March 19, 2015 by combehavendefenders
For those who missed the planning committee meeting on 4 February, where councillors voted unanimously to approve the Queensway Gateway road, here is the transcript as prepared by Combe Haven Defenders from a DVD recording supplied by Hastings Council.
Hastings Council disputed our claim that the ‘debate’ section of the meeting (such as it was: in fact, there was no debate, merely 3 councillors making statements) lasted ten minutes. You can see from the timings below that it did in fact last almost exactly ten minutes. Ten minutes to approve a massively destructive, £15m road. Is this democracy?
Hastings Borough Council planning committee meeting, 4 February 2015
Decision on HS/FA/14/00832, Queensway Gateway Road
RS Richard Street (chair)
PS Phil Scott (vice chair)
JR Judy Rogers
MW Michael Wincott
MB Matthew Beaver
BD Bruce Dowling
ME Mike Edwards
[also present but didn’t speak: Councillors Beaney, Lee and Roberts]
RC Ray Crawford, HBC Head of Planning
CS Chris Stanyard, ESCC Highways
MD Murray Davidson HBC Environment and Natural Resources Manager
[also Sam Batchelor, Hastings council planning officer?]
JC Judy Clark: opposing the application
JS John Shaw (SeaChange) applicant
(numbers refer to timings on DVD recording of meeting)
RS It’s six o’clock so we’ll start the meeting. Thank you very much for coming [reads out housekeeping information]. Apologies [none], declarations of interest [none], minutes [agreed]. We come to the first application, the proposed Queensway Gateway road. Before I ask Mr Crawford to introduce it, I’ll just explain the procedure so everybody’s clear how it works. Firstly the planning officer Mr Crawford in this case will introduce the report then the peititioner will be invited to speak for up to 5 minutes and take a seat in front of the microphone. The petitioner will then respond to questions from members of the committee if they have any then the applicant will have 5 minutes to speak. They will then respond to questions from members, then the planning officer will respond to points that have been raised. Members of the committee can then seek clarification from officers, there will then be a discussion and a vote at the end of it. It is important that those in the public gallery allow the discussion to take place without interference whether you like what you hear or not. This is the democratic process, I will not hesitate to have anyone who can’t respect this process removed from the chamber. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. At the end of the item I will pause the meeting so those who do not want to stay for other items can leave. Mr Crawford, if you would like to introduce this item.
RC Thank you chair. The application before us here is for a new road to link Queensway with Sedlescombe Road North. The drawings are up on the wall there and you’ll see the road includes three roundabouts, one on Sedlescombe Road North, one on Queensway and one to provide access in the middle of the road to the development sites.
The main purpose of the road is to provide access to the allocated employment sites in this part of the town. It’s also been designed to take account of the Bexhill to Hastings Link road and the traffic that will flow from that and the different patterns of traffic throughout the town that will result from that. For the benefit of members of the public, the members will have had this report in advance and will have read all the details so I won’t go through everything in great detail but set out in the report are the comments from the various consultees and a summary of the objections raised by local people. Members have actually seen the details of those, seen those objections in full.
The principle of development we believe is supported by the Hastings planning strategy which is seeking to secure 70,000sqm of new employment floor space in the town in the lifetime of the plan and this road is designed to provide access to release those allocated sites. The road has been designed bearing in mind the shortly to be opened Hastings to Bexhill Link road and the traffic flows which will result from that. After we’ve heard from the petitioners and the applicant we have Chris Stanyard from the county council, the highway authority here who can answer any questions about the detail of the highway side of things.
Alongside the basic road are other improvements, either as part of this application or related to the work associated with the link road. These include the closure of Junction road, which is part of this application, modifications to Maplehurst Road, also part of this application, improvements to the A21/A28 junction, that’s not part of this application but would follow the Highways Agency with discussions with SeaChange Sussex and the Highway Authority to do with that, and there are also a range of complementary measures associated with the Bexhill to Hastings link road along the Ridge which go hand in hand with this development.
