Campaigners protest at ‘closed’ A27 meeting

Campaigners Sally Boys & Derrick Coffee with fellow Campaign For Better Transport protesters.

Campaigners Sally Boys & Derrick Coffee with fellow Campaign For Better Transport protesters.

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Campaign groups protested outside Eastbourne Town Hall on Wednesday morning, where a closed meeting was taking place about the A27.

Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin arrived at the meeting at 10am, alongside local politicians including Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, Lewes MP Norman Baker, and Conservative parliamentary candidate Caroline Ansell.

Eastbourne borough councillors and East Sussex county councillors were also present at the closed meeting.

But the group faced a picket of local community groups on their arrival, with representatives from Eastbourne and District Friends of the Earth, the Campaign for Better Transport - East Sussex, SCATE, The Green Party and local 38 Degrees members.

Speaking for Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex, Derrick Coffee said, “We want to send a strong message that it is not acceptable to exclude the community from these sorts of discussions.

“We’ve seen what democracy means in East Sussex where the cabinet has overruled the full council to force through cuts of £1.9 million to essential bus services. At the same time, little or nothing is done to improve rail services along the coast. Wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on a new A27 will create more congestion and pollution, particularly in Polegate, Hailsham and Eastbourne, and to a lesser extent in Lewes and Brighton.

“The wider community has today been excluded from this important opportunity to present valid arguments for less costly and better value transport measures to the Secretary of State – measures that would strengthen the local economy and deliver very significant health and environmental benefits.”

Green Party candidate for Eastbourne Andrew Durling joined campaigners on Wednesday. He said, “We are against the massive road building project for the A27 because it will just increase the amount of road traffic causing congestion in Eastbourne. We are happy to support the protest with environment and community groups at the Town Hall today.”

Following the meeting, Caroline Ansell, said, “What was apparent around the table is that there are two distinct schools of thought on how to improve safety and journey times – a new road or improvements to the existing road. What we need is consensus and partnership. Work needs to start on options.

“There are concerns, voiced by those who came in protest, that improving public transport is not being factored in – it is. And, as the Secretary of State said, ‘buses need good roads.’”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said, “I am pleased to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction to our first ever road investment strategy, which includes a £350 million upgrade to the A27.

“This includes within it a commitment to spend around £75m ‎on the right scheme to deliver improvements East of Lewes, irrespective of any decision on Gatwick.

“This government has a long term plan to secure the country’s future and improving connectivity across the south east is a key part of our vision.”