The scene has been set for the way the Uckfield town centre regeneration project will proceed both in the appointment of development partners, and in who will be consulted about proposals along the way.
The Town Centre Regeneration Joint Committee, which met this morning, agreed to follow a ‘competitive dialogue procurement process’ to enable more flexibility in developing options, and detail of how the revitalisation should proceed, while allowing greater involvement of stakeholders, the community and potential development partners.
Cllr Roy Galley was concerned that moving away from the ‘EU restricted process’ would affect the timescale and cause delays.
But a representative of Capita, the company handling the procurement process, said that while there would be a slight time extension a lot of the work already done would still be useful. A meeting to be held next week would set out the timetable of activity needed to meet the overall timeline.
Cllr Mick Harker said the dates needed to be realistic.
Cllr Rupert Simmons said the new model would present opportunities, a number of new options and some flexibility in the way the development could take place, which would ultimately be rewarding.
Cllr Ian Smith clarified that pre-qualification questionnaires to be completed by potential development partners would be due back by the end of January and the committee would be in a position to appoint the developer by the end of 2015.
An update was given on the progress of highway improvement works in town. Project manager Matthew Reid said the eight week build was completed on schedule.
- New more efficient lighting on both sides of the road between Bell Lane and Framfield Road
- The laying of high quality paving slabs, including the significant widening of footways on the west side of the road to enable people exiting the new Network Rail car park to see up and down th eHigh Street.
- New drainage adjacent to the Station pub.
- The laying of new setts – more robust than the paving slabs – designed to deal with traffic driving over them at vehicle cross-overs. Mr Reid said they had been laid at Wilmoths Citroen garage and they had reported back that they were delighted with that. They said they ‘couldn’t have done the job better themselves’.
- The introduction of real-time bus information boards. Work is continuing on these and should be finished by the New Year.
- MOVA traffic signals had been installed at Bell Lane and Framfield Road junctions. Once programmed, tested and adjusted, as necessary, they should be up to 15% more efficient than the old lights.
Mr Reid said they were very happy with the quality of work Colas had delivered. It was on time, despite some bad weather and hidden utilities just below the surface which meant work had to be adjusted.
He gave details of a snagging list, saying that was part of the normal process of a build of this nature.
This included paving outside Wilmoths being incomplete because a concrete slab under the showroom was found to be, unusually, extending into the footway.
Mr Reid said: “We can’t put the paving slabs on top of that because that would damage the concrete slab and crack their showroom floor.”
He added a special porous material had been ordered which could be used there. It would have the additional benefit of helping with drainage in the area.
Utility covers were to be replaced. They have been ordered and should be in place in the New Year.
Mr Reid said the traffic management system for Stage 1 was successful in that it enabled the work to be completed on time and there was enough space for the contractors to work quickly and efficiently.
He acknowledged there was congestion at peak hours and said another side effect was that trade in the town had suffered.
A review of the Stage 1 work was under way and a draft design for Stage 2 was being drawn up with different options for the way the work could be done. Traders would be consulted to see which option they preferred to reduce the impact on congestion and on the town centre.
Mr Reid said the draft design and traffic management options would be brought to the next joint committee meeting which is due to take place on Friday, February 13.
Committee members are still trying to find an abbreviated name for the regeneration project. They have gone back to the drawing board after Cllr Rupert Simmons said he didn’t like the current suggestion of Town Centre Revitalisation Project.
The committee was told that all representations made would be considered as the project progressed, including a petition which has reached about 4,000 signatures calling for on-street parking to be kept in Uckfield.
Cllr Claire Dowling said it was important to ensure there was a special category of consultation for landowners and business owners who would be directly affected by the town centre regeneration.
She added others needed to be kept informed too, but cricket club and football club members should fall in a different category to the landowners and business owners.
She also said that anybody wanting to be kept informed about progress could ask for their email address to be added to a list.