Alfriston traffic lights trial ‘should never have happened in first place’

Alfriston High Street
Alfriston High Street

Plans to introduce traffic signals to Alfriston High Street have been officially laid to rest - but the decision to even hold a trial has been criticised.

East Sussex County Council’s deputy leader Nick Bennett has confirmed the authority will not pursue introducing traffic lights in the village and instead will be seeking views of residents on a range of alternative measures.

The decision from Cllr Bennett – who had been standing in for lead member for transport and environment Claire Dowling during the meeting – followed on from a four-week trial of signals in the village’s high street in September and October last year.

Officers said the trial had proven the scheme to be unviable as they had pushed traffic issues to other parts of the village.

During the meeting on Monday (June 17), Cllr Bennett heard from representatives of several local groups, including Alfriston parish councillor Stephen Rabagliati.

Cllr Rabagliati said: “Analysis shows the trial emphatically failed to deliver the key benefits in the areas of speed, transit time, localised pollution, operational issues including deliveries and pavement mounting, queuing and community feedback.

“We urge [Cllr Bennett] to adopt the recommendation, reject traffic lights as a solution and instead engage and work with village and valley-wide stakeholder groups in developing a sensitive plan, which addresses the needs of Alfriston and the wider Cuckmere Valley as a whole.”

According to council papers, the alternative measures to put out for consultation could include a village-wide 20mph speed limit and signage on the A259 to discourage HGVs from passing through the village.

These measures could also include the introduction of time-limited parking restrictions on the high street, a move which could reduce traffic congestion from passing cars.

However, this measure came in for some criticism from Dr June Goodfield of the campaign group Safe Alfriston, who argued the restrictions would not be enforced.

The point was taken up by Cllr Godfrey Daniel, co-leader of the council’s Labour group, who put the blame on Wealden District Council for not introducing Civil Parking Enforcement.

He said: “Any traffic management is going to mean more parking restrictions at some stage.

“If there is no enforcement it is just a complete waste of time. Police won’t enforce 20mph limits or obstructions to the footpath.

“Until you get the stage where Wealden decriminalise parking, then you won’t get enforcement.

“There is no solution you are going to get is going to be workable because people will just park on the yellow lines until kingdom come.

“I would urge you, outside of this meeting, to make representations to the district council, which is one of only – I think – 14 councils out of the whole of England, which haven’t decriminalised parking.”

According to the latest government data, there were 18 councils in England without Civil Parking Enforcement as of January 2018.

Meanwhile ward councillor Stephen Shing (Independent Democrat) criticised the council for running the trial in the first place, saying it had a major impact on retail trade in the town.

Cllr Shing said: “It is one of the most difficult traffic issues I have been involved with in the 18 years I have been a county councillor.

“The trial was very costly to our council but shop owners have paid even more, in value and in risk to their business.

“One of our shop owners took only £3 for ten days of the traffic light trial. I don’t think anyone of us could live on £3 for ten days.

“You can imagine what the traffic light trial has cost our local economy.”

He added that the trial had only confirmed what local residents had already said it would.

Officers however defended the decision to hold a trial, saying it had provided solid empirical evidence of the impact of the traffic signals in the village.

Further details of the alternative traffic measures are expected to come forward in the coming months ahead of a public consultation.