Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Following the process of local consultation in 2004 and a public enquiry in 2009, the current government is now making the scheme happen with approval of the compulsory purchase of the land and George Osborne's decision to contribute £56m towards the project. The Hastings Alliance, the campaign group formed to oppose the BHLR, failed earlier this month in its High Court application for a judicial review of the government's funding decision, and now construction is due to start in January of next year.
Building a meandering road through the countryside to link two towns that sit next to each other on the coast would appear to be utter folly. East Sussex County Council, however, is insistent that the road is essential for the regeneration of the towns as it would open up greenfield areas around North Bexhill and Hastings for new housing and business developments and would relieve the congested and polluted A259.
Improving existing housing in the two towns is a more worthwhile and job-creating investment, and any new business parks would struggle to be viable without greater stimulus to the wider local economy. And the Council should be aiming to create less traffic through improved public transport, not simply spreading it around and probably creating more.
The Hastings Alliance is supported by a range of well-known charities such as Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Future opposition to the scheme would seem to lie outside of the formal process and these genteel campaigners; it will now fall to pressure groups the Combe Haven Defenders and Bexhill Link Road Resistance to toughen up opposition. Such crass road building is sending a chill wind from the recent past blowing through the Combe Haven Valley and also with it, perhaps, the spirit of the eco-warriors of the 1990s. Come January, direct action may be the only way to block this road.