There are issues, clearly it’s a sensitive site from an environmental point of view but we are satisfied that in terms of the road that’s being proposed here the impacts on ecology can be mitigated. The mitigation measures include appropriate lighting to protect bats and other nocturnal activity, a culvert to provide safe passage for wildlife, a construction management plan to ensure good construction practice that won’t harm protected species, habitat creation to compensate for loss, for example 1.15ha of dormice habitat would be lost but 1.18ha would be created. Also it’s proposed to translocate protected species and the provision of bat and bird boxes. So there are a package of mitigation measures to reduce the impact on ecology in the area. I think that’s probably all I need to say at the moment, if we hear from the applicants and petitioners then we can come back and answer any questions you’ve got.
RS Thank you [invites JC to speak]
JC The Queensway Gateway application neither establishes that there is an immediate local need for the development nor adequately establishes its full impacts, and their significance, on the nature conservation interest of the Hollington Valley Local Wildlife Site. It thus contravenes Policy EN6 in the Hastings Planning Strategy: “Development proposals within or adjacent to Local Wildlife Sites will only be permitted where there is a local need which outweighs any harm to the nature conservation interest.”
Now the Queensway Gateway, as we all know, is being constructed with the purpose of allowing land to be released around the road for employment use. It is not just an application for a road. So I think the current need for these employment facilities must be firmly established. There is plenty of employment space already in the pipeline, as I’m sure you all know, and we have another thirteen years to meet the requirements of the Hastings Planning Strategy.
At the same time, the environmental impact on the Hollington Valley has not been fully or properly assessed. In particular, what needs to be done is that the nature conservation impact of the Queensway Gateway AND the proposed further development on the Hollington Valley must be assessed together, and mitigation measures for both developments must be proposed.
The Development Manager’s report argues that we only need to do the nature conservation impact of the Queensway Gateway alone. I think this argument is wrong because the purpose is to release the land for employment. Because the converse of this objective is, that if no further development were intended then you wouldn’t want to build the road. If you want to build a road, apply for a road. You cannot have it both ways. If employment is the objective then it is nonsense to suggest that, at this stage, the nature conservation impact of any further development doesn’t need to be fully assessed, and mitigation measures don’t need to be provided.
So in my view, because this hasn’t been done together, the requirements of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, and in particular Schedule 4, have just not been met because there’s no full assessment of the impact and no full mitigation measures.
I would also remind you that it is admitted by the applicant that the Queensway Gateway alone will have harmful impacts on the nature conservation interest of the Hollington Valley Local Wildlife Site, and it is also conceded by the applicant that further development is likely to cause serious harm, in part because the road will just fragment the site.
If the employment development never takes place – and we all know that there is employment land, at North Queensway for example, that’s just not being developed – then it will be a tragedy for the Hollington Valley, which is said to be “an invaluable and irreplaceable habitat of excellent quality and an asset for the people of Hastings”, because it will have been needlessly degraded.
Also if a further application is made to develop the employment land then the baseline for future planning applications is normally what’s on the ground. This would be the already degraded Hollington Valley with the road in place. It seems to me it would be likely to be easier to get planning permission for an already degraded Local Wildlife Site, and any mitigation measures might well be less demanding. Now in my view if this is not illegal then it is certainly unethical.
Therefore I ask you to reject or at least defer the Queensway Gateway planning application for the moment. I believe I have raised some very serious issues and unless and until these are resolved it should not be determined. These issues include both planning issues and the Environmental Impact Assessment and the regulations. Thank you.
RS Thank you. If you’d like to remain in your seat, do members have questions for Dr Clark? [silence]. Thank you, we have somebody from SeaChange. I’m afraid I haven’t got your name so if you’d like to introduce…
JS John Shaw.
RS John Shaw, of course. The procedure’s the same, five minutes and the clock will start whenever you’re ready.
JS Thank you for the opportunity to address the planning committee on this important project. It fulfils the long-held policy objectives for your council which are shared with your public sector partners and the business community. It will also greatly benefit the wider community [RS interrupts to ask him to pull microphone closer]. The application is also extremely timely. The potential of the A21/A259 Hastings to Bexhill growth corridor has recently been recognised by the south east Local Enterprise Partnership as one of 12 economic growth imperatives for the south east. It was given priority support in the government’s Growth Fund allocation last year for that reason. To summarise the case for the scheme, it would deliver local planning and transport policy providing better access to jobs for local people, greater connectivity as part of an economic regeneration corridor between the A259 and A21, with the Link Road and Queensway Gateway road providing access to major future employment sites in Hastings and Rother, better road management, routing traffic onto more strategic routes, diverting it from residential streets and addressing accident blackspots such as the Ridge as verified by qualified transport planners and meeting Highways Authority needs.
