Hastings link road criticised in experts’ reports

TWO transport and planning experts have poured scorn on the proposed Hastings to Bexhill Link Road.

Reports by Professor Alan Wenban-Smith, of Urban and Regional Policy, and Keith Buchan, from the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU), say East Sussex County Council (ESCC) has failed to explore alternative ways of improving traffic congestion and attempts to bring in new jobs to the area.

The reports, which were commissioned by the Hastings Alliance, said the link road would increase carbon emissions, was entirely dependent on taxpayers’ money with no business contributions, and impacts on surrounding landscape had been seriously underestimated.

Nick Bingham, chairman of Hastings Alliance, said: “The link road appeared in strategies for Hastings and Bexhill not through any objective assessment of transport measures, but because East Sussex County Council was obsessed with the road. That has not changed.

“Our reports say with conviction and clarity that cost effective ways of improving transport and accessibility have been side-lined, and that the big, expensive and damaging link road would do the opposite.

“There is however a pressing need to help Hastings and Bexhill to build on their strengths as they have begun to do without the link road. It seems as if the county council does not regard the people of Bexhill and Hastings, or visitors to the area, as worthy of the best practice in transport improvements which have been introduced elsewhere in the UK.

Controversial plans for the link road returned to the forefront in September, with the county council stumping up almost £29 million towards the project. Last year the proposals were put on hold because of the change in Government and subsequent budget cuts.

But ESCC submitted a fresh bid for £56 million of money from the Department of Transport to help build the new road. The total cost is £85.9 million.

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

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

Councillor Carl Maynard, ESCC’s lead cabinet member for transport and environment said: “More than £300 million of investment has already gone into the area and the link road is absolutely central to Hastings’ and Bexhill’s future economic development and prosperity.”

A county council spokesman said: “Much of the criticism suggests we have not considered alternatives to the road. This is blatantly untrue. As was explained in evidence to the public inquiry in November 2009, non-road alternatives and alternative routes were all considered in depth, but failed to provide anything like the benefits of the link road.”