A distinctive boardwalk through part of Uckfield’s Hempstead Meadows Local Nature Reserve could be replaced by a “causeway”.
The idea has been put forward by East Sussex County Council, which has responsibility for public footpaths.
The route through the nature reserve begins at the bottom of the Hempstead Road playing field and comes out into the Waitrose car park.
There are three sections of boardwalk at the Hempstead Fields end of the path, which over time have become broken and unstable in places, necessitating temporary repairs, which are not in keeping with the original.
The county council considered replacing the boardwalk with a man-made “wood”, to create a similar look, but this was estimated to cost between £60,000 and £100,000 and was deemed “prohibitively expensive”.
It is now suggesting a causeway over the swampy areas, using a mixture of materials, to raise the height of the pathway, which is extensively used as a route into town by people living on the Manor Park and Hemsptead Fields housing estates, especially in dry, summer weather.
It is estimated the work would take three to six weeks and will take place in the middle part of the year, subject to funding being approved.
Uckfield Town Council, which owns the nature reserve, is to meet with the county council to discuss the project in detail and try and find out what would happen to the boardwalk if the county cannot fund the scheme.
Access to the site would be from the Waitrose car park – an agreement will be needed with the supermarket.
Using Hempstead Road playing field would, it is thought, be unsuitable because of the steep gradient.
The supporters’ group for the nature reserve has been consulted and raised a number of concerns.
These include many vehicle movements causing noise and disturbance to wildlife and nearby residents.
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield Central, told a meeting of the town council’s environment and leisure committee that accessing the works through Phillips Field (at the Waitrose end) would cause disruption.
Alternative access route
Access through Waitrose car park would have to have permission and he felt that the Hempstead Field route would have been better but accepted the reasons for excluding this due to the gradient of the ground.
He said an alternative could be identified through private land in Roman Way which should be looked at as an option for access. He felt further information was required and that the county’s ecologist should be asked to submit a report of the proposed works.
River Uck flood plain
*Hempstead Meadow Nature Reserve is part of the flood plain of the River Uck and at times of heavy rain, water rages through the area.
*The path and boardwalk was put in place after homes were developed off Hempstead Road by Rydon Homes. Prior to that there were rough tracks across the land which led to Phillips Field.
*Access across the local nature reserve echoes a debate in 2015 when Network Rail sought permission to go across part of Phillips Field to enable it to construct a longer platform at Uckfield railway station. The town council refused the rail infrastructre company access, with materials moved to the site in other ways.
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