Call for better Rother bus services

Rother councillors have backed calls for better bus services following a meeting this week.

Bus stop. Pic Steve Robards SR2003244 SUS-200324-103159001
Bus stop. Pic Steve Robards SR2003244 SUS-200324-103159001

On Monday (September 20), Rother District Council voted in favour of a motion from Labour councillor Christine Bayliss calling on the authority to advocate for better bus services within the district and wider county.  

As part of this, the motion also called on the council to endorse the recommendations of both the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) Every Village, Every Hour report and the Bexhill and Battle Labour Party’s Bexhill Better Buses report. 

Cllr Bayliss said: “For a young person in Sedlescombe without a car a job in Battle means a round trip on the bus via Hastings of one hour 48 minutes, whereas in a car the journey takes eight minutes. 

“Is it any wonder that we face a climate emergency when people have no choice or viable options?

 “These reports couldn’t be more timely, as East Sussex County Council responds to Bus Back Better by drawing up plans for improvements, we need them to be bold and innovative and to seize the opportunities that are set out in the Bexhill Better Buses and Every Village, Every Hour reports. 

“If adopted tonight, the recommendations will allow our officers to pursue service provision with colleagues at county that can make a difference to lives, life chances and our environment.”

The reports highlighted by the motion made a number of recommendations to improve local bus services.  

Among other measures, the CPRE report calls on government to set out a ‘legal minimum standard’ for local bus services and to fund an ‘every village, every hour’ bus network using money currently spent on road building projects.

Meanwhile Labour’s Bexhill Better Buses report calls for more local changes, including evening bus services for all areas of the town and better bus links to the North Bexhill Business Park (particularly from the railway station).

 However, support of these reports — particularly the CPRE recommendations — proved contentious among the council’s Conservative group, which put forward an amendment seeking to drop this part of the motion. 

Conservative group leader Carl Maynard said: “I think the devil is in the detail and that is the reason for the amendment, because if we look at what is proposed in the diatribe from the CPRE it needs to be acknowledged that what they are suggesting is to find the finance to support this massive investment in public transport we effectively stop major road building. 

“So effectively we would stop vital regeneration. So effectively we would hamper our attempts to build new homes in our communities. So effectively we would not be able to see new business parks created where we absolutely desperately need regeneration up and down the country. 

“There is no magic money tree. We are coming out of Covid and the multi-billion pound investment we are talking about is simply not achievable. You are simply not going to be able to generate that amount of public investment unless you stop doing something else.”

After some dickering around the wording of the motion, councillors agreed a minor amendment with the council ‘taking account’ of the CPRE recommendations rather than endorsing it outright.

Following this the motion was passed on a majority vote following further debate.

The motion will also see the council seek to convince parish councils to engage with East Sussex County Council on bus improvement plans.