Fury as traffic grinds to a halt in Uckfield

Picture by Ron Hill
Picture by Ron Hill

A message to ‘be patient with the traffic’ from councillors and Uckfield improvement scheme organisers is cutting no ice with local residents.

In spite of pleas from traders and councils to support local businesses and the assurance that works will deliver ‘worthwhile improvements’ tempers are boiling over as weary commuters endure gridlocked trafic. And sparks look set to fly at a drop-in session tonight at the Civic Centre.

Vehicles have been has been diverted to avoid roadworks at the southern end of the High Street between Framfield Road and Bell Lane - the first phase in the town’s £25-million revitalisation.

Residents and visitors are up in arms about lengthy traffic queues and the near impossibility of getting out of the Tesco car park into Bell Lane during busy times. Some have even been shouting abuse and threatening workmen. Meanwhile traders say High Street footfall has diminished and figures are down. Some are calling for a reduction in their business rates.

Louise Beard of Josefina said: “I’ve been talking to lots of people and some say they are 80 per cent down and you don’t make that up easily.” Charles Mears-Lamb from Noble Wines has launched a petition expressing his concerns about proposed parking changes to the High Street. Chatfields jewellers is doing fine - but that’s largely due to some big ticket purchases, said a member of staff. Overall footfall in the store is down.

The board behind the improvement programme asks people to ‘bear with us.’ On September 22 contractors started the first stage of the £2.5million highway scheme, replacing paving and installing lighting.

Cllr Claire Dowling said: “With any project on this scale there is bound to be some disruption. I can’t stress enough how important it is to say that Uckfield is open for business.”

Uckfield Chamber of Commerce President Fiona Monson told members their feedback is being welcomed by councils. She said the roadworks programme is ‘clearly disruptive but hopefully improvements will be worthwhile.’ She added work is due to start on the new station car park this month but members have raised concerns about the proposed nine-hour free parking limit saying this is insufficient for many people. “We are concerned this will impact on people going home for lunch, walking dogs or those who leave on business.”

Find out what’s going on and express your views between 3-8pm at the Civic Centre today where there will be an audio visual display, maps, information board and chance to post questions to members of the committee responsible.