June 3, 2013 by combehavendefenders
First there was the Link Road, then the link road to the Link Road (aka the ‘Gateway’ road) and now Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye and member of the ‘greenest government ever’ is calling for East Sussex County Council to commit to building the Baldslow Link (Hastings Observer, May 31 2013).
What is the Baldslow Link?
The Baldslow Link is what Amber Rudd refers to as ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’. It is needed, according to her, because of congestion on the Ridge, and would divert traffic away from the Ridge and directly onto the A21. What she fails to say, of course, is that the congestion on the Ridge would be largely caused by the Link Road in the first place.
East Sussex County Council wants the road too – surprise!
Amber Rudd need have no fear about the commitment of East Sussex County Council to roadbuilding. In its 2013/14 plan, ESCC pledges (p9) to ‘seek funding for Baldslow Link Road’ (sic) and says it will ‘Investigate bidding and funding opportunities with partners’. This is a long-term objective for the county council, and they are clearly hoping that now the Link Road is underway, the case for funding the Baldslow Link will become overwhelming.
Where would it go?
In its 2004 Local Transport Plan, ESCC proposes three possible routes (scroll down to page 34). The first goes through Beauport Park, a heavily wooded area which is part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The land rises and falls steeply and building the road there would require a (very expensive and hugely damaging) deep cutting.
The two alternative routes avoid the AONB but run across the steep Hollington valley and would require an extremely costly bridge (it should be noted that the AONB per se is not an obstacle to building the road as the AONB designation can be overruled if the project is considered important enough).
(These maps can be found on p.35 of this document.)
In its 2010 submission to the Local Authority Major Schemes Development Pool for funding for the Bexhill Hastings Link Road, ESCC says that the Baldslow Link would cost ‘a minimum of £30m’ (emphasis added).
The £30m estimate – which is of course now three years out of date – for a very short bit of road (the actual length would depend on the route chosen but is certainly very much less than a mile) is so high because of the difficulties caused by the landscape.
Who would pay?
As usual, we would pay – that is, public money would be allocated from the Local Transport Board’s (LTB) allowance (private funding is always put forward as a desirable option, but in practice – as with the Link Road – is never forthcoming. Why should it be, when there are always public funds available?)
What are Local Transport Boards?
In 2012, the government set up LTBs to make decisions about funding of major transport schemes in their locality. Previously, decisions were made by central government, but LTBs are now making decisions for funding from 2015 onwards.
The LTB members include representatives from the local transport authorities, plus representatives from the primary Local Enterprise Partnership(s) (LEPs) covering the area (an LEP is is a voluntary partnership between local authorities and businesses which has the objective of determining local economic priorities. Whether allowing businesses to make decisions about spending public money is democratic, is another question).
East Sussex is part of the South East LTB (SELTB) which also includes Essex, Southend and Thurrock; and Kent and Medway.
ESCC priority schemes
In its Major Schemes Prioritisation document of May 2013, the Baldslow Link can be seen to be top of ESCC’s wishlist (scroll to appendix 1).
The SELTB has an ‘indicative’ £98m to allocate, but has advised itself (point 8) to put forward schemes worth £200m. In case anyone is worried that their pet scheme might miss out, the document says:
‘DfT has informally indicated that extra funding for larger schemes, which are currently unaffordable, may be forthcoming so these schemes should not be dismissed at this time.’
The shortlist of schemes to be funded should be released soon; watch this space, and prepare for the next battle.