Link road plans back on the agenda

CONTROVERSIAL plans for the link road are back on the agenda - and this time county council bosses are stumping up almost £29 million of taxpayers’ money towards the scheme.

Last year proposals for the Hastings to Bexhill Link Road, which was to run through Crowhurst, were put on hold because of the change in Government and subsequent budget cuts.

But this week East Sussex County Council (ESCC) submitted a fresh bid for £56 million of money from the Department of Transport to help build the new road.

The total cost of the link road is £85.9 million.

And the county council said its contribution to the scheme had increased by almost £19 million, compared to its original proposal.

Objectors from the Campaign for Better Transport and the Hastings Alliance have slammed the county council’s plans at a time of service cutbacks.

They said the authority had recently slashed its budget by £37 million and axed 200 jobs.

Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s sustainable transport campaigner, said: “The cost to local taxpayers of this road is staggering at a time when vital public services are being slashed.

“The expense of this scheme is all the more hard to justify when there are other proven solutions which are cheaper, will cut congestion and reduce car usage.

“Local people should be outraged at just how much this road to nowhere is going to cost them.”

Planning permission for the link road was granted in 2009 following a public inquiry, which looked at the land needed for the road and for new environmental habitats.

The link road is one of 45 transport schemes across the country vying for £630 million of Government funding.

The county council said the road was ‘essential’ for future prosperity.

Councillor Carl Maynard, the authority’s lead cabinet member for transport and environment said: “The link road is an essential part of the comprehensive regeneration strategy for Hastings and Bexhill.

“More than £300 million of investment has already gone into the area and the link road is absolutely central to its future economic development.

“It will open up land for business and housing developments and improve transport links between the two towns.

“We have worked hard to find ways to reduce the cost of the road by several million pounds and because we believe it is so vital, we have decided to increase our own financial contribution by reallocating funding from other capital projects.”

Battle MP Greg Barker and Hastings MP Amber Rudd and three other MPs have sent a letter of support to the county council.

A decision on the latest application will be made in December.

If the bid for funding is successful, construction will begin in 2013.