Next phase of major Eastbourne town centre improvement works approved

The next round of improvement works in Eastbourne town centre have been given the go ahead by a senior county councillor. 

Monday, 19th July 2021, 3:20 pm
Ronnie from Déjà vu; Andy, Urban Ground; and Luke Johnson of Your Eastbourne BID

On Monday (July 19), Cllr Claire Dowling, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment, gave the go ahead to the next phase of the Eastbourne town centre improvement scheme.

The works will see improvements made between Bankers Corner and the junction of Langney and Terminus Road (outside the outdoor clothing shop Blacks).

The scheme will also see “a civic space” created outside of the Marks & Spencer store in Terminus Road. As part of this, a one-way cut through between Bolton Road and Langney Road will be removed.

The works were also proposed to see the pedestrianisation of a small area of Bolton Road as well. However, this part of the proposals saw concerns raised by petitioners, who argued the pedestrian area should be extended.

The petition was led by Andy Spirou of the cafe Urban Ground, who spoke at the meeting. He said: “We support the plan and are happy to see change which will enable both locals and visitors to enjoy their visit to the town centre and create easier access for all.

“However, at present, the plan stops at the edge of Bolton Road, which excludes many long established hospitality businesses such as Deja vu, Bolton’s and, of course, us. 

“If the plan does not include the majority of Bolton Road it will be a missed opportunity. If the cafes, bars and restaurants had the potential to create an outdoor cafe culture, with pavement seating, the environment will benefit more residents, workers and visitors to our town.”

During the meeting, Cllr Dowling heard how officers had considered the petitioners’ request.

As a result, officers concluded that the pedestrianised area could be extended by around ten metres – roughly equal with both Urban Ground and Deja Vu – with a loading bay to be moved further down the road as well.

Any further extension would mean the scheme would need to go back out for consultation, which could endanger the time-limited funding behind the works, officers said.

The changes were welcomed afterwards.

Luke Johnson, from Your Eastbourne BID, said: “We welcome the investment to the town centre which will see much needed improvements into the pedestrian precinct from Bankers Corner to Blacks. Just last week, Boris Johnson stated that alfresco dining must be supported by the government to enable the future use of our high streets. We are delighted that East Sussex County Council have listened to our calls and revised their plans for the road to extend the pedestrianisation to include more of Bolton Road.”

Mr Spirou added: “I want to say a huge thank you to the hundreds of residents and businesses who supported our campaign to increase the pedestrianisation of Bolton Road.

“Whilst we didn’t get a full extension, the additional provision will support alfresco dining in the street and create a better atmosphere for our visitors, guests and residents. Whilst minor adjustment works may now be made, I am looking forward to seeing the changes in situ and know it will bring a real benefit to our town.”

Eastbourne borough and county councillor Stephen Holt added: “I was delighted that officers presented a realistic compromise that supports alfresco dining for our established businesses.

“I also made clear that I supported the calls of the disability groups to ensure that there was substantial provision of dropped kerbs for new disabled parking bays. Officers reported that they had met with disability groups and were working to address the issues raised.”

In drawing up the designs, the council also commissioned an access audit consultant to consider the impact of the scheme on people with disabilities. 

The council said this had resulted in changes to the materials and street furniture being used within the scheme, with the changes intended to address any impact on groups with protected characteristics.

Another area of concern was the loss of blue badge parking spaces as a result of the works.

To offset this, new blue badge parking spaces would be added to Lismore Road and Tideswell Road. East Sussex County Council has also reached an agreement with Eastbourne Borough Council to provide blue badge parking spaces in the central area of Hyde Gardens.

Cllr Dowling said: “The officers have been working with the disability groups now for a very, very long time. Points that are raised that can be taken on board quite simply and quite easily, they have done. Points that are a little bit harder, we have also.

“But we are talking about somewhere that is having to change what is already built … and it is not always possible to achieve what everybody wants. Saying that the access groups are key. They are very, very high priority. 

“I was very pleased to meet with them and I know the officers will continue to look as we progress through the design stage and I know they will continue to talk with the disability groups.”

She added: “Taking into account the proposal to extend the pedestrianised area in Bolton Road and with the understanding that officers will keep looking at the concerns around disabled parking and WAV parking, I am very happy to approve the recommendations.