Beyond this summary let me make a few further points to set the scheme in context. Firstly, the Queensway Gateway’s route from east to west follows an existing road from the A21 for half of its length before going through areas which are designated for employment use in Hastings planning policies. Secondly, Natural England has confirmed the application site carries no statutory ecological site designation. Part of the planning application boundary does overlap a non-statutory site known as the Hollington Valley Local Wildlife Site. I’m not aware of any objections to the employment use prior to the designation but nature conservation interest was clearly taken into account when this was decided.
The employment sites will take into account the nature conservation interest when the applications come forward. In addition, 84% of the wildlife site lies outside the planning application boundary. Thirdly, we’ve designed the Queensway Gateway to avoid any area of ancient woodland and we’re proposing to enhance a north-south corridor of woodland along Hollington Valley. Fourthly, we’re proposing appropriate drainage to protect the area including the Hollington stream which in any case is a dried up watercourse within the application boundary for most of the year. Fifthly, we’re proposing to create new habitat focussing on native broadleaved woodland, wet woodland and species-rich neutral grassland and to use appropriate mitigation for protected animal species.
Sixthly and most vitally, I come to jobs. The Hastings Bexhill growth corridor will provide access to most of the major employment land allocated in the Hastings and Rother core strategies. This growth corridor depends on the Queensway Gateway for its essential connectivity to the A21. The scheme enhances the economic regeneration benefits of the Bexhill Hastings Link road and its related employment sites as well as reducing the impact on the local road network. In 2009, the link road CPO enquiry heard views from the business community, an economics expert and myself that development of the major employment sites would not be viable without the opening of the link road. The economic potential is now much enhanced with the prospect of the link road completing alongside the economic corridor opened up by the Queensway Gateway road.
The managing director of Network Rail rightly summed up at last Friday’s Hastings rail summit that transport infrastructure is a precursor of economic regeneration. The Transport Minister added that businesses would want to see effective transport links before making their investment decisions. The Queensway Gateway is an imperative in exactly this way. It’s at the heart of delivering both local policies and regional priorities. It is a vital element of a wider programme to secure jobs, business expansion and economic prosperity for everyone in the Hastings area. Thank you chair.
RS Thank you. Do members have questions for Mr Shaw? [silence]. No? Well, I’ll ask one. Dr Clark mentioned about the existing vacant employment sites around the borough. Could you perhaps clarify for us the need for this additional employment space?
JS Chair, your council and Rother council together have established that need in the employment land supply which you last reviewed in 2011. That employment land supply and the comments and content and the target of 163,000 sqm has been fed into the core strategies of both councils. That point has gone and it’s been established by your policies and this is about delivery of your policies.
RS Thank you. Any other questions? [No]. Ok, so our planning officers have nothing to add. Do members have questions for either planning, highways or environmental officers?
MW Is there planning permission already existing for the industrial units which will be served by this road?
RC No. It’s an allocated site in the local plan but there’s no planning permission for the development.
MW So we are predicting, this is a predictive need. So the road itself, because it says that the application is for a road, we need to justify the need of that road to be able to grant it permission but at the moment nothing has been given permission to be built there?
RC No, but the sites are allocated for employment use and so to bring those forward you need to create access to those sites and so this road would provide access to those allocated sites. The decision has been made in the local plan process, they were allocated in the 2004 plan, so a decision was made at that time that there should be employment development in this area. The purpose of this road is to provide a good quality access to serve those. If permission is granted for this road then we would expect applications to come in for the specific sites but at the moment we don’t know who they would be, who the occupiers would be or what their requirements would be. We wouldn’t have been able to grant planning permission for business units without an access road.
