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Celebrating the opening of Combe Valley Way: in the middle wearing a brown suit, ESCC leader Keith Glazier; on his left, Julian Crampton, Sea Change Sussex chairman. To the right, holding the end of the banner and wearing a blue striped tie, Rupert Clubb, director for communities, economy and transport, on his left, Carl Maynard, lead member for transport and the environment, and second from the end, Bob Pape, ESCC project manager for the road construction (photo: ESCC).

Celebrating the opening of Combe Valley Way: near the middle, wearing a brown suit, ESCC leader Keith Glazier; on his left, Julian Crampton, Sea Change Sussex chairman. To the right, sixth from end, Carl Maynard, lead member for transport and the environment, and second from end, Bob Pape, ESCC project manager for the road construction (photo: ESCC).

Bexhill Hastings Link Road opens

After decades of debate and dispute at local and national level – and between our government’s departments – the Bexhill Hastings Link Road has now, for better or for worse, finally opened. Claims of new jobs, ease of traffic flow, development plans and a better economy for everyone, all of which have been vociferously debated at every stage, will now have the chance to be proven. HOT’s Zelly Restorick reports.

To either high acclaim and cheers or heads in hands and tears of despair, Combe Valley Way, the road linking Bexhill and Hastings, was officially declared open on Thursday 17 December.

Statement from ESCC

The Bexhill to Hastings Link Road, named Combe Valley Way, will bring an estimated £1 billion of economic benefits to the area and deliver up to 2,000 new homes and 3,000 new jobs.

The East Sussex County Council highway – built at a cost of £120 million, including £56 million from the Department for Transport – is also expected to reduce congestion on the A259 by up to 40 per cent.

The opening comes after Glovers House, the new 25,000 sq ft business centre developed by Sea Change Sussex on land opened up by the Link Road, welcomed its first tenant, Park Holidays UK.

Preliminary work on the road began in 2012, but the opening date was delayed by anti-road protests, extreme weather and archaeological work.

County council leader Cllr Keith Glazier said: “It’s been a long journey but it’s fantastic to see the new road completed and ready to welcome traffic.

“As with any project on this scale, there have been challenges along the way, but I’d like to pay tribute to our Link Road project team, who have worked so hard to get the road open.

“Combe Valley Way will help to regenerate one of the most deprived areas of the south east, providing new jobs, new homes and significant economic benefits, and cutting congestion on the A259 and other local roads.

“The arrival of the first tenant at Glovers House is just the beginning, and I look forward to seeing many new businesses and residents making their home here as a direct result of the new road.”

While other bus services are cut, Combe Valley Way gets its own route. Centre in brown suit, council leader Keith Glazier (photo: ESCC).

While other bus services are cut, Combe Valley Way gets its own route. Centre in brown suit, council leader Keith Glazier (photo: ESCC).

The new road will host a new bus route, operated by Stagecoach, which will link Hastings and Bexhill with the new business park via the Link Road.

The route and design were chosen to minimise the impact on the environment, while new habitats for badgers, newts, dormice, bats and owls were created.

Meanwhile, a major tree and shrub planting programme is underway while new ‘greenways’ for walkers, cyclists and horse riders will be completed next year.

The project also saw a significant programme of archaeology which unearthed one of most important finds of prehistoric remains in the UK dating back to the last ice age.”

Statement from environmental activist, Andrea Needham, Combe Haven Defenders

It is ironic that the link road was opened just a few days after the total failure of politicians to agree any kind of legally binding agreement on climate change at the COP21 climate change talks. In the same way that politicians in Paris chose to ignore the desperate urgency of the situation and the need for immediate and decisive action, East Sussex County Council likewise ignored the critical situation we are in with regard to climate change and loss of biodiversity, and decided that building a road which would devastate precious habitat, encourage car use and hugely increase carbon emissions was a good thing to do at this point in history.

The Link Road is a tragedy: a tragedy for the environment, for Combe Haven – once tranquil green space, now concrete and roaring traffic – and for all the surrounding green spaces that will now be ‘opened up’ for development. It is also a tragedy for local unemployed people who – if the £120m+ the road will cost had been better spent – could have had the prospect of real jobs rather than more empty promises. ESCC claims the road will create 3000 jobs, but as the job creation scheme is in the hands of SeaChange Sussex – notorious for their many failed projects in Hastings — jobseekers would be well advised not to hold their collective breath.

Yes, car journeys may be quicker – at least temporarily – but if our measure of progress is how quickly people can get from A to B in their cars, with no consideration of how car use blights communities, has a huge environmental price, isolates people both with and without cars, and takes away money that could have been used to fund decent public transport – then we’re in a pretty sorry state.

Statement from transport minister

Transport minister Andrew Jones, who was unable to attend the opening ceremony,  said in a statement: “This new south coast link will end years of frustration for local people, providing far quicker journeys across the region and unlocking ambitious development plans. This road is further evidence of this government’s commitment to improving the UK’s transport infrastructure, creating opportunities for the development of new homes, business and jobs.

“The communities of Bexhill and Hastings have waited a long time for this day and now they have an improved road network to help them get around and get on.”

Statement from Campaign for Better Transport

Link road protesters demonstrate outside the Department for Transport (photo: Combe Haven Defenders).

Link road protesters demonstrate outside the Department for Transport (photo: Combe Haven Defenders).

