300 million of investment has already gone into the area and the link road is absolutely central to its future economic development.

“It will open up land for business and housing developments and improve transport links between the two towns.

“We have worked hard to find ways to reduce the cost of the road by several million pounds and because we believe it is so vital, we have decided to increase our own financial contribution by reallocating funding from other capital projects.”

Hastings MP Amber Rudd has collected support from four MPs, one of whom is Bexhill and Battle MP Greg Barker, to push for funding for the road and sent a letter of support to the county council, signed by herself and the four other MPs.

She said: “I am keen to try to get this bid at the top of the list for the national major schemes development pool. I think this letter will help to make it clear that this road should be a priority.”

A decision on the latest application will not be known until December. If the bid for funding is successful, construction will begin in 2013.

n The Hastings Alliance is collecting public objections ahead of the final Government decision. Log onto www.hastingsalliance.com.

Next Saturday (September 24) it is also holding a protest in Combe Haven valley.

There will be a picnic at Bynes Farm and visitors should bring their own food and drink. The Cajun Dawgs will also be playing.

Children’s poet Brian Moses will be reading his poem inspired by the valley. Guides will leave Bexhill station at 1.30pm. There will also be guides from Bulverhythe (Combe Haven stream bridge) at 1.30pm. Guides at Crowhurst station will meet the 1.50pm train from Hastings.