MW Ok. My follow-up question is, if we don’t know the types of applications that will be received, the size of the buildings that might be applied for, the number of staff that might be working at these premises, then how do we know what the level of need will be? That’s the question: how do we know that this road is going to be well used without having those planning permissions already existing? Aren’t we prejudging? So we’re building a road before, ok, if you can clarify, I don’t know if I’m making much sense.
[not certain who’s speaking here: possibly Sam Batchelor, planning officer who dealt with application? He’s not introduced by name]
I can answer that. That’s kind of the point of the local plan process, so by doing their research in terms of the supporting documents for the new planning strategy, the new development management plan and all the allocations that go with that, they’ve looked into forecasting employment growth in the town so we know, or we think that we know, how much space will be required and how many jobs will be required and as such we’ve allocated certain sites in the town to provide that space. And so, yes, there isn’t a planning permission but that’s the point of planning – you allocate those sites and then they all come forward in the future. This application in particular is just a vehicle to deliver those sites. I hope that makes it slightly clearer. I do appreciate that there’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation here, but that’s essentially it.
PS Thank you, I’ve just got a few, mainly for Mr Davidson in relation to the environmental issues. I note on page 29 you talk about, or rather, the Environmental and Natural Resources Manager has raised a number of objections, sorry, of concerns, with ecology information submitted although he does not object to the mitigation measures, etc etc. Can I just ask about, for example about the compensatory measures, it says that they’re usually secured through section 106s but there is no explanation about how it will be secured in this instance. That’s one question. Shall I run through them and then you pick up afterwards? Ok.
I want to talk also about the translocation of reptiles and the impact that would have and how successful that has been in the past because I’m aware that we’ve translocated reptiles in the past to other sites and it’s not always been successful. I think I’d have some concern about just doing that and going through the motions, if you like, under licence if that’s what’s required, without really thinking that one through.
So there are two things there, the other one was the de-designation of the original status down to a local wildlife site, can you tell me a little bit or explain a little bit about how that comes about and why that came about. I think that may be helpful.
And then the final one is about Dr Clark’s concerns about how that possibly could be deferred the application because of a number of issues that she raised, and if you’d like to comment on that, and planners, that would be helpful.
MD In relation to the first one, as to why there’s no section 106 agreement. Normally compensation and mitigation is indeed secured through section 106s. In this case what we’ve undertaken is to ensure that there’s adequate conditions on there which would require the submission of long-term management strategies and management plans. So it’s up to the applicant to fulfil those conditions, to tell us how they’re actually going to achieve long-term management and long-term monitoring through the conditions. And sometimes, chair, conditions are much easier to enforce than section 106 agreements, so we’re quite comfortable that management and monitoring can be secured by condition.
Point two, the translocation success. It is indeed, as Cllr Scott indicated, a concern wherever species are translocated away from their own habitat. However, in this case what will happen is that the translocations will be self-contained, they’ll be contained on site. Where translocations tend to be slightly adverse to the populations is where they’re translocated off site, and they’re translocated sometimes far away. In this case they’ll be translocated on the actual site and the conditions require monitoring and management of the site to ensure the success of that translocation. The national guidance for translocations indicates that it should be in situ translocation in the first instance and off-site as a last resort. So in this case we are complying with good practice.
The issue of de-designation I’m slightly confused about because there is no de-designation of any wildlife site. The site of nature conservation importance designation which was identified in the 2004 Local Plan has been re-allocated as a local wildlife site nomenclature. There is no difference in site of nature conservation and local wildlife site. The local wildlife site nomenclature came into effect basically in 2006 when Defra issued a national guidance on the criteria for designating local sites, and what we as Hastings Borough Council, as many local authorities up and down the country did, was we chose to rename sites of nature conservation importance as local wildlife sites. There is no de-designation, they offer the same protection.
Point four, I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch what the question was. You just asked generally to respond to Councillor [sic] Clark’s point but I’d rather have a question.
PS My point would have been Dr Clark mentioned about deferring for a number of reasons. Would you, well, I won’t say share that thought or comment, but would you comment on it, or not particularly?
