Link road alternative not fully investigated

7/5/13- Progress on the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR)
7/5/13- Progress on the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR)

CAMPAIGNERS against the controversial £100 million Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) are claiming a ‘significant victory’ after the Department for Transport (DfT) agreed to release recommendations about whether or not public money should be used to fund the scheme.

It has emerged that a second option was never fully considered.

Derrick Coffee, of the Hastings Alliance, said: “This option was for development of a package of alternative transport measures that would benefit the area, and could provide a sustainable alternative to the car based development model, now the only show in town.”

The release of the documents following a successful appeal to the information commissioner comes after a year’s efforts by anti-link road groups, culminating in a two-day attempt by campaigners to enter the DfT to get the documents themselves earlier this month. One person was subsequently arrested.

Campaigners say the documents reveal the DfT fudged the question of whether or not public money should be used to fund the project, and that there was no clear recommendation.

The documents also show the DfT assessed the BHLR as ‘low or medium value for money’, with East Sussex County Council (ESCC) having ‘significantly overstate[d] the benefits of the scheme’.

Gabriel Carlyle, Combe Haven Defenders spokesman, said: “The release of the DfT’s recommendations about whether or not to fund the link road – documents that the DfT have wrongly withheld from the public for over a year – is a significant victory for anyone who cares about either the environment, the public purse or the public’s right to know.

“These documents show that, despite intense pressure from the Treasury, the DfT’s own civil servants suggested that the Department should consider cancelling the project.

Rupert Clubb, director of transport at East Sussex County Council, said: “The FOI issue is a matter for the Department for Transport. The council’s view about the link road hasn’t changed.

“The link road will bring real benefits to the two towns, such as better access to jobs, fewer cars using roads that aren’t suitable for them, opportunities for housing and business development, access to education and a reduction in the number of accidents on local roads.”