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The North Bexhill Access Road is planned to run across open countryside, from left to right in this view (photo: CHD).

The North Bexhill Access Road is planned to run across open countryside, from left to right in this view (photo: CHD).

Call to put road application on hold

Combe Haven Defenders have called on Rother District Council to put Sea Change Sussex’s application to build the North Bexhill Access Road on hold until it has a business case and funding in place. The Council says it is bound to hear the application before year-end. Nick Terdre reports.

The application and supporting documentation for the 2.4-kilometre North Bexhill Access Road – which is planned to connect the Bexhill Hastings Link Road to the A269 west of Sidley – was lodged with Rother District Council in September. A decision is due to be taken by 1 January.

However, a Freedom of Information request made by Combe Haven Defenders (CHD) to Selep, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, shows that the project has neither an approved business case nor guaranteed funding in place. Replying on behalf of Selep, Essex County Council stated that, “…the business case for the scheme has not yet gone through the Independent Technical Evaluation process and the funding has not yet been guaranteed by the government.”

Both the business case and independent technical evaluation will be published on Selep’s website once this stage is completed, the statement says, pointing out that this is not expected to be before April 2016.

“This is a case where the cart is miles in front of the horse,” said CHD spokesperson Emily Johns. “Our previous experience suggests that SeaChange is likely to start work on the road as soon as planning permission is granted. If it turns out later that the business case does not stack up, or the funding does not materialise, huge and irreparable damage will already have been done to the countryside. We’re calling on Rother District Council to refuse to consider the planning application for the road unless and until SeaChange can show a proper business plan and guaranteed funding for the scheme.”

“Rother District Council must consider all planning applications submitted in accordance with planning legislation,” a council spokesman told HOT. The statutory time limit for deciding a major development, once the application has been validated, is usually 13 weeks. In this case, the application was validated on 11 September, so the 13-week period is up in mid December.

Sea Change told HOT they would not start construction before funding was secured. “A planning application can be submitted at any time by anybody – and bear in mind that this scheme conforms with established local planning policies – but no-one is going to start building a road without funding in place,” a spokesman said. The “established local planning policies” is a reference to the Rother Local Plan approved in 2009 which discusses the need for the road (or “tree-lined country avenue,” as it is referred to in the plan).

The road – which has been allocated £5m in funding by Selep – will run through what is currently open countryside north of Bexhill and allow a large area of land to be infilled with housing and business parks.

Posted 11:24 Friday, Oct 23, 2015 In: Campaigns

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Andrea Needham

    In fact, SeaChange is wrong: the Local Plan shows the road about half the length of its current incarnation (http://www.rother.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=321&p=0). What justification there is for extending it to 2.4km, and taking it right out to the west of Sidley, is not clear. And we still haven’t been told where the money will come from: it’s been provisionally granted £5m by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, but the road is half the length of the Link Road, which is costing around £120m, so it seems unlikely they’re going to build this one for £5m. Wherever the rest comes from, you can bet it’ll be public money.

    Comment by Andrea Needham — Friday, Oct 23, 2015 @ 16:34

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