RS Could you see any reason for deferring it, is that basically what you’re asking, Cllr Scott? [yes]
MD One of the concerns that I articulated early on was the lack of information relating to the cumulative effects of this development and then subsequent developments. The applicants were informed of those concerns and they provided an updated ecology and nature conservation statement which you will have read with your information and they addressed that point. I’ve got no further comments on that.
RS Ok. Councillor Dowling.
BD I’m going to move on to a slightly different subject which is transport. We have created and agreed to a link road from Bexhill to Queensway. I believe that we’ve got a problem with the amount of traffic that will create especially on the Ridge where we are talking about if you’re going to the A21, we’re looking at a right turn at the top of Junction Road, or [RS interrupts] – I will state my case please without questions until I get to –
RS At the moment this is just questions to the officers. Will you ask a question please?
BD Well this is a question I’m asking. Is it essential for that link road to stop the dangerous situations caused at Junction Road and at Maplehurst Road?
RS Mr Stanyard, would you like to respond?
CS If I just quickly summarise, this is kind of, what we’ve on the table is the only realistic and viable connection we have from the Bexhill Hastings link road to the A21, the strategic road network. What that allows us to do is take a number of vehicles associated with the link road opening off of the Ridge, therefore reducing traffic numbers along the Ridge, but also at the same time we can remove the right turns from the Ridge onto the Junction Road through the closure, and one of the options we’re looking at for Junction Road is perhaps improving pedestrian and cycleway connectivity.
RS A question occurs to me. With closing Maplehurst Road that means some residents or visitors to that area will need to have, well it’s a more complicated route for them to get to the A21. Could you perhaps comment on that?
CS The idea behind closing or removing right turns from Junction Road and Maplehurst is that that will then allow the Ridge to flow freer so while it is clearly longer in distance terms, the route should be flowing a lot more efficiently and therefore in travel time terms it’s probably going to be less.
RS Before we proceed, councillors Wincott and Scott neglected to declare their interest at the beginning, personal interest as members of East Sussex County Council which is the Highway Authority. That doesn’t affect of course their right to speak and vote.
ME Just on the question of Maplehurst Road, I see on page 35 that the emergency services still assume they’re going to be able to use Maplehurst Road. Is there going to be a special emergency service-only access or is it going to be closed off?
CS At present, as the planning officer’s report suggested, the A21/A28 junction is being looked at separately by the Highways Agency to follow on potentially the Queensway Gateway road and improve the area in its entirety. On that basis, we’ve requested that modifications to Maplehurst Road at the northern end are as part of this application. Discussions with the Highways Agency because it has an impact on their scheme and also the emergency services are ongoing but we are clear that we would like emergency services to maintain that route to the Conquest.
JR My question is also about the traffic flow on the new road. There are three roundabouts and it’s not a particularly long road. I’ve tried to walk some of it, it’s a bit boggy out there at the moment, but from Queensway to the A21. Are we clear that we’re not with three roundabouts just causing a massive backup of traffic coming off of the link road and onto Queensway and then across?
CS I take your point. The road has been designed to a speed limit design of 30mph so the roundabouts will help control speeds as well as allow the movement of traffic. I understand what you’re saying with the delays associated with new roundabouts etc but we’re confident that with the strategic route, all the roads that need to get on the strategic road network will use this as opposed to the Ridge, and therefore the combination of both routes should flow fine.
MW Thank you for letting me ask a second question. So the employment land and the road, they’re linked because the principle of development of employment land around this road is already established, it’s in the plan and so forth. Fine. So the road itself and the employment land, they’re very very closely linked together and so we should bear that in mind. I suppose my question might be for Mr Davidson actually. Dr Clark said that the environmental impacts of the total development, total predicted development, should be considered. So if we can predict the increase in the traffic movements, the space needed, the employment, the number of people, the trraffic movements, shouldn’t we also consider the total environmental, can’t we make that prediction of how it’s going to affect that area in total?
MD I think the applicant’s consultants have made it quite clear that that part of the site of nature conservation importance or local wildlife site, will have, will result in, I’ll read it out to you. The habitat loss impacts associated with the road construction will result in adverse impacts on reptiles, dormice, breeding birds, bats etc. Impacts on these species and groups would be reduced through implementation of a range of mitigation and compensation and the cumulative impacts – I’m just reading from the consultant’s report here – the cumulative impacts which you’re talking about of the adjoining land allocation could result in additional adverse effects on the local wildlife through a combination of direct habitat loss and fragmentation.
