the A27: a road to perdition?

Our group is a founder-member of SCATE, the South Coast Alliance on Transport and the Environment, which has been established to counter the threat from the Government’s increasing obsession with road building along the south coast. Most under threat are the Arundel, Worthing and Lewes-Polegate sections of the A27, but the impacts of any changes could go far wider, so the alliance is for anyone along the south coast, from the New Forest to Kent.

SCATE’s objectives are to:
1. Promote sustainable transport solutions (for personal travel and freight)
2. Seek better land use, infrastructure and transport planning to reduce the need to travel and dependence on the private car.
3. Oppose damaging road-building schemes along the south coast corridor
4. Ensure that the environment is properly valued (for its contribution to the economy and human health) and that full consideration in particular is given to impacts on landscape, biodiversity and climate change in all decision making

The following organisations are also founder-members:

Bricycles
Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth
Campaign for Better Transport
Combe Haven Defenders
CPRE Hampshire
CPRE Sussex
Crowhurst Roads to Nowhere Action Group
CTC
Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth
Folkington Estate
New Forest Friends of the Earth
Rother Environmental Group
South Downs Society
Sussex Wildlife Trust
Travel Dog Lewes

The reasons why a group like SCATE is so necessary are very well summarised in a recent press release put out by the East Sussex branch of the Campaign for Better Transport:

A27 PLANS – ‘A DISASTROUS WRONG TURNING’, SAYS TRANSPORT GROUP

Plans for a super-highway between Polegate and Lewes were today described by local transport pressure group ‘Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex’ as a huge distraction from the real problems of accessibility faced daily by people of East Sussex.

‘Local politicians and Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd are producing much hot air and no evidence of any need for their grandiose vanity scheme – and at the same time ignoring obvious measures to address the county’s congestion and other road traffic related problems’, said Derrick Coffee, County Officer for CBT.

‘We’ve had ten years of inaction across the county and little more than vague commitments to public transport improvements in the Eastbourne travel to work area, while close to £120m of local and national taxpayers money has been thrown at the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road – a scheme that will produce a massive switch away from healthy transport – walking, cycling, bus and rail travel. That scheme has been assessed by government as offering ‘low to medium’ value for (our) money.

Here are some factors that should feed in to an urgent debate:

Massive housing development north of Eastbourne has gone ahead without high quality public transport. The (rail) journey time from Hailsham in 1954 was 16 minutes. The public transport option now typically takes 40 minutes.

The A22 Jubilee Way now delivers congestion and pollution to its junction with Seaside, severing important cycle routes and holding up buses. Public transport improvements come a poor second.

Pressure from this – along with incoherent parking policy – leads to pavement parking, creating hazards for pedestrians and wheelchair users.

Railway resignalling between Hastings/Eastbourne/Lewes soon to be ‘switched on’ will be able to accommodate more trains but the focus is solely on the largely irrelevant and potentially damaging A27 project with no mention of improved frequencies of rail services. We need more trains.

Overcrowding on trains along the coast has now been a problem for too long: no-one accepts responsibility so no-one takes a lead in solving the problem.

ESCC and Rother Councils want to delete a new Glyne Gap station from their plans. The station would relieve congestion at a busy retail park on the A259.

Three Oaks, Doleham and Winchelsea, stations on a line in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – popular with tourists – have no service stopping on Sundays, while bus services are poor or non-existent. Bad for the tourism economy.

Visitors to the South Downs National Park would suffer from the onslaught of increased traffic with accompanying noise, pollution and degradation of unique landscapes if a new A27 is built. Why not reduce traffic? That would be tens of millions of pounds cheaper and better value for money.

Upgraded public transport links between population centres and their two major hospitals in Eastbourne and Hastings following changes in clinical provision, have not been provided. There’s a feeling that those without cars don’t matter.

Road schemes should be assessed on effects on health. By promoting car dependency and land hungry car based developments – an East Sussex disease – the A27 scheme would surely fail.

It is surely important to work hard on schemes to reduce the effects of climate change. Plans for a new A27 ignore the issue – and implications for future generations of all nations.

Derrick Coffee, County Officer, Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex.

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