Bridget Fox, Roads and Sustainable Transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This new road is a disastrous use of public money and proves no landscape is safe from the diggers, destroying the beautiful and historically valuable Combe Haven Valley to let 30,000 vehicles a day thunder through. The Government continues to fail to grasp the established fact that new roads create new traffic, increasing air pollution and carbon emissions when they are already too high.

“Neglecting sustainable alternatives will lock people in to car dependency and won’t help those most in need of a job. Hastings and East Sussex would be better served if this huge expense were directed to improving public transport and creating new jobs close to the existing centres instead of in out-of-town business parks.”

Link road facts and figures from ESCC

Work on the 3.5 mile-long highway included construction of a new pedestrian underpass, a bridge over the main railway line, 18 other bridges and a million cubic metres of earthworks.

The road has opened up development land for a business park of up to 540,000 sq ft, with sites for a further 220,000 sq ft ready to develop.

The first tenant of the business park, Park Holidays UK, employs 90 staff at the site and expects to add 10 new positions next year.

A gateway road has been completed connecting the Link Road to Bexhill, while an additional connecting road is planned to open up business and housing sites to the north of the Link Road.

A total of 108,000 trees and shrubs will be planted by April – two for every one removed due to construction.

The route was sunk into the ground and surrounded by greenery to preserve the view and help mitigate noise.

Archaeological finds included mesolithic flint scatters, Romano-British industry, Saxon barn and settlement activity, an iron working site with 17 smelting furnaces, ore roasting platforms and three Saxon driers.

Finds are now part of a school pre-history set which tells the story of East Sussex to local schoolchildren. More information on this project, along with a video, are available online here.

An ESCC video showing an aerial view of the Link Road is available here.

It would be good to hear from you about your own views: How do you feel about the new road? How will it impact on your life? Do you think it’s a good way for your money to have been spent? What are the benefits? The disadvantages? Please send us your comments below.

Posted 14:13 Saturday, Dec 19, 2015 In: Home Ground

4 Comments

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  1. Janis

    The County Council can find New Habitats for Badgers ,Newts, dormice,bats,owls and refugees, But cannot find new Habitats for the homeless persons of East Sussex.They will offer companies cheap rents for a period to get them here ,when that cheap contract ends ,they will move on to other cheapies.

    Comment by Janis — Thursday, Dec 24, 2015 @ 06:21

  2. Lady Peacock

    Zelly Rostorick asks questions which many have asked – and will continue to ask – but never any answers forthcoming. The CEO of this quango should be called to account if this link road does not deliver what was promised. The CEO and his colleagues were very evasive at the earlier consultations held several years ago – especially twitchy when the mitigation issues for all the protected species and ancient woodlands were raised….and we soon discovered why the reluctance to embellish on this subject. Trees felled during the nesting season, badgers foraging in manure filled fields, road kill increase – (do the council have a truck to pick up all the dead mammals early in the morning?) Reptile barriers collapsed therefore ineffective mitigation provision…and now we sit and wait for further unwarranted destruction of our beautiful Hollington Valley….nothing to do with the anticipated traffic congestion – all to do with creating more ‘business opportunities’ – more nonsense and guff – how does this quango get away with all this? Surely there has to be somebody who is feeling uneasy with the failure to secure commercial enterprise along the Queensway route? LAND FOR SALE – but who is buying? This little ‘jolly’ could go down in history as the biggest and most costly failure ever. And those responsible will simply move on to the next unsuspecting town. .

    Comment by Lady Peacock — Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 @ 09:58

  3. Zelly Restorick

    In relation to this development, Queensway Gateway, etc, if the people involved, making the decisions and the promises, do NOT deliver, will there will be any consequences?

    Will they return the public’s share of the money?

    Reimburse the Council’s coffers and apologise for being delusional and having unrealistic visions?

    Reinstate the environment?

    Re-re-locate the species back to where they originally came from?
    (Although I’m afraid that I do not believe that those involved care about the other resident species, not the ones I’ve spoken to or who have spoken at me, seeing as they don’t seem to take much notice of the human variety, when financial profit is in their sights.)

    At the Queensway Gateway planning meeting, why was John Shaw, speaking on behalf of SeaChange Sussex, not forced to answer the perfectly reasonable question from a councillor regarding the number of people/companies inside his existing development parks?

    On another planning/development issue, why have Rocklands not been ordered by the Council to repair the environmental damage they’ve caused to their land and the countryside park, purposefully or maybe without thinking, before renewal of their license was given?

    Who exactly does have the power in the town?

    Who are The Master Puppeteers, (rather than the visible minor role puppets), controlling the propaganda and the marketing machines for public consumption of their unadulterated bullshit?

    Democracy mockery.

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 @ 09:42

  4. Lady Peacock

    Much praise has been heaped on the efficiency of this road – people getting home from work in record time, trips to the shops to Ravenside and Eastbourne now so much less hassle – BUT what many seem to forget is this: this massively expensive project (and seriously damaging to the environment) was not built to provide easy trips to the shops it was supposed to attract commercial opportunities which would in turn provide employement for the thousands of new residents who will be taking up residence in the thousands of houses to be built on this site and bring untold advantages to both Hastings and Bexhill….so far – no takers, not on the Hastings side or the Bexhill side unless of course you count the rather weird structure on the Bexhill side which resembles a rather large electric sub station. Without the anticipated influx of interested businesses how will the infrastructure cope with all these new residents? There is a huge unemployment situation in these two towns at the present time – this road could make things even worse.

    Comment by Lady Peacock — Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 @ 08:55

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