A27 plan would “scar the virgin countryside”

Charles Peck 'CONTACT: 01323 422422 SUS-140430-103235001
Charles Peck 'CONTACT: 01323 422422 SUS-140430-103235001

The proposal for a new “ten in ten” road north of Eastbourne to Lewes, has sparked a vociferous debate. Here Wealden district councillor Charles Peck - who represents East Dean Ward, including the parish of Long Man – argues that the expense and desecration of the countryside, would make the new road unwarranted.

The Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce and some Eastbourne politicians are lobbying for a new road between Polegate and Firle (Eastbourne Herald, March 21). This brand new road running across virgin productive farmland, close to the villages of Berwick Station and Selmeston has been proposed without any consultation or warning to anyone living on the lands which it would pass over. It would take common land north of Wilmington and affect an SSSI in the Cuckmere valley. Visible from the Wilmington Long Man, it would also add another scar to the view from Mount Caburn, looking east.

An Eastbourne Parliamentary candidate and the Transport Secretary support this plan, but they have not seen fit to discuss it with anyone on the ground. What would compulsory purchase of all that land cost? What would the road itself cost? Even if we can afford it, do we need a completely new limited access road to get ten miles from Polegate to Firle? At ordinary rush hour times it takes 15 minutes. Would those 10 miles done in 10 minutes be worth the financial, social and landscape costs?

In the 1990s (when money was not the issue it is today) the damaging effects on the countryside of a dual carriageway between Polegate and Lewes were recognised after much consultation, discussion and objection. Instead, plans to improve the quality and safety of the existing road between Lewes (Southerham) and Beddingham roundabout were agreed and implemented, thus eliminating the delay at the former level crossing and improving the journey time between Lewes and Eastbourne.

Further west, some junctions were then improved, such as at Glynde and Charleston. The local MP, Norman Baker, is keen to see more such improvements. His Lewes constituency will want him, or his possible successor, to secure funding, approval and action to make junctions at Selmeston, Wilmington and Folkington safer with sensible local works to make turning easier. Alciston and Milton Street are also deserving of attention to make entry and exiting safer for everyone. Many justly complain about the difficult access to and from Gainsborough Road on the edge of Polegate.

Local, common-sense improvements to the A 27 make sense because they make a difference, improve people’s daily lives, are affordable, reasonably quick to achieve and do not damage our attractive countryside. It is a disservice to public debate for government ministers or candidates for Parliament to parachute in with grand pie-in-the-sky projects which are not realistic. The public interest would be better served by improving what we have got instead of indulging in costly, impossible dreams.

Transportation is a serious public concern at all times. It deserves sober, sensible consideration. Solutions in the public interest need to be realistic and attainable. The A27 can be made better, and to do so requires that we – the public – insist on sensible solutions for it instead of falling for the radical fantasy of a brand-new road through virgin fields.