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  • The Rother Alliance

East Sussex withdraw plans for Bexhill Town Centre

The Rother Alliance is extremely disappointed to learn of the decision by ESCC Officers to drop the scheme to widen the pavements in Western Road and Devonshire Road at the Council Meeting on 17th August. This decision was made only weeks after notifying residents that it was going ahead and has put all our plans on hold. The plans proposed by the Rother Alliance were produced as part of the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, whereby £250 million was to be made available nationally.

The Bexhill Chamber of Commerce opposed the original ESCC plan for enlarged pavements, and they submitted a revised scheme which did not meet Government criteria for funding. The

Rother Alliance hoped that ESCC would not allow itself to be more influenced by businesses than by Bexhill residents and democratically elected Councillors. The Government’s aim, supported by Rother Alliance, was to help the hospitality industry by allowing it to expand onto widened pavements, to enable eating outside, which is more pleasant and safer in times of Covid-19.

The Rother Alliance believes, as do Bexhill residents, that we should maintain as much social distancing as possible, especially as Winter approaches and could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. Our plans were not only concerned with safety issues, but also a first step towards the eventual aim of freeing the town of the tyranny of traffic. The Rother Alliance wants a town centre with clean air, without the pollution of congestion, beautified with trees and colourful floral displays, where people can relax and socialise without the background noise of traffic.

Research suggests that this is also what the public want. The Rother Alliance proposal was a strengthening of the original ESCC scheme. We wanted to see Western Road made an Access Only Road and Devonshire Road made one way, with wider pavements and a segregated cycleway. As Councillor Richard Thomas stated: “Active travel is key to the anti-obesity campaign, while pollution has been shown to increase the risk of Covid-19 complications”.

Councillor Polly Gray said: “Our plans are also in line with our Environment Strategy, working towards cleaner air and a traffic free town centre, helping to meet our aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030”.

Councillor Christine Bayliss said: “It is disappointing to think that Bexhill might miss out on Government funding. Making shoppers feel they can shop safely is key to the recovery”. Despite a letter of support for our proposals from Huw Merriman, MP and an inspiring speech by Councillor Kathryn Field at the ESCC meeting, the Council did not give approval to our plans.

Councillor Claire Dowling said that the proposals to widen pavements in Bexhill would not go

ahead after concerns from traders. She said: “I appreciate there are mixed views on the proposals, but there are time constraints and limitations on the types of schemes we can progress. We will be consulting on our draft local cycling and walking infrastructure plan shortly and any longer-term schemes suggested through that consultation will be considered”.

It is hugely disappointing that Bexhill has missed out on this unique opportunity for Government funding to transform our town centre. We will continue to work towards achieving our plans and to work closely with all interested parties to improve the safety and wellbeing of residents. The true interests of traders are a priority.

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