Smash renews safety pleas at Stoneham blackspot

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A SERIOUS crash closed the A26 on Saturday afternoon and prompted further calls for safety improvements at a notorious accident blackspot.

It happened at Paygate Cottages in Stoneham when a Volkswagen Polo travelling south towards Lewes was in a head-on collision with a blue Ford van travelling north.

The Polo sheared the offside front wheel away from the van, which ended up crashing into hedging. The Polo itself spun 180 degrees before coming to a standstill with its front end completely stoved in.

Debris flew into the path of vehicles following those involved in the smash, but all of these – one of which was transporting a young baby – managed to avoid any damage themselves.

The driver of the Polo, a 22-year-old man from Crowborough, was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital with two broken arms. The van driver, a 42-year-old woman from East Sussex, was also taken to hospital suffering from minor injuries.

As well as the police and ambulance service, East Sussex Fire and Rescue also attended because of fears the Polo’s petrol tank had been punctured. The road remained closed for about three hours.

Sussex Police have thanked drivers and residents for their patience. A spokesperson said: “If you witnessed the collision or have any information that could help police with their enquiries please call 101, quoting serial 1038 of 23/6.”

Alex Grey, who lives at the crash scene, said: “This particular stretch of road has seen more than its fair share of serious incidents.

“The key problem seems to be the unpreparedness of vehicles travelling south along the fast, straight stretch of road between Ham Lane and Wellingham, who then round the sharp bend at Paygate Cottages and lose control on this narrow stretch of residential road.

“The sharpness of the bend is a leftover from a road-straightening scheme which was abandoned for lack of funds in the 1990s, and the cottages now act as an unfortunate flashpoint between the fast-flowing A26 and the 30mph zone which begins 500m down the road at Earwig Corner.

“In 2007, the speed limit south of Wellingham Lane was reduced from the National Speed Limit to 50mph, but this latest crash – which occurred in dry, bright conditions – demonstrates that this is still too fast.

“It is hoped that a further reduction to 30mph, which would bring Stoneham into line with the speed limit at nearby Malling, will finally be put in place now.

“Residents here are really concerned about their safety and that of passing motorists.”

Another resident, Diane Coomber, has lived at Stoneham since 1989 and said the stretch of the A26 there had a “shocking” accident record.

In October 2006, her cottage had to be substantially rebuilt after a 12-tonne truck crashed into it, causing £36,000-worth of damage. Luckily no-one was in the building at the time but she was appalled to be called home from work to find the lorry embedded in her home.

Mrs Coomber said the only safety solution would be to straighten the road. She also suggested the introduction of a speed camera and a speed-triggered ‘slow down’ sign at the side of the road.