4 reasons not to build the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road
This year the government gave approval for a 3 mile stretch of road near Hastings to open up one of the most tranquil valleys in the South East of England for housing and out of town development. We campaigned long and hard against this scheme - as well as its predecessors - the Eastern and Western Hastings Bypasses. For over ten years I worked with local people who believed this project would not solve the area's transport problems, nor its economic ones. We used all the avenues possible including attempting to take a Judicial Review against the decision. It's hard to swallow, but none of this worked and the bulldozers are expected to move in in a few weeks. In fact tree felling has already started.
The project is flawed because:
1. It is a road to nowhere - East Sussex County Council and local MPs have pushed the scheme in the belief it is essential for the economic growth of the area. But there is little evidence to support this. The Hastings Alliance (a coalition of local and national groups) commissioned research that found "The Bexhill to Hastings Link Raod and associated business park are at best irrelevant and at worst highly damaging to this vision. Any short-run gain from development would be dwarfed by longer-run increases in traffic and car-dependency." A large proportion of the estimated economic benefit is based on reduced car journey times in the area - often of only a few minutes.
2. It will damage the environment. There is no doubt that the peaceful Combe Haven Valley will be scarred by the road and the development alongside it. Bats, dormice and great crested newts alongside other wildlife will be affected. It will also increase carbon dioxide emissions from the extra traffic it will generate - in fact it is projected to have the worst emissions of 45 transport schemes approved by government in the last year. The Department for Transport predicts that there will be 6,386 tonnes more CO2 emissions with the Link Road than without it.
3. It won't resolve transport problems in the area. There has never been a proper investigation of a package of cheaper measures to deal with traffic issues in the area, partly because the councils have been so fixated on the economic benefits they believe will come from the road. Unfortunately, the focus on funding the Link Road has diverted resources away from measures that could have reduced traffic and improved the economy
4. It is a poor use of taxpayers' money. At a cost of about £100 million, (£56m from central government - approximately £44m from the county council) at a time of budget cuts elsewhere, it does not make sense.
What is really sad and depressing is that not only do we know it is very damaging to the local environment and that the economic case is weak, but also transport issues in the local area haven't been and aren't likely to be solved with this approach!
Whilst Friends of the Earth cannot condone illegal actions, I personally take my hat off to those brave people who, as I write, are defending the beautiful Combe Haven Valley. If you haven't seen it go now: look and enjoy the tranquility before it is too late. You can find out more on the Defenders' website or Facebook page.
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© Alison Walters