Major water main works in Heathfield area: protest planned over ‘unsuitable diversion routes’ for HGVs

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Residents from the Heathfield area are holding a protest next week over planned water main replacement works.

Andy Long, chairman of Warbleton Parish council, said the protest starts at 9.30am on Wednesday, May 8, on the B2096 Between Three Cups and Punnets Town.

He said protesters want to highlight the ‘unsuitable diversion routes’ planned for the works and the ‘unacceptable risks’ to road users.

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Councillor Long said: “This area is to have 6km of new water pipe installed mainly along the B2096 Battle road.”

Andy Long, chairman of Warbleton Parish council, said Marklye Lane, Heathfield, is one of the diversion routes that is 'unsuitable' for HGVs. Photo: Google Street ViewAndy Long, chairman of Warbleton Parish council, said Marklye Lane, Heathfield, is one of the diversion routes that is 'unsuitable' for HGVs. Photo: Google Street View
Andy Long, chairman of Warbleton Parish council, said Marklye Lane, Heathfield, is one of the diversion routes that is 'unsuitable' for HGVs. Photo: Google Street View

South East Water’s website said work is expected to start on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, lasting until the end of September 2025. They said work will take place within: B2096 (Battle Road) from the junction with the A265 Burwash Road and Three Cups Corner; Halley Road between the B2096 junction and ‘Willow End’; School Hill between the B2096 junction and Old Heathfield Road; Old Heathfield Road; and Middle Lane between Three Cups Corner and Pleydells Cottages. South East Water said the £5.6 million investment will install about 7.1km of new water main between Three Cups Corner and Heathfield and is needed to improve tap water quality. Visit southeastwater.co.uk/punnettstown.

Councillor Long said: “It is acknowledged that the main water pipe has to be replaced as the water quality, pressure and reliability is just awful.” But he said ‘serious issues have arisen’.

He said the C16 (Middle Lane) is an HGV route and if this closes for six months (starting May 7) it will send all traffic down the C15 (Marklye Lane) and Rookery Lane. He said: “Neither lane can safely take large HGV traffic.”

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South East Water said B2096 Battle Road is one of the roads where water main work will be carried out from May 2024 to September 2025. Photo: Google Street ViewSouth East Water said B2096 Battle Road is one of the roads where water main work will be carried out from May 2024 to September 2025. Photo: Google Street View
South East Water said B2096 Battle Road is one of the roads where water main work will be carried out from May 2024 to September 2025. Photo: Google Street View

Councillor Long said he has repeatedly asked East Sussex Highways to trim trees and hedges lining the diversion routes but said this has not been done. He said businesses that require HGVs need to use these proposed routes and said trees are so low in some places that HGVs cannot fit under them. He is worried HGV drivers might need to drive into the centre of the road to avoid branches, which could be dangerous.

At the April 29 meeting of Heathfield and Waldron Parish council with South East Water he asked that the Middle Lane works are delayed until the overhanging trees are cut.

A South East Water spokesperson told the Sussex Express: “When laying new pipelines, road closures are always a last resort and we have worked with the local highway authority ensure the majority of this project can be undertaken using temporary traffic lights where possible. We have met with the local community and Cllr Long to explain the project and understand any concerns. We have worked with East Sussex Highways to minimise impacts.”

An East Sussex Highways spokesperson said: “Utility companies are legally allowed to work on the public highway to install new services or maintain existing apparatus. We have a legal responsibility to enable this work to take place, and have worked closely with South East Water so they can carry out these necessary works.

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“As the road must be closed at times for the safety of the work force and road users, we have planned the necessary diversion routes. We have inspected the roads along the proposed diversion route and established the overhanging trees are on private land. Our licensing and enforcement team have contacted those landowners and advised them to cut back their trees so they no longer overhang the road.”

A message on South East Water’s website said: “Our team will be working extended hours Monday to Friday, from 7am to 7pm, and from 8am to 4pm on Saturdays to support completion of the works as quickly as possible.”

There will be access for residents and businesses at all times.

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