New car park, better bus station facilities, smarter traffic control, wider pavements and removal of on-street parking – these were the main elements of a plan to improve Uckfield town centre, on display in the town on Friday and Saturday.
Comments were being sought on the ideas and can be submitted up to April 26.
After that the results will be analysed with conclusions reported back to East Sussex County Council. The aim is to start implementing agreed schemes towards the end of 2013 or early 2014.
Lawrence Stringer, transport and development control manager at East Sussex County Council, and Elaine Martin, principal development control engineer, said it appeared the bulk of the feedback received by Saturday lunchtime was in favour of a new station car park. Elaine said Network Rail was likely to charge for parking there.
There were arguments both in favour of removing on-street parking, while widening pavements, and against.
About 500 people had visited the exhibition by noon on Saturday – it had also been open the previous day from noon to 7pm – and it was due to close at 3pm.
A straw poll by Uckfield News.com on Saturday reflected the same views picked up by the county council officers.
All the people we spoke to were enthusiastic about a new 139 space car park opposite Uckfield Railway Station – but there was concern about Network Rail levying a charge for parking there.
Tim Benians, whose business the Uckfield Framing Company, is based on the Bellbrook Industrial Estate said he thought commuters would still park on estate roads, causing congestion there, rather than pay to go in a car park.
Simon Huxley, of Vernon Road, and Marilyn Penfold and Jeff Parsons, of Framfield Road, were relieved to see the new car park in the plans. They hoped it would ease parking in the roads around their homes.
All three wanted to see an improvement in bus services saying they didn’t run at the times to suit commuters.
They liked the idea of wider pavements in the High Street agreeing they would be better for disabled people. They hoped there might be chance to sit outside and have a coffee and socialise in the High Street too.
Bernadette Reed said the proposals looked “very good”. But she added there was a huge oversight – the provision of cycle lanes.
The mother-of-two, who lives at Ringles Cross, said she would like to cycle with her children along the High Street but wouldn’t dare at the moment.
She said: “Surely this would be an ideal opportunity to provide cycle lanes – some of the space set aside for wider pavements could accommodate them.”
Michael and Ruth Churchman said the High Street would lose some of its vibrancy without the on-street parking.
They argued people would still stop in the High Street and bring traffic to a standstill.
Mr Churchman said he would have liked to see a ‘no right turn’ created from High Street into Church Street.
Lynne Pegler who lives near Holy Cross Church said the proposals were fine as they stood but didn’t go far enough. “This is just superficial,” she said.
Mr Stringer confirmed that Network Rail negotiations to take over the land opposite the railway station were progressing well. Once concluded a planning application would be submitted for the car park.
Construction was expected to cost about £450,000 and take about a year to complete.
At the same time, Mr Stringer said, Wealden District Council was considering time restrictions for parking in the section of the Luxford Field car park where 23-hour parking is currently allowed.
They were looking at parking for seven or eight hours to discourage commuters from parking there. Commuters normally needed ten to 11 hours.
Mr Stringer said this would free up space to compensate for that lost in the High Street.
Proposals for the High Street also include upgrading traffic lights, which would include pedestrian crossing facilities, both at the Bell Lane junction and at the Church Street junction.
The pedestrian crossing near the Post Office and the one near Clark’s shoe shop – which is not in use at the moment because of the hoarding around the fire damaged shops – would be removed. Instead a new crossing would be placed between Grange Road and Civic Approach which would have “intelligent pedestrian detection”.
There would also be improved pedestrian crossings in the area of the bus station and a canopy to provide a covered waiting area. Facilities would include seating, lighting, real-time passenger information and ticket machines.
If you would like to have your say on the proposals a form can be completed online at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay.
Thanks to Ron Hill for the pictures.