UPDATED: September 5, 7.20am with letter that is being sent by the town council as the result of its meeting.
There were calls last night for Uckfield Town Council to withdraw from the Uckfield Town Centre Regeneration Joint Committee in protest over High Street improvement plans.
Cllrs Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Central, and Donna French, Trust Independent, North, said the council was supposed to be an equal partner with East Sussex County and Wealden District councils on the joint committee but town views were not being listened to.
The town council was cautioned against taking such action, first by Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, North, and then by clerk Ashley Serpis.
Both said the main reason the joint committee was set up was to find a way forward to develop the town centre.
They were concerned that withdrawal would see plans go ahead without input from the council.
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Central, said the High Street improvements were not part of the original regeneration brief and said adding that project later had caused confusion.
The town councillors were attending an extra meeting to formulate a reply to a letter from the TCR about the latest recommendations for town centre improvements.
Many councillors remained unhappy that their demand for 30 spaces, plus loading and unloading bays, had not been included. They had been told it wasn’t possible to further increase the number of parking spaces if congestion was to be reduced in the High Street.
The TCR committee is recommending 23 parking spaces. Originally it favoured eight parking spaces plus disabled parking and loading and unloading bays.
Cllr Barry Mayhew, Liberal Democrat, New Town, said all that had happened was that the titles of disabled and loading and unloading bays had disappeared and those spaces were now being called parking spaces.
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.
Councillors last night agreed a response to a letter from the TCR. They also asked the town clerk to request a copy of the of the joint committee accounts so they could see how much had been collected through Section 106 planning agreements and how it was being spent.
The following letter has been sent by Town Clerk, Ashley Serpris, on behalf of the town council, to Nigel Hannan, Lead Director of the Uckfield Town Centre Regeneration 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 and the inclusion of loading bays. Whilst the Town Council is not averse to improvements to the town or the High Street, it is strongly suggested that additional High Street 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 and with the Town Council’s compromise of 30 parking spaces and loading bays, we would urge the TCR to again review their plans to see what can be done to improve the number of parking spaces and loading bays available.
The Town Council would urge the TCR to 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.
We would urge the TCR to urgently review their options to widen the possibilities especially in view of the additional railway related traffic issues that will emerge with the station improvements proposed to take place at the same time.
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 the Chamber of Commerce have stated that, 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 of grave concern to note that from the lack of continued constructive consultation with the Town Council and traders that no effort has been made to consider any such compromise.
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. We would also remind the Lead Member that the Town Council is an equal member of the TCR Joint Committee and expects a better response in the future.
See also a story carried on Uckfield News in advance of last night’s meeting: Extra Uckfield Town Council meeting about High Street improvements
Councillors present at last night’s meeting were:
Mayor: Cllr Louise Eastwood
Deputy mayor: Cllr Duncan Bennett, Trust Independent, New Town
Cllr James Anderson, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Mick Dean, Trust Independent, New Town
Cllr Keith Everett, Independent, Ridgewood
Cllr Helen Firth, Conservative, Central
Cllr Donna French, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Jackie Love, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Barry Mayhew, Liberal Democrat, New Town
Cllr Chris Macve, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Central
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, North
Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Central
Apologies for absence
Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood
Cllr Jacqueline Beckford, Liberal Democrat, Ridgewood