An Uckfield “open for business campaign” has been put forward to help reduce the impact of proposed roadworks in Uckfield High Street.
He said a campaign should be considered as long as a satisfactory compromise on the proposals could be agreed with the highways authority, East Sussex County Council.
Councillors expressed disappointment that there had been no “constructive response” to suggestions put forward by the town council at its meeting on July 10, see report here, where the council called for 30 parking spaces + loading bays.
East Sussex County Council highways department has said it is not possible to increase the number of parking spaces in the High Street and reduce congestion (more details on this later in the story).
Before councillors began their latest debate, Mick Harker, a former councillor and former chairman of the regeneration committee, addressed the meeting from the public gallery.
He said roadworks did cause disruption, wherever they were. “We all want a better town and sometimes we have to put up with disruption.”
Mr Harker said any joint meeting between the town council, Chamber of Commerce and the county council should be about achieving a successful outcome.
“The story should be about what is great about Uckfield and encourage people to come into the town when the works are taking place.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to demonsrate that we are a community looking to the future and do really welcome people to wander round the High Street and not just a pop-in to a shop on the way to somewhere else.”
When the councillors’ debate opened, Cllr Bennett said he believed they needed to do everything they could to further the spirit of compromise.
We need negotiation, says deputy town mayor
“It is vital that we do achieve improvements to this town. We want to drive the town forward in a positive and progressive manner.
“However, there is a case that the greater will of the people needs to be acknowledged and to do that we need negotiation.
“We are the ones offering the compromise here. We are being met with intransigence. I think we should do the right thing and maintain as much communication and entente cordial with the TCR and East Sussex until the time that we are fully sure we have to go with the resolution on the table [returning money to the developers paid as part of planning permissions for new housing]. Anything less would be letting everybody down.”
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Central Ward, pointed out that Cllr Carl Maynard, the county council lead member for transport, had the right and power to do what they wished but added he felt the response so far was a “slap in the face” to the town council.
Cllr Chris Macve, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said discussions with the county council seemed to bear little relationship to what the people of the town wanted.
“East Sussex seem to just do their own thing and almost ignore what is being asked of them.
“I don’t think many people are against the scheme per se but there are elements of the scheme that the public think need to be re-visited.
“At the end of the day, a lot of what East Sussex is proposing is beneficial and will be good for the town long term but not in the way it is being put over at the moment.”
He also said if the current parking restrictions were enforced many of the alleged hold-ups would disappear because people park “anywhere and everywhere, on footpaths, on double yellow lines, on corners”.
“It can in certain circumstances cause delays and hold-ups. The police are as bad.
“I have seen them park on the footpaths.
“Who is to say there will be any enforcement in the future. If they can provide it in the future, why can’t they provide it now?
“This is something that has been asked for a long, long time.”
Cllr Meakin proposed – and it was agreed – that the council instructed their town and district council representatives to ask the TCR why there was no constructive response to the council’s resolution of July 10 in view of the concerns of residents and High Street businesses.
If there was no satisfactory answer, the council would call for a joint meeting between the council, the Chamber, the TCR and the county highways department as soon as possible.
‘Great town with a lot to offer’
Cllr Meakin added that he thought Mr Harker had earlier made positive suggestions and supported campaigning to promote the positive aspects of Uckfield. “It’s a great town with a lot to offer,” he said.
Town mayor, Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said a joint meeting could look at how the town council move forward.
Cllr Bennett said if they were in a positive frame of mind, one of the items for discussion at a second meeting could be the formation of an Uckfield open for business campaign to ensure the town was promoted while the works went on and pressure was kept up in the media to show what a “great town we have and it is pushing forward progressively”.
Town Centre Regeneration Committee recommendations
In a separate development, a report to a meeting of Uckfield Town Centre Regneration Joint Committee recommends:
- The scheme progresses with a 30 minute stay for the 23 parking spaces;
- There will be no allocated bays reserved for blue badge holders;
- Further work is carried out to explore the use of a one way traffic management solution.
Elaine Martin, from East Sussex County Council, in a report to the meeting states:
“The revised scheme will balance the demand for additional High Street parking spaces compared to the original scheme while allowing for a reduction in congestion and improving the town centre.
“The final proposals now provide for 23 on-street parking spaces (three times as many as the original scheme), which is the maximum number of spaces while still meeting the scheme requirements related to road safety and funding.”
Her report addressed the resolution made by the town council at its meeting on July 10 and said:
“It should be noted that there has already been a significant compromise on the level of on street parking provision for this scheme.
“The initial proposal of eight parking spaces has been increased to 23 spaces. This coupled with a shorter parking limit on these spaces and a commitment to robust enforcement means that there will be a higher turnover of spaces and therefore a benefit to shoppers.
“It is not possible to incorporate any additional on street parking spaces without undermining the main objective of the scheme, which is to reduce congestion in the High Street.
“Further, the parking spaces that have been removed will serve to make the operation of junctions safer and to incorporate measures such as bus shelters, which will encourage the use of public transport.”
The report also states that phased works are unlikley to be affordable, would mean the works taking longer and increasing the negative impact on the town.
Level of parking is ‘maximum possible’
Ms Martin’s report also addresses the suggestion made by both the town council and the Chamber of Commerce that money taken from developers to pay for High Street works should be returned to the builders if changes to the scheme are not made.
Her report states: “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.”
She concludes the level of parking proposed is the “maximum possible” without compromising the main objective of the scheme and without compromising the safe operation of junctions in the High Street.
Bus stops and shelters are a fundamental aspect of the scheme, she writes.
At last night’s council meeting, members present were:
Mayor: Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, North
Deputy mayor: Cllr Duncan Bennett, Trust Independent, New Town
Cllr James Anderson, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Jacqueline Beckford, Liberal Democrat, Ridgewood
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 Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, North
Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Central – from 7.15pm