A Government consultation on creating a major road network will ‘basically lead nowhere at all’, a Labour East Sussex county councillor has warned.
England already has a strategic road network, which is managed by Highways England and includes the A23, A27, A21 and parts of the A259.
But now the Conservative Government is looking to create a major road network (MRN), which will lead to dedicated funding from the National Roads Fund to improve the middle tier of the country’s busiest and most economically important local authority A-roads.
East Sussex County Council’s Tory cabinet approved a consultation response when it met last Tuesday (March 6).
Although the response supported the creation of a MRN it suggested a number of improvements and amendments to the core principles and criteria for selecting eligible roads.
According to an officers’ report: “The creation of the MRN does not mean that all of the roads will be managed by a single organisation, and the consultation is not proposing any changes to current local authority responsibilities.”
Labour councillor Godfrey Daniel said if they wanted to plan for a major road network they needed major roads first.
He described the A21 as a ‘complete nightmare’ and the A27 between Polegate and Beddingham as ‘pathetic’.
Mr Daniel added: “I find this is another one of these consultations here that will basically lead nowhere at all.
“I’m sorry to be cynical, but I have been coming to Lewes for over 20 years now and it does not get any better.”
Rupert Clubb, director of communities, economy and transport, described how the A27 was ‘questionably fit for purpose’ but a reference group had secured £3m to develop a business case for the improvements between Polegate and Beddingham.
He said: “We are pushing for improvements to the strategic road network.”
The creation of a MRN would include a major road fund from vehicle excise duty, which is due to be implemented in 2020 and expected to come on stream in 2022.
The consultation was a recognition of the importance of A-roads managed by local authorities, Mr Clubb added.
Keith Glazier, leader of the county council, described how the MRN proposals had received enthusiastic cross-party support at a recent Transport for the South East meeting. He said: “It would be churlish not to respond positively.”
He also suggested it was ‘more than we got under the last Labour Government’.
Nick Bennett, lead member for transport and environment, added: “I think there is a real opportunity to develop the local network.”
Rupert Simmons, lead member for economy, added: “Our economy does depend on much greater infrastructure than we currently enjoy, but this will only help towards that end.”
The current MRN as proposed would include the A272, the sections of the A26 from Lewes to Kent, the A22 from Polegate to East Grinstead, the A22, A2290 and A259 in Eastbourne, and the A259, A21 and A2102 in and out of Hastings.
The county council’s consultation response suggested the inclusion of the A259 from Brighton to Eastbourne via Newhaven and Seaford, the A22 Golden Jubilee Way/A2270/A2280/A2021 in Eastbourne, the A271/A269 Hailsham to Bexhill, and the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road.
An Officers’ report explained: “These roads are both economically important in terms of connecting centres of growth but also provide vital added resilience to the existing SRN routes in the county, many of which are operating at, or near, capacity.”
The consultation closes on March 19. Visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposals-for-the-creation-of-a-major-road-network