An attempt to get Uckfield Town Council to pay for some dropped kerbs highway improvements around the town has been rejected.
The works are the responsibility of East Sussex County Council which, because of funding cuts, has no dedicated budget for dropped kerbs.
The county has been advising people to get in touch with the town council to see if it would pay or come up with a “match-funding” scheme.
Members of the town council’s environment and leisure committee said it would not become involved.
They understood residents’ frustrations but this was something which should be discussed with East Sussex Highways.
The town council has received two specific requests for dropped kerbs.
One was from the New Town Action Group, highlighting the junction of Harcourt Road and Framfield Road.
The group had contacted the highways authority, East Sussex County Council, before Christmas and was told the county could not fund the full cost of the works and were advised to approach the town council to see if a community match funding application could be made.
And a local resident contacted the town clerk saying their elderly friend and others in Regency Close, who use mobility scooters, were having difficulty moving around and were “effectively imprisoned” in their homes due to the lack of dropped kerbs in the area.
An uneven footpath also made it very difficult.
East Sussex Highways has told the town council that it needs to consider how money is spent to best effect, ensuring it targets those areas in most need of repair throughout the county.
This targeting takes into account a number of factors including safety and condition.
The environment and leisure committee was told: “They select the roads to carry out works, starting with the sites which require their immediate attention.
“Any areas which have caused a safety hazard to road and footway users are dealt with immediately whilst minor damage takes its place within their works programme.
“Due to this approach, they no longer have a budget dedicated to the provision of dropped kerbs and would only look to do so as part of a larger scheme.
“They simply do not have the funding for this at present and, as their priority is to maintain the existing highway network and ensure it is safe, this leaves them no scope for the construction of features such as dropped kerbs.
“They would advise that the local area look at funding such works under the community match scheme.”
The committee was told the costs for a standard access would be £1,500 to £2,000, plus a £280 licence fee.
If the town council wished to apply for community match funding, East Sussex Highways would halve the cost of the work with the Town Council. However it was noted that this route was a little more time consuming as any forthcoming applications would go to the Lead Member for approval in March 2019 as the deadline for applications for 2018 has closed.
The Community Extras option involves the parish/town council paying for the entire cost of the works.
Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Uckfield Central, said East Sussex Highways should be dealing with dropped kerbs.
‘Can of worms’
“We cannot take all the responsibility for everything other councils don’t want to do,” she said.
Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood, said if the council agreed to the two requests it could be lifting the lid on a “big can of worms”.
“That’s not to say that I don’t have sympathy with the current situation that people have come forward with but once we have opened the door, lots of people could piling through,” he said.
He thought the county council would keep sending the issue back to the town and he wanted to know how big an issue it might be.
Assistant town clerk, Christine Wheatley, said that if an audit was done now, things may change over time with new people moving to the area.
She said it would be a mammoth task to carry out a full audit. “If you advertise and ask people to come forward, I think you would be inundated with people who would like them now,” she said.
Summing up, Cllr Dean said: “It is the responsibility of East Sussex County Council and we have two (requests) here and you are looking at £1,500 to £2,00 plus a £280 licence fee. We have two and all of a sudden you could have six.
“We should be saying to East Sussex County Council, ‘no’. You are obligated to sort this out. You deal with it and not just sit there and bat it back to the town because it is not on. It is their duty.”
The committee agreed to support Regency Close residents in attempting to get the footpath repaired to make it suitable for people in mobility scooters.