Extra Uckfield Town Council meeting about High Street improvements

An extra meeting of Uckfield Town Council is due to be held tonight to consider a response to latest recommendations for improvements to Uckfield High Street.uckfield-town-council-un

Those recommendations, made by the Uckfield Town Centre Regeneration Joint Committee include providing 23 parking spaces on Uckfield High Street – an increase from eight originally proposed – for stays of up to 30 minutes, and exploring the use of one-way traffic management while High Street improvements are carried out.

A decision on the High Street improvements is due to be made by East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment on September 14.

Town councillors who have been pressing for 30 spaces, plus loading and unloading bays, on the High Street have been told in a letter from the TCR joint committee that coupled with a shorter parking time limit on 23 spaces, and a “commitment to robust enforcement” there will be a higher turnover of use of the spaces.

The letter, from Nigel Hannam, lead director on behalf of the TCR Joint Committee, says: “It is not possible to incorporate any additional on-street parking spaces without undermining the main objective of the scheme, which is to tackle congestion in the High Street, both now and into the future.

“Further, the parking spaces that will have been removed will serve to make the operation of road junctions along the High Street safer, and enable incorporation of measures such as bus shelters, which will encourage the use of public transport.”

The town council had also asked for traffic management options for the construction phase to be reviewed.

Mr Hannam says that the joint committee believes phased works would not be affordable under the current budget for the project.

“It is also considered that phased works would prolong the period of time required to carry out the work, thus having a negative impact on movement in the town centre for a longer period.”

Mr Hannam queries a town council resolution that should the changes they requested to the scheme not be made the collected Section 106 contributions should be returned to the developers.

He says developments in and around Uckfield that are funding the High Street improvement scheme were granted planning permission on the condition that mitigation for traffic created by the developments was provided in the town centre.

“Whilst the views of the town council on the scheme are appreciated, it would be unacceptable not to undertake a scheme of traffic arrangements that mitigate against adverse impacts. Without mitigation the congestion in the town centre would reach an unacceptable level.”

He seeks clarification on this town council resolution saying reports from reliable sources indicate it might want to be flexible on this point. “However the current formal situation is that the resolution to return the funding is the town council’s agreed and published position.”

Finally Mr Hannam says the joint committee would be happy to meet with town councillors and members of the Chamber of Commerce to discuss traffic management options for the roadworks.

A draft response to the TCR, which can be seen in full below, has been drawn up for consideration by town councillors.

In it councillors continue pressing for an increase in the number of parking spaces from 23 but do not specify a number.

The draft letter does not clarify whether the council still wants to press for money to be returned to developers if they do not get the changes previously requested.

It does say the council would rather see money allocated for more cosmetic elements of the scheme used instead for better traffic management, for events and the positive message that the town is open for business.

“As it is evident that the TCR are unlikely to make any effort at a compromise, it is sincerely hoped that some of the monies can be spent on limiting the damage this scheme is likely to cause,” says the draft letter.

Full text of draft letter from town council to TCR joint committee

Dear Mr. Hannam,

Thank you for your letter of the 12th August 2015 on behalf of the UTCR Joint Committee.

The Town Council considered your letter at an extra meeting of the Full Council on the 3rd September 2015 and I should advise the following:-

The Town Council is extremely disappointed that the TCR has not effectively reviewed its position and considered the possibility of increasing the number of High Street car parking spaces from 23.  Whilst the Town Council is not averse to improvements to the town or the High Street, it is strongly suggested that additional car parking spaces are essential requirements by residents, traders and visitors to the town.  It is felt the future of the town centre will be compromised by the reduction in High Street parking spaces and this is echoed by the Chamber of Commerce and those using the High Street traders.

Even at this late stage the Town Council would urge the TCR to again review their plans to see what can be done to improve the number of parking spaces available.  It would seem pointless to consider remedying possible future congestion if nobody comes to use the High Street in the future.

At the meeting on the 25th August the Town Council were relieved that the TCR confirmed that it would work with all parties on improving the traffic management options for the construction phase.  You will recall a number of very real and justifiable concerns were raised and a number of practical options put forward.  The Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce would welcome continued dialogue to ensure that a repetition of the first phase of the works does not happen again.

The Town Council also welcomes the assurances given that the TCR will take up the Town Council’s call to initiate a campaign to let everyone know that the town is open for business.  A positive message should be encouraged and it was also pleasing to note that assistance could be provided by Wealden District Council’s ‘Streets Ahead’ team to ensure that events could be held in the town centre to attract visitors.

It cannot be over-emphasised that the High Street works will have an adverse impact on all traders not only those in the High Street and without doubt some businesses will fail as a result of what is being proposed.  Whatever can be done to reduce the likelihood of any business failing should be done whether that be in improving the originally proposed traffic management scheme or assisting with providing events and positive publicity to encourage shoppers into the town.

