Loss of funding due to Link Road, say campaigners

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ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners say Hastings and Bexhill has lost out on money towards greener methods of transport because of funding being given for the Link Road.

Hastings Alliance wants to see more money spent on cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways but fears these will be ‘put on the back burner’ because of the multimillion pound scheme.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) recently secured more than £4 million from the Government’s Department of Transport (DfT) in a grant, of which £2.2 million was assigned for coastal towns, but not for Hastings and Bexhill.

The money is to be used for improving access to work through sustainable, greener methods of transport.

Derrick Coffee, from the Hastings Alliance, said: “The DfT has made it clear that the county council and not the DfT will have to foot any bills for such measures for Hastings and Bexhill.

“These potentially key measures, frequently described by ESCC as ‘complementary’ to the link road, have instead been trumped by that environmentally damaging and poor value for money scheme.

“Hastings and Bexhill are also lagging years behind the times when it comes to ‘real time’ bus information, enjoyed by Tunbridge Wells and Brighton for more than a decade. Now we’re told we can’t have it because the link road has been given funding. Not only that, but pedestrians and cyclists have had their hopes dented for the same reason.

“It appears that the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) won’t apply to Hastings or Bexhill, and safe, sustainable and healthy transport could remain on the back burner for the foreseeable future.

“All we have now is a sum of £56 million from the DfT towards the link road, with taxpayers set to make up the shortfall. In a time of cuts, there are going to be quite a few pressing calls on scarce and diminishing funds and the grant begins to look like a poisoned chalice.”

Councillor Peter Jones, county council leader, said: “Although our bid for funding for Bexhill and Hastings was not forthcoming, these measures can now be funded by county funds saved due to the success of our bid. Bexhill and Hastings will not miss out at all. This is all a bit rich coming from the Hastings Alliance which is currently attempting to prevent investment in Bexhill and Hastings through its late challenge to the link road.

“The link road funding decision was made back in March after an extra three months of consideration by DfT ministers and as I’ve said before, the Hastings Alliance was fully engaged in that process. We believe the argument on which it is based has already been exhaustively debated. We are confident the judicial review will not change anything but it could still cause delays, increasing the risk of an increase in costs.

“The Hastings Alliance, led by people from outside of Hastings and Bexhill, seems unable to accept the outcome of thorough democratic processes and wishes to impose its narrow view of the world on the vast majority who want the link road.

“We will continue with the important environmental preparation work while this challenge takes its course.”