After recent confusion over proposed Government plans for the A27 extension between Lewes and Polegate, South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE), the Folkington Estate and RH & RW Clutton presented to a ‘full house’ at Selmeston Village Hall on June 12th, to determine the truth and what could be done to influence the outcome of Highways England’s proposals.
SCATE suggest that members of the public write to their MP and to their councillors at Wealden and East Sussex councils, expressing their views whether for or against a new road through the countryside. Anyone who wants to be kept informed was advised to join SCATE (membership is free).
The meeting was chaired by David Quysner, chair of Semeston Parish, 122 local residents, parish councils and farmers attended in total. Various presentations were given, to including Victor Ient of SCATE, Derrick Coffee of Campaign for Better Transport, Kia Trainor of CPRE Sussex and Oliver Harwood of RH & RW Clutton. Topics covered housing, environmental damage and how new roads can be a danger to an area.
Supportive of Highways England’s ‘in line’ plans to improve safety, help traffic and improve facilities for buses, pedestrians and cyclists, campaigners believe all of this could be achieved without a new 10 mile dual carriageway running its way through the network of villages at the foot of the South Downs. The proposed motorway-style road also conflicts with what the Government promised in its 2017 (re-iterated in January 2018 by Theresa May) manifesto to ‘leave the environment in a better state than when it was inherited.’
Meanwhile, misleading information has caused a lot of confusion and angst. A letter written by Maria Caulfield MP (click here to go to letter link) recently to local residents, provided an update on local transport issues. Here she confirmed that a recent leaflet that was distributed amongst local residents claiming to show the route of a new ‘offline’ dual carriageway (a new road) through Berwick, naming the A27 Reference Group as the organisation who were pushing for such a road, was actually false information. She said they were instead pushing for the best option for all constituents, including Berwick, which they believe is to be the widening of the existing A27, submitting a £450m of Government funding. However, local media coverage and information from Highways England has implied the Government has indeed considered plans for a dual carriageway. Earlier in May this year, a press statement which was published in the Sussex Express (on 02 May 2018) where Ms Caulfield is quoted: ‘As Chairman of the A27 Reference Group Maria Caulfield MP has been calling for a dual carriageway A27 between her constituency towns of Lewes and Polegate’. Furthermore, a recent statement by Stephen Lloyd MP confirmed ‘a new carriageway with a journey time of 10 minutes’ looked promising.
One of the presentations given on June 12th by Victor Ient confirmed why there is a misunderstandings amongst locals. He showed the audience slideshows from a Highways England event he attended on the 3rd May, corroborating how far the Government had actually reached with their new dual carriageway plans.
Vic Ient commented; “I showed the audience the outline corridor map which indicates routes potentially going through villages like Glynde, Beddingham, Firle, Chalvington, Ripe, Berwick, Selmeston, Arlington & Long Man. Afterwards, I was surrounded by a roomful of shocked faces. I was sad to hear one member of the audience actually say… ‘what, does our opinion not count? It is only what people who are living in big towns and cities want, which is a big new road.’ Many people also told me they were confused after receiving that letter from Maria Caulfield. It’s therefore really evident that the public have just not been made fully aware of what is being discussed and proposed by the Government. When I attended the second Highways England Stakeholder workshop on the 3rd May myself, I was astonished to learn not only was it the second and final meeting, but local parish councils had not even been invited. This is not right. All we want is to be told the truth.”
The Selmeston meeting also unveiled inconsistencies in the Highways England’s defence for a dual carriageway. Ient added; “Another interesting point I raised was that Highways England claim the ‘existing road had a bad accident record.’ SCATE hasn’t had time to look into the actual accident records but fortunately one member of the audience had. He showed me his research last night which demonstrates that although there was a bad accident record up until about 2011, once the minor but important safety improvements had been implemented, there had only been one fatality on the road. SCATE will be checking out this information further and if proved to be correct, we will be challenging Highways England on their misleading statements.”
Oliver Harwood, the land agent for The Folkington Estate added; “I was delighted with how many people attended our meeting – and clearly, many felt they had been left out of the authorities’ considerations. I explained not only the impact on the countryside and hugely important biodiversity with evidence from our client’s historic landscape consultants and the Sussex Wildlife Trust, but also detailed the impact of the proposed new road on local people and property. It remains the case that the Land Compensation Act does nothing to compensate householders for the wider impact of a new road on their landscape, their community or their property values. Generalised blight destroys the local property market with no recompense from the authorities that cause it. I was much taken by the deep concern expressed by many of those who attended, who were grateful for the update but felt they were being kept in the dark by the authorities. I look forward to meeting with Mrs Caulfield in due course.”
Ms Caulfield, who had been invited to the Selmeston meeting to discuss further, was unfortunately unable to attend. The campaigners have since spoken with her and been invited to meet. Ms Caulfield has confirmed that she will also be releasing a leaflet to local residents to explain the proposed plans.
Vic Ient reporting on the Highways England meeting of 3rd of May:
Derrick Coffee of the Campaign for Better Transport:
Notes taken of the meeting:
Letter From Local MP: