Roadworks which have led to tea-time traffic chaos in and around Uckfield are on course to end on Friday (November 14).
The works are on time and on cost, members of Uckfield Town Council were told last night by the chairman of the project board overseeing the work, Cllr Mick Harker.
He added that Network Rail’s contractor was expected to begin construction of the 174-space car park opposite the station at the end of the month. Work is scheduled to be completed by March. This work will “off the highway”, writes Paul Watson.
Cllr Harker said it was “excellent news” that stage one of the roadworks would be completed on time.
Some “snagging” (minor repairs) would take place before Friday, such as near Willmoths garage; although some other tasks could well be left until after Christmas.
Cllr Harker criticised the “myth and rumour” that had grown up around the first stage of the roadworks, mainly on social media.
Review before Stage 2 of the roadworks
He confirmed that stage two of the High Street works would be reviewed before they get under way next year.
He said part of the reason for the works was to make traffic flow more easily through the High Street. The road was already at 98 per cent capacity, he said, and 1,000 more houses were to be built at Ridgewood.
He said residents would criticise the councils if they did nothing; knowing that many more cars would be on the roads of Uckfield.
He said he had heard positive comments from people who approved of the work to refresh a “tired town” with many trip hazards and narrow pavements that were difficult for people in wheelchairs and those with pushchairs.
Worries over the effects on trade
Other town councillors expressed considerable unease about the effect of the current works, how they had been handled and what would happen in stage two.
Cllr Paul Meakin said the roadworks effect on trade was much wider than those shops at the southern end of town.
He was in favour of making the town brighter and a more positive place but was worried permanent damage may have been done.
Deputy town mayor, Cllr Jeremy Hallett, said communications could have been improved and social media better exploited.
Cllr Paul Sparks admitted such works would cause short-term pain but the authorities needed to be more “fleet of foot” in future. It had taken too long, he said, to get the Newtown closed sign removed, for example.
Statement from East Sussex County Council
Following the publication of the story above this morning by UckfieldNews.com, East Sussex County Council has issued a media release. It reads:
THE first stage of a scheme to improve Uckfield town centre is due to be completed on schedule – in time for the busy Christmas period.
Contractors working on the Uckfield Town Centre Highway Improvement Scheme were this week putting the final touches to work on the southern end of High Street.
The eight-week programme, which includes new paving, street lights and ‘smart’ traffic lights, is due to be completed, and the road fully reopened, by Sunday, November 16.
The second stage of the scheme, which will see work on the larger section of High Street, is scheduled to start in late spring 2015.
Cllr Claire Dowling is a member of the scheme project board, made up of representatives of East Sussex County Council, Wealden District Council and Uckfield Town Council.
She said: “We appreciate and understand that the work, and the partial closure of High Street, has caused inconvenience and we’d like to sincerely thank people for their patience and understanding.
“We’re pleased that this stage is finishing on schedule, which means that there will be no disruption during the busy Christmas period.
“Hopefully, the work which has now been completed gives an indication of how the scheme overall will benefit Uckfield, both by creating a more attractive environment and easing congestion.
“We will ensure we work closely with businesses in the town centre before the arrangements for the second stage are put in place, so we can minimise any disruption.”
Improved traffic flow at junctions
Work completed has included installing high quality Yorkstone paving slabs and new street lights as well as the traffic lights at Bell Lane and Framfield Road which have new software systems to improve the traffic flow at both junctions, the programming of which will commence in late November.
The scheme has also seen the installation of new drainage gullies, improved visibility at the junction of High Street and River Way and widened footways outside the railway station.
The second stage will see footway widening, repaving, new street lights, traffic signals and street furniture on High Street between Bell Lane and Church Street, and will also affect Bell Lane, Civic Approach, Library Way, Church Street and Hempstead Lane.
The third and final stage of the scheme, the dates for which are to be confirmed, will see improvements at Uckfield Bus Station.
The work is being paid for from contributions of up to £3 million of ‘section 106’ money – paid by developers as a condition of planning agreements for building new homes in Uckfield.