December 20, 2015 by combehavendefenders
The Link Road is finally open. Late, overbudget and unfinished, but nonetheless a triumph, at least if you believe East Sussex County Council (ESCC). All we have to do now is sit back, enjoy the ride, and wait for the 3,000 jobs and £1bn (yes, that’s billion) of ‘investment’ the road will apparently bring us. Oh, and don’t mention climate change.
‘Significantly overstated’ benefits
What they’re keeping quiet about is the huge area of sensitive and biodiverse habitat wiped out; the evidence that roadbuilding increases traffic and locks people into car-based transport; and of course the contribution the road will make to runaway climate change. They’re also not telling us that the Department for Transport said that ESCC had ‘significantly overstate[d]‘ the job and economic benefits of the scheme. But what does all that matter? We have a new road to drive down!
Charabanc tour grinds to a halt
The day before the opening, ESCC organised a charabanc tour for the media, and the great and good, to show them what a wonderful project this has turned out to be. First a press conference at the Sussex Exchange (a SeaSpace project in the middle of the notably empty Enviro 21 business park), followed by a drive along the road, and more triumphalism at the ‘Glover’s House’ building (a SeaChange project at the Bexhill end of the road).
Sadly, it didn’t all go according to plan. Protesters had got wind of the plans, and when the bus turned off Queensway, people were sitting in the road. After some failed negotiation, the bus backed up and went, ignominiously, the long way round to Bexhill.
Cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians not welcome
Protesters set off in pursuit, cycling along the empty link road to Glover’s House, ignoring cries from construction workers to stop. It was lucky the road wasn’t yet open, as cycling alongside the tens of thousands of vehicles expected to use it every day would be an extremely unpleasant and dangerous thing to do. The ‘greenway’ path for cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians was supposed to be finished before the road was opened, but desperate as they were to get it open as soon as possible, ESCC amended the planning conditions to allow the road to open before the greenway was completed, so for now it’s motorists only. It’s great being your own planning authority.
No landmarks, Combe Haven vanished
It was a surreal – and very sad – experience: a vast road where once had been fields and marshes and trees. There were no landmarks visible and it was almost impossible to orientate ourselves. The valley we had known and loved was gone.
Peter Jones comes to have a look
At Glover’s House, the great and the good were inside, no doubt being refreshed at public expense. We weren’t allowed in to join the party, but waited outside and eventually they all came out. Councillors of all stripes, local business people, and – always a treat – Peter Jones, ex-leader of the council, fingerprints all over the Link Road, recently ‘sacked’ – by his own words – from the leadership of the Local Enterprise Partnership. He objected to having his photo taken. “You’re invading my privacy”, he said. “You’ve invaded our valley”, we replied.
Combe Haven Defenders assault a pensioner
He accused us of assaulting a pensioner (himself) by taking his photo and looked ready to engage in the public sparring he seems to enjoy, before one of his minders hustled him off, pausing only to whisper, “Well done”, to us. Does anybody like Peter Jones?
Everyone got on the bus again, and off they trundled to their next stop – admiring a bridge and posing for a photograph. It was a lovely day out.
Climate change? No problem
So that’s that. The road is open, Combe Haven is destroyed. It will never again be the tranquil and beautiful place it once was. That this destructive, expensive, carbon-increasing road can be hailed as a successful project, says everything we need to know about the priorities of local politicians. Climate change? What climate change?