A news report in our last edition (Active Travel: Council Scolded For Lack Of Ambition) revealed that most of the 16 projects proposed by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) under the first tranche of the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel package (amounting to more than £530,000) had been withdrawn in the face of local objections. The stated purpose of the fund is to encourage socially distanced walking and cycling during the Covid -19 pandemic. But prospective widening of footways and other schemes offered to Lewes, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Hailsham, Rye and St Leonards were all shelved after opposition by respective local traders and chambers of commerce.

One of the few that has been implemented is in Hastings: a project that is aimed at encouraging better social distancing for pedestrians on the sea-front.  Around 30 parking bays have been temporarily suspended between the Stade and Pelham Place so as to widen the footway there, while plastic barriers have been put in place to protect pedestrians from the traffic.

These measures were supported by Hastings Borough Council (HBC), but have prompted outrage among some traders and residents. 

Bob Tipler, co-landlord of The Albion called the scheme  “ugly, pointless and damaging to business.” 

Labour borough councillor for Old Hastings ward, James Bacon, said: “Once again, this is an example of a lack of consultation from county council with residents and traders. 

“This project seems like a throwaway of public money without a thorough investigation or a joined-up strategy for improving transport and walkways in our town.”

County councillor for Braybrooke and Castle ward, Godfrey Daniel, called the whole government initiative a “headline-grabbing waste of public time and money.”

On the other hand, a spokesperson for HBC said it had hoped the scheme would have been in place sooner. “This bit of pavement is very busy and has a pinch point where the pedestrian right of way and the cycle route merge. This causes congestion normally, and with more people out cycling and walking because of the pandemic, and the continued importance of maintaining social distance, action was needed.

“There are large amounts of on-street and off-street cark parking nearby.  Safety of our residents and visitors is the utmost priority.” 

Meanwhile ESCC is more defensive. It says it contacted 250 local businesses and residents in the immediate area by letter in July to inform them of the measures but received very little feedback.

“We would not put in place any scheme that does not offer sufficient benefit, that does not have the support of the community, or that has an adverse effect on the local economy,” a spokesperson told HIP.

Any part of the cash package which is not spent by ESCC will have to be returned to the Department of Transport.

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