MW So in your view, knowing that, is this development still acceptable?
MD That’s one for you to decide, chair, I can only advise that we asked the applicants to provide sufficient information for you to make an informed decision and the information is before you. It’s not for me to make the decision.
RS Any more questions? Councillor Scott?
PS Apologies for neglecting to advise you of the personal interest of county members, myself and councillor Wincott. Chair, I just wanted to touch on the highways issues again in relation to Maplehurst Road, because it is important. You say that that is a stand-alone scheme being looked at in the future but consultation is ongoing as part of the overall Queensway Gateway corridor and so on and so forth, so you’re running the schemes in conjunction, that’s really what you’re saying?
CS That’s right, we are consulting with the Highways Agency quite regularly to understand what their aspirations are for the A21/A28 and therefore we don’t want to be doing anything at Maplehurst Road that will prejudice their scheme coming forward.
PS OK, I understand that. So can I ask the extent of the consulation around Maplehurst Road because I think it is important. Clearly anything we do on Sedlescombe Road North [the A21] if it’s agreed, and in that particular area, also has an impact somewhere else, always will have an impact somewhere else, I just wonder how widely you’ve consulted. For example, Westfield and beyond because Westfield’s a quite, although it’s a village it’s quite a large amount of people who would use, I guess, Maplehurst Road to get to the Conquest etc.
CS There was a dedicated public consultation for the residents of Maplehurst itself. Obviously through the planning application process there is opportunity for others to make comments. We didn’t go out to Westfield specifically, we did go to all the emergency services to ascertain their views and they are broadly supportive of what we’re doing providing they can still get their emergency link.
RS Thank you. No further questions, then I’ll open it out to members to discuss, to debate this item. Who would like to begin? Councillor Edwards.
ME This is my ward so I have got an interest in it so far as that is concerned on behalf of people who live in my ward, so I’m speaking not on their behalf but I’m keenly interested in their opinions naturally. I also live in the surrounding area so I know what the frustration is of sitting in traffic jams at the A28/A21 junction turning right up to Junction Road. I sit in those jams on a daily basis. The Ridge itself is also in a state of gridlock for a large part of every day.
There has been extensive development along the Ridge and that is adding to traffic month by month, year by year. Anybody you speak to will say, something has got to be done, and here we have an example, I think, of something being done. We do have very limited options in joining up Queensway to the A21 and I think the proposal that’s been described to us here is about as good as it can get. I think extensive research and development has been put into the plan over many months and if you look at the map of the area, there is practically no other option that wouldn’t involve knocking down houses, knocking down restaurants, knocking down shops or some other such impact.
The route that’s been selected is probably the shortest route that they could have chosen. We’re told it’s 650m, that is not a long way. It does unfortunately go through a part of open green space and scrubland and parts that will have scientific interest. Unfortunately for me I’m afraid the traffic emphasis takes priority here. Hastings at the northern end is grinding to a halt and this is as good an effort as I could imagine to put that right. We talk about the employment element of it. For me, that is less important at this stage. For me, the imperative is to get the roads in place, to get the traffic moving and to get people in and out and around about doing their business in the town.
I don’t think we’re going to see warehouses built on those employment designated spots for some time to come, I would guess, but at least when that time does come, the infrastructure, the roads will be in place to do it. We’ve got to be ambitious for Hastings. Hastings is growing, we have a lot of plans that are coming together, the road and the rail links, the high speed internet. These are all happening, Hastings is going to grow, it’s going to be an attractive place to live, we’ve got to be able to get about the town. So I shall be supporting this proposal, chairman, and I hope it will succeed.
RS Thank you, councillor Edwards. Do I take it you are proposing the recommendation?
ME I’m happy to propose, chairman.
RS Councillor Beaver, are you seconding?
