Eastbourne councillors are to campaign for a larger slice of the county council’s parking fees in an effort to do something about the town’s damaged pavements.
At a meeting on Wednesday (November 14), members of Eastbourne Borough Council unanimously backed a motion to lobby East Sussex County Council to fund an annual programme of pavement improvements around the town.
Put forward by Liberal Democrat councillor Pat Rodohan (Upperton), the motion calls on East Sussex to allocate at least half of the surplus funds from the Eastbourne Controlled Parking Scheme to the proposed programme.
Beginning the debate, Cllr Rodohan said: “I think we would all agree that there are too many areas of pavement in Eastbourne that are unsafe for residents and have continued to deteriorate over many, many years.
“Sadly many of the councillors here tonight will, like me, have visited a resident after they have had a fall on the pavements and will have seen the broken glasses, the black eyes and the cuts and bruises. Some residents may have been to hospital with head injuries or broken bones.
“Sometimes you come across an older resident or disabled resident whose confidence is shattered and no longer wants to leave their home.
“Eastbourne residents believe that we have been ignoring for far too long the calls for safer pavements, but there is a movement gathering pace telling us that now is the time for action.”
Cllr Rodohan added that, as it is ringfenced for the highways budget, the majority of the surplus money from the parking scheme should be spent within Eastbourne.
The motion had been inspired by local campaigner Marie Hennelly, who spoke at the meeting and told councillors she began calling for repairs after suffering several bad falls around the town.
She said: “Following three bad falls which involved broken bones I contacted several councillors about the dreadful state of the neglected pavements in Eastbourne.
“A few responded, but there was no funding due to the cuts other than the maintenance budget, which is often used for patching here and there. That is not the answer.
“We all hope that councillors will support the motion as residents in Eastbourne are relying on you to be their voice.”
While put forward by the majority Liberal Democrat group, the motion also won the backing of the council’s Conservative group.
Among those to support the motion was Conservative councillor Colin Belsey (Ratton), who said: “One of the biggest problems we have in Eastbourne is cars and lorries and anything else that parks on pavements. It rips the pavements up and leaves cracks.
“It is very hard to enforce these things but there are ways. We have managed to get two roads in Ratton ward, where I am, where it is illegal now to park on the pavements or the verges. I think that may be one way forward.
“I totally agree with the motion and I will do all I can at County Hall to help. But let’s try and do things ourselves as well. Let’s go for parking proposals that stop lorries, cars, vehicles of all sorts from parking on the pavements.”
The scheme also won the support of the town’s deputy mayor Kathy Ballard (Independent Conservative -Meads), who seconded the motion despite her position traditionally being a non-voting role.
She said: “I stand by the principle that the deputy mayor should be as apolitical as possible, but the first responsibility of government is to protect its people [and] people are being injured on the pavements of Eastbourne.
“It is the right thing to do to break with my usual apolitical stance to second this particular motion.
“I feel strongly that it the right thing to do to support Marie and the other residents of Eastbourne on this particular issue as it is a special exemption.
“Just as when Cllr [Pat] Hearne seconded my plastic free Eastbourne motion earlier this year, when she was mayor and believed the motion had such merit locally that she wanted to support it.”
Following a short debate the motion was unanimously approved by all council members present.
In response an East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “In 2017/18 the county council provided an additional £300,000 per year for pavement maintenance, and now invests £1.6m each year maintaining pavements across the county. But with over 2400km of pavement across the county our maintenance has to be prioritised on the basis of need, we do not allocate our maintenance budgets by geographical area or by town or village.
“We has invested over £720,000 in the maintenance of pavements in Eastbourne over the last couple of years, including the following roads: Link Road, Victoria Drive, Pevensey Road, Cornfield Lane, Seaside, East Dean Road, Sevenoaks Road, Bedford Grove, Meads Street, Austen Walk, Ashgate Road, Woodpecker Road, Swallow Close, Shakespeare Walk and Carrol Walk.
“We are also investing £2 million from parking surplus into the Town Centre Regeneration Scheme improving the pavements in Terminus Road, Cornfield Road and Gildridge Road.
“We are also using parking revenues to replace all of the pay and display parking machines in Eastbourne with new modern machines, which will further deplete parking surpluses for several years.
“If members of the public or local councillors have concerns about the condition of particular pavements in the town we would encourage them to report them to our Highways contractor to enable them to carry out inspections and arrange appropriate repairs by calling 0345 6080193 or visiting www.eastsussexhighways.com/report-a-problem.”