Town council calls for big re-think on Uckfield High Street works

* Uckfield Town Council wants a minimum of 30 High Street parking spaces + loading bays

* It asks for investigation of new traffic management plans; suggesting phased works to minimise disruption to businesses and residents

* It says if East Sussex County Council and the project board cannot come up with another plan, the money from developers allocated to the scheme under section 106 legal agreements (the “roof tax”) should be returned to the housebuilders with no impact on Uckfield council taxpayers.

* The proposal was agreed by nine votes to two with one abstention. As is usual when votes are held at full council meetings, the mayor did not vote. Two councillors were not present.

Uckfield Town Council has rejected the latest plans put forward for the second stage of High Street improvements.

It follows a similar move earlier in the week by members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Both organisations are prepared to see the money collected to pay for the works returned to the developers.

The council’s decision last night (July 10) follows a public exhibition at the Civic Centre when it emerged that the county council’s plans were at a “take it, or leave it” stage. Report here

Three issues dominated the town council debate:

  • The number of parking spaces that would remain on the High Street;
  • The likelihood of delivery lorries and buses causing traffic chaos; and
  • The length of the proposed works and their likely effect on businesses

Before the councillors discussed the issue, a number of members of the public spoke.

Chris Lawson, a member of the Chamber of Commerce executive committee, said they recognised the new plan had some merit. They were concerned about the loss of parking spaces on the east side.

Chris Lawson

Chris Lawson

He said the other problem was that the county council did not seem to want to negotiate.

“The big problem for the Chamber is the length of time it is going to take,” he said.

The nine-weeks of stage one [last autumn] caused havoc and the fear was that after six months retailers would be hanging on.

One retailer had told Mr Lawson that takings dropped by £100 per week last autumn and that money had not come back.

It was now proving difficult to attract people to the town with this issue hanging over it, he said.

Cllr Carol Reynolds, Wealden councillor for Uckfield North, said the plan was ridiculous and having 23 spaces was “stupid”.

Businessman Tom Crellin likened the county council to a bunch of “surly schoolboys” who had received an  F grade and been sent away to do the work again and would receive a Grade E at best this time.

Tom Crellin

Tom Crellin

He said the council had not come forward with statistics to support its arguments.

Charles Mears-Lamb of Noble Wines said they were in favour of paving the High Street but the issue was the number of parking spaces.

His turnover had dropped by £50,000 since the first stage of the roadworks and it was only gradually building up again. “This would kill me. If I lose the parking outside my shop, that also would kill me,” he said.

There would be chaos when deliveries were made, under the new system, Mr Mears-Lamb predicted. It would be the equivalent of the double parking that often now goes on.

Charles Mears-Lamb who raised a 5,000 signature petition in support of Igh Street parking

Charles Mears-Lamb who raised a 5,000 signature petition in support of High Street parking

Business owner Val Frost said none of the traffic options suggested was tolerable. Uckfield would become a “no-go” area for months on end with the by-pass at a standstill.

She said people had been faced with entrenched views and a digging in of heels.

Resident Josh Gibbens, who led the referendum campaign, has made Freedom of Information requests and ascertained that last autumn’s work cost £542,000 with a further £281,000 being spent on design work.

Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, North, said the spaces proposed would equate to 46 if a half-hour time limit was imposed and enforced – better than the current 43 spaces.

Cllr Paul Sparks

Cllr Paul Sparks

He was worried that the failure to provide space for delivery vehicles and buses would lead to traffic congestion.

Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood, read letters from traders who supported the works and pointed out that the former card shop in the High Street was being taken over by a health food business.

Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Central, pointed out the pavement near Milletts was wide and the parking spaces there could be retained.

Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Central, said he could not sense any desire from either Wealden or the county council to compromise.

He said “pinch points” needed sorting out but length of any closure or part-closure of the High Street to traffic was too long.

james-anderson-1

Cllr James Anderson.

Cllr James Anderson, Trust Independent, North, said the PCSOs would not issue tickets for over-staying in the current one-hour parking spaces on the High Street, although they would take action against drivers parking on double yellow lines.

He was disappointed that some options on traffic management had been removed without any consultaton with the council or Chamber.

Deputy mayor, Cllr Duncan Bennett, Trust Independent, New Town, said East Sussex’s all or nothing attitude was not acceptable. He looked for a positive compromise and said townspeople understood the need for a facelift.

Town mayor, Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, North, led the council’s formulation of a resolution asking the county council to look again, retaining more parking spaces and managing the traffic during the works in a less disruptive manner.

“If East Sussex County Council cannot come up with another plan, or to take on board what we say, then they should return the section 106 money to the developers,” she said.

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Councillors present at the meeting were:

Mayor Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, North Ward
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 Donna French, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Jackie Love, Trust Independent, North
Cllr Barry Mayhew, Liberal Democrat, New Town
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Central
Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, North
Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Central

Apologies were received from:
Cllr Helen Firth, Conservative, Central
Cllr Chris Macve, Trust Independent, North 

See also:

Chamber of Commerce votes to returns developers’ money

Uckfield Singers record their own CD

Need a service? Check the Uckfield Directory first

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