MB I’m perfectly happy to second but I’ll reserve the right if I may, Mr Chairman
RS OK. Would anyone else like to speak before… No? OK, Councillor Beaver then if you would like to, what’s the word, sum up? Exert your right, that’s the phrase I was looking for. Sorry, hold on, Councillor Scott, did you wish to speak?
PS If I can speak, chair, I’d just like to make a number of observations,really, I’ve never seen an application with so many agencies, professionals if you like, all saying they’ve got no comment in relation to an application. It does weigh heavily in terms of how members may think. Having said that, I think there’s a very compelling argument from the environmentalist if you like, Dr Clark, and others about the value of the ecology of the land and I think whatever happens there needs to be done extremely sensitively.
On the one hand we have the Bexhill Hastings Link road which of course some would favour and some would oppose, that’s democracy, and that’s a much-needed road although of course there are impacts there for the environment, but it was put in place, or will be put in place, if you like, to alleviate some of the traffic coming across from the A259 where residents I suppose down in West St Leonards and beyond have always experienced very poor air quality, so that’s another consideration we need to think about as well.
But with the road coming across and linking up to a potential road here with the Gateway project, there’s a promise, how optimistic we can be, we’re being told the growth is there and developing but it’s slow, we know that, but we need to be optimistic I think, rather than pessimistic, and we need to think about how that will work in the future. So I need to remain optimistic that we will see industrial units there or employment land there being used for the purpose hopefully that it will be built for. If you look at the impacts of any road, we know don’t we that the Ridge has been an overburdened road for many, many years, at peak times it’s just unbearable sometimes. Many, many times I know the Conquest hospital open up their barriers at the rear of the hospital to allow traffic to come through because it needs to burst somewhere so therefore it bursts out into Little Ridge and areas beyond. So there’s a real need there in terms of pressure to alleviate some of that traffic.
What we didn’t want to do of course was see a road built between Bexhill and Hastings only to shift the A259 effectively. So I think, chair, on balance, although I really really passionately feel about the environment, I really do, my gut feeling is that with all of the professional advice we’re seeing from all of the agencies, I think on balance I would support this, but I would really really urge that strict monitoring is in place to ensure that the wildlife and the ecology is really really looked after, monitoring takes place, monitoring takes place of any translocation and that we really do, when we set conditions within this application, we really see somebody looking after that post any development. So on balance I probably would support this application.
RS Thank you. Any further contributions? OK, Councillor Beaver, if you’d like to second.
MB Yes, I’m happy to second the proposal to have the road built. Residents in my ward of West St Leonards have been waiting 18 years plus for a bypass to have gone in and when the Bexhill to Hastings link road was announced there was much joy that the traffic would be alleviated there. But what they didn’t want as Councillor Scott has already said was to just move it around to another part of the town. It’s already been said many times tonight the link, the Ridge, sorry, is very congested and to add far more traffic along there without this road would increase congestion not only across the Ridge but also on the A21 which is a major bottleneck, trying to come down the A21 especially at certain times of the day with people trying to turn onto Junction Road and up onto the Ridge.
Yes, it’ll be a longer route round and I do have concerns about that, and yes indeed Dr Clark has mentioned that the ecology of the whole site should be taken into consideration in one go and I have every sympathy with that particular view. However, the proposal before us is for the road and at the end of the day we are always taught that we cannot predict what’s going to come ahead. Now, planning applications for the employment land may come in the next year, they may come in the next two years, they may not come until the end of the period under which the employment land supply document was there which is in 13 years time. We cannot predict when that will happen but what I can say is that certainly the members around this table now and also future members will take each site into consideration at each time with all the information provided before them by the officers and indeed residents about.
So I am with concerns, and yes councillor Scott has mentioned the ecology side of it, but the proposal is for the road that is there before us and as councillor Edwards has said, the traffic, I believe, and the easing of the traffic in that particular area sadly outweighs it at this moment in time, so I am perfectly happy to second this proposal on the building of the Queensway Gateway.
RS Thank you. Councillor Edwards, as the proposer of the motion you do have the right to reply, do you wish to add anything more?
ME Nothing further
RS In that case we’ll move to the vote. It has been proposed and seconded that permission be granted for the Gateway road with all the conditions that are listed in the report before you. All those in favour can you please show? That is unanimous.