24 January 2007
A report from a leading transport expert  has found that – against its own guidelines – the Government approved plans for the controversial Bexhill to Hastings Link Road  without fully considering the alternatives.
Reacting to the report, national environmental organisations  have today written to request a meeting with Secretary of State for Transport Douglas Alexander, in which they will call for this and other flawed road schemes to be reconsidered. They fear the same massive oversight could have been made in relation to road-building schemes all over the country, including The Bexhill to Hastings Link Road; Weymouth Relief Road; Heysham – M6 Link (Lancaster Northern Bypass); Norwich Northern Distributor Road .
Government policy on the appraisal of proposed road-building schemes is clear: "The appraisal must include a detailed assessment of the scheme against alternative options that would, as far as possible, broadly meet the same objectives… Any major scheme for which the appraisal of alternative options is considered inadequate or where the Department considers alternative options to be preferable, will not be accepted for funding." 
However, Dr Denvil Coombe, a leading expert on traffic modelling and an author of government guidance on transport schemes, has found that the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road was uncritically adopted at the stage when all options should have been developed and considered for further appraisal.
East Sussex Transport 2000 commissioned Dr Coombe to challenge a claim made by East Sussex County Council that alternatives to the road had already been sufficiently looked at in a major south coast transport study in 2002. Dr Coombe found that there was little evidence to show that there had been detailed analysis of the problems of congestion and their causes on the A259 between Bexhill and Hastings, and therefore no proper investigation of a full range of potential solutions.
Speaking for the signatories to the letter to the Secretary of State, Executive Director of Transport 2000  Stephen Joseph said, "All these schemes should be shelved so that proper investigation of alternatives can be carried out. In the light of the Stern Report, the Eddington Review of Transport and the widespread and growing concerns around climate change, this would be a logical, wise and necessary step to take. Local authorities are obliged to both analyse data and develop alternatives to major road building – and have failed to do so. They should go back to the drawing board before millions of pounds are wasted on wrong and damaging solutions."
Notes to Editors
2. The new road would run from the A259 in Bexhill to the B2092 Queensway in Hastings, East Sussex, passing within metres of the Combe Haven Site of Special Scientific Interest and seriously damaging the outstanding countryside of Combe Haven.
4. The Bexhill to Hastings Link Road and Weymouth Relief Road have been provisionally approved by the Department for Transport. The Heysham – M6 Link (Lancaster Northern Bypass) and Norwich Northern Distributor Road have yet to be approved by the Department.
5. Government guidance regarding major schemes in Local Transport Plans: http://www.webtag.org.uk/webdocuments/1_Overview/4_Major_Scheme_in_LTPs/...
6. Transport 2000 is an independent campaigning and research body that represents the key transport interests of around 40 environmental groups, transport organisations and transport unions. We bring together people who seek to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars, lorries and planes and more use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking.