Heathfield residents want safer road near school

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VARIABLE LIMITED, a narrow footway, poor lighting, non-existent signs and speeding drivers – Heathfield residents and parents of students packed the community college hall last Thursday evening to quiz highways chiefs, councillors and police about ways the busy B2096 can be made safer.

The meeting was set up by safety campaigners Susie Frank and Dr Kim Twinn and chaired by college principal Alan Powell. Fielding questions were Brian Banks from ESCC’s highways department, Cllr Rupert Simmons and Sussex Police traffic officer Mark Swift. Discussion focused on existing speed limits which vary from 40mph up to 60mph and back down to 40mph near the school.

Families want to see clear school signs, crossings, ‘no overtaking’ lines and traffic calming. They said there have been several accidents and it cannot be too long before a child is killed.

Cllr Simmons explained a consultation on the road is already underway but counselled patience as it had taken seven and 11 years for two controlled road crossings to be installed. He hopes there will be a plan in the pipeline by the end of this financial year.

Meryl Clark from Punnetts Town described a blind spot where drivers think it safe to overtake. Jeff Turnbull said: “Normal B-road guidelines do not apply to this road which takes a heavy volume of traffic and has a huge school emptying pupils onto it at peak times.”

Chairman of governors Richard Karn called for an intelligence led rather than emotionally led campaign. “We should ask what features go to make up a successful bid? Should we consider green credentials; possibly a cycle or walking path, which might help us access separate funding sources?” The meeting disagreed with Brian Banks’ assertion that speed limit reduction fails to deter drivers, saying limits reduce expectations of speed and most people obey.

He said the council’s road policy is determined by Government legislation which ensures consistency and hundreds of applications for county-wide road safety schemes are on his desk to be assessed.

Richard Grey, representing families in Three Cups said: “There is no point having a speed restriction through villages if there is no enforcement but I understand police resources are stretched.” Mark Swift urged campaigners to report dangerous drivers or speeders, saying police can only take action if they have evidence.

Speakers mentioned driving to school at 40mph and being ‘buzzed’ from behind; children jostling on the pavement being forced into the road; SatNavs directing articulated trucks along the route; vehicles jumping crossing lights and anti-social parking on verge and in Halley Road. It was agreed concerns would be investigated and volunteers recruited for Speedwatch and mobile Speed Indicator Devices.