The opening of the Bexhill to Hastings link road could have been delayed until April 2016 without amendments to planning conditions a meeting heard today (August 19).
The £116m project’s construction was delayed due to poor weather last winter and under the original terms of the approved planning permission it could not be fully opened until all the landscaping has been completed.
This could have delayed the route’s opening until April, 2016, but East Sussex County Council’s planning committee agreed to vary the conditions on Wednesday to ensure that the road can still open this autumn.
Although landscaping and the ‘greenway’ – a route for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders – will still be completed at some stage, the changes allow for flexibility in terms of the timing of their delivery.
Godfrey Daniel, chairman of thecommittee, said that although there were some people against the new road, it was going ahead and would be completed soon.
He added: “It’s in everybody’s interests to have it available for traffic as soon as possible.”
He welcomed the link road as offering people an alternative route between Hastings and Bexhill, and felt that people would be ‘frustrated’ if the route was completed apart from landscaping and they were still unable to use it.
Karl Taylor, assistant director of operations at East Sussex County Council, told the committee that the works were in the ‘final stages’ as they were currently laying tarmac.
He said that the link road was still scheduled to be opened in the autumn, ‘weather dependent’.
A total of 14,000 trees have already been planted, but this is just 15 per cent of the total.
The remainder would be finished in the next planting season which runs from November to April.
Planning officers explained last year’s bad weather had hindered landscaping efforts in the last planting season.
Meanwhile on the greenway Mr Taylor said that they were expecting to complete it before the link road opened, but were asking for some flexibility ‘in case we hit snags’.
Richard Stogdon, vice chairman of the committee, felt that the changes were ‘eminently sensible’ and they were passed unanimously by councillors.
The new 5.6km link road has been promoted as a way of opening up the area for further economic growth, as well as improving access to land for housing and employment space.
According to East Sussex County’s website the project could lead to 1,200-2,000 new homes, the construction of a 50,000 square metre business park, and jobs and regeneration amounting to £1bn over a 25-year period, and would also reduce the strain on the existing road network between Hastings and Bexhill.
However, the scheme has not been without controversy, as it has attracted the opposition of the Combe Haven Defenders. When construction began on the road in December, 2012, protestors took to the treetops to express their anger at the project.
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