With regard to the return of the funding for these works, the Town Council has always sought to be flexible and achieve positive dialogue with the TCR.  The Town Council has sought to seek compromise to what is being imposed on local residents and traders and it is evident from the lack of continued consultation with the Town Council and traders that little effort has been made to consider any compromise.

The Town Council is very aware of why and how the monies have been provided. However, rather than see that money being spent on some of the more cosmetic elements of the scheme, the Town Council would like to see some of the monies used to ensure that there is better traffic management, more spent on events and the positive message that the town is open for business.

As it is evident that the TCR are unlikely to make any effort at a compromise, it is sincerely hoped that some of the monies can be spent on limiting the damage this scheme is likely to cause.

The Town Council would also be grateful if a copy of this letter is given to the Lead Member for Transport and Environment prior to considering his decision on the 14th September 2015.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Serpis
Town Clerk

Letter from TCR committee to town council on August 12

Dear Cllr Eastwood

Formal response to Uckfield Town Council’s consultation response, arising from the UTC meeting on 10 July 2015, to the Highways Improvement Scheme (HIS) Stage 2.

As you will be aware, at the Uckfield Town Centre Regeneration Joint Committee meeting on 10 August it was agreed that the Joint Committee would provide a formal response to Uckfield Town Council following the Town Council’s resolutions in relation to the Highways Improvement Scheme Stage 2 at its meeting of 10 July 2015.

The Joint Committee’s formal response is as follows.

At the Uckfield Town Council meeting on 10 July 2015 to consider the second stage of the High Street improvement works, it was resolved for the Town Council to ask East Sussex County Council and the HIS Project Board to further review the plans with the aim of providing 30 parking spaces plus loading bays in the High Street.

The Joint Committee believes that there has already been significant movement on the level of on-street parking provision for this scheme. The initial proposal of 8 parking spaces has been increased to 23 spaces (three times the original number). Coupled with a shorter parking time limit on these spaces, and a commitment to robust enforcement, there will be a higher turnover of use of the spaces. It is believed that the net effect of this will meet current parking provision. It is not possible to incorporate any additional on-street parking spaces without undermining the main objective of the scheme, which is to tackle congestion in the High Street, both now and into the future. Further, the parking spaces that will have been removed will serve to make the operation of road junctions along the High Street safer, and enable incorporation of measures such as bus shelters, which will encourage the use of public transport.

The Town Council also resolved to ask the County Council to review the traffic management options for the construction phase.

The Joint Committee believes that phased works would not be affordable under the current budget for the project. It is also considered that phased works would prolong the period of time required to carry out the work, thus having a negative impact on movement in the town centre for a longer period. The Joint Committee’s approach, in line with the wider consultation responses, is to recommend that further work should be carried out to explore the one way working traffic management option in either a northbound or southbound direction and to ensure that it takes place with the least disruption possible. This includes working closely with businesses to manage delivery schedules with minimum disruption during the works and the Joint Committee, in the spirit of seeking an agreed way forward, is happy to meet with representatives of the Town Council with the objective of achieving a constructive approach to delivering the most appropriate traffic management measures.

In addition, the Town Council resolved that should the changes to the scheme that have been requested not be made, the collected Section 106 contributions should be returned to the developers.

The developments in and around Uckfield that are funding the High Street improvement scheme were granted planning permission on the condition that mitigation for traffic created by the developments was provided in the town centre. Whilst the views of the Town Council on the scheme are appreciated, it would be unacceptable not to undertake a scheme of traffic arrangements that mitigate against adverse impacts. Without mitigation the congestion in the town centre could reach an unacceptable level.

The Joint Committee would appreciate some clarification from the Town Council on this final resolution. There have been various reports from reliable soures that the Town Council might want to be flexible on this part of its resolution. However, the current formal situation is that the resolution to return the funding is the Town Council’s agreed and published position.

As also agreed at the Joint Committee meeting of 10 August, and as highlighted above, the Joint Committee are happy to meet with representatives of the Town Council to discuss the traffic management options for the stage 2 works.

The Joint Committee are aware that an earlier request for a meeting was for a combined meeting with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and, if the Town Council wish this still to be the case, the Joint Committee are happy to proceed on this basis. Accordingly, a copy of this letter goes to Fiona Monson at the Chamber of Commerce.

We would suggest a maximum of three representatives each from the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure and enable a focused and constructive discussion, and would suggest a date of 25th August at East Sussex County Council, County Hall, Lewes.

Please let me know what time would suit you and who will be attending.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Hannam
Lead Director
On behalf of the UTCR Joint Committee

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