‘The heritage of our streets is being eroded around us’: Eastbourne residents campaign against historic pavements being replaced

Residents in Eastbourne are trying to save the historic pavements from being replaced with blacktop material.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:53 pm

Asphalt, also known as blacktop, is the surface material being used to replace the traditional brick paving we see around Eastbourne

Residents have shared photos and opinions of the traditional pavements being replaced.

Raine McCormick said on Twitter, “East Sussex County Council going around historic Eastbourne ripping up perfectly usable 100+ year old paving and replacing with this. Why not reseat blocks? How is this preserving heritage in conservation area? Shocking behaviour.”

Photo by Raine McCormick SUS-210331-145658001

Justine Dowsing, from the Eastbourne Society, is leading a campaign to save the historic pavements across the town.

She said, “The heritage of our streets is being eroded around us. Our brick pavements, lamp posts and railings, all part of the 7th Duke of Devonshire’s original plan, are being swept away unchecked.

“If we, the residents of this remarkable town, don’t do something about it we will lose them forever. The streets of Eastbourne will be black tarmac with utility lamp posts and steel railings. Is that what we want?”

The Sussex Heritage Trust has recently launched a campaign called ‘Peers of the Public Realm’. The campaign emphasises the College and Meads Conservation Areas are ‘of national importance because of their broad tree-lined boulevards with grass verges, brick pavements and a unique collection of locally designed and cast iron lamp posts and other street furniture’.

Photo by Raine McCormick SUS-210331-145647001

Justine said, “As public realm advisor of the Eastbourne Society I am alarmed and saddened at the daily desecration of our heritage streetscape.”

She says the county council is responsible for footpaths and in the local plan it says, “If an area of footway has trips, it is relaid in black bituminous material (blacktop).”

However, she goes on to say the plan also says, “The borough council is asked to top up the cost of this basic repair to enable a higher quality finish.”

The plan says, “If the county council and the borough council are to work together to produce a quality environment, it is considered that those streets with traditional paving materials should be conserved by relaying and repairing with traditional sympathetic materials. To meet these objectives the council may need to meet the extra costs of providing, retaining and maintaining traditional footways.”

South Cliff. Photo by Justine Dowsing. SUS-210604-165010001

In response to this plan, Justine said, “I would therefore like to ask why the councils are turning a blind eye and openly destroying the very beauty that conservation areas are set up to protect? If cost is the reason, this is short sighted.”

She said the architecture of Eastbourne is a ‘unique selling point’ and ‘a huge part of our identity’.

According to Justine, locally-made bricks inspired by a Sussex tradition of the 7th Duke of Devonshire specified for Eastbourne are being replaced with blacktop.

She said, “This is not an insurmountable challenge. A beautiful streetscape enhances the identity of the town making it more attractive for businesses, shops, hotels and restaurants to set up and thrive here, not to mention other benefits such as attracting film and TV productions; it is a vital part of the town’s Covid recovery.”

Milnthorpe and Darley Roads junction. Photo by Justine Dowsing. SUS-210604-165000001

Justine said in the long-term Eastbourne needs a design guide which will address the patchwork style of blacktop top being used.

She said, ”A design guide would establish the nature of the town’s identity based on use of local materials and detailing and taking into account our heritage, history and culture.

“It is our responsibility as the town’s custodians to care for, protect and enhance our beautiful streets together.”

In response to this issue, a spokesperson for the county council said, “When we carry out work in conservation areas we always try to re-use the same material wherever possible.

“However, where tree roots undermine pavements and create safety hazards to pedestrians we sometimes have to use different/shallower materials to prevent continued damage to the footpath and to avoid damaging the roots or having to fell the tree.”

Eastbourne Borough Council did not comment when approached.