Lewes Loop is bad for drivers, bad for pedestrians

With the development of the North Street Quarter came hope that one of Lewes’s 1960s anomalies would come to an end – the Lewes one-way Loops.

This is where traffic exiting Waitrose is forced into and through the town even when it wants to go out of town; where buses that come out of the bus station and want to go out of town have to go up School Hill and through the town to go back out via Little East Street and all traffic that want to go out over the Phoenix Bridge has to go down Little East Street.

These one way loops are 1960s style gyratory traffic solutions which were put in place when

campaigners won the battle for the main roads to go around Lewes. Little East Street had already been widened for the planned new road through Lewes that never happened. So instead it became a one way super highway out of Lewes (or that’s the way it feels to local residents who live on the road).

One way streets are bad for pedestrians on the whole as they speed up and make the flow of traffic relentless (try crossing North Street where traffic pours in from West Street, Market Street and Little East Street – most of the traffic is travelling at less than 30mph here but it’s head to tail! Only slightly better is crossing Eastgate Street outside Waitrose). On two way roads traffic often has to negotiate parked cars as well as cars coming the other way so drivers tend to drive more slowly.

If you want to see what a one way gyratory system can do to a town, look at Newhaven town centre.

It’s dead and the major reason is because it sits in the middle of a traffic island where the traffic never stops!

Santon, the developers for North Street were keen to make Little East Street, Eastgate, High Street (School Hill) and East Street two-way; to allow traffic exiting Waitrose to turn right out of town; and to provide pedestrian crossings where pedestrians want to cross rather than where it is easiest for the vehicle traffic.

Rumour has it that the traffic engineers are refusing to change because they are planning for a huge 30 percent increase in vehicle traffic over the next 15 years. So traffic around the one-way loops will get even more relentless under the council’s do nothing plan.

Could this be the second battle to stop Lewes being carved up by the car? It seems we need to

revive the spirit of Elizabeth Howard and others who fought the 1960s plans to build a super-highway through Lewes and secured us the by-pass? We think there needs to be a public discussion about bringing back two way roads; putting pedestrian crossings where pedestrians want them

(rather where it is good for the traffic); encouraging people (including children) to walk around Lewes rather than drive; and persuading vehicles to give way to pedestrians. The extended 20mph schemes for Lewes will help, but much more needs to be done if we are to avoid being carved up by the car.

Nick Wiseman

Lewes Living Streets