Loss of business due to road works?

Over the past two weeks East Sussex County Council contractors have been resurfacing the main access roads into our village, both leading in from the main A26 – a Northern stretch (Horsted Lane), narrow and twisty, leading towards Uckfield was closed for the first week, and traffic was diverted to come in from the south (Lewes end) via Lewes Road.

Buses from both Brighton and Uckfield still came into the village but were reversing outside Isfield station to return to the main A26 via the same road. At the end of the first week the diversion was reversed – Lewes Road was closed and all traffic accessed the village from the Uckfield direction. However, the resurfacing on this stretch was not finished – the old surface had, apparently, been “scraped off” and recycled to form the base for a final tarmac layer – but this was not yet in place. For the whole of the second week, therefore, traffic including buses was negotiating a very rough unfinished surface with lots of loose debris.

Traffic heading towards Lewes also had to negotiate a dangerous right turn at the end of Horsted Lane on to the A26. The point of my writing, however, is to highlight what happened at the end of last week. On Friday contractors finished work, including laying a final tarmac layer, on the southern stretch of the work – the comparatively straight and safer road leading in from the Lewes end. But on Saturday morning that road remained closed and the diversion was still along the unfinished stretch. There was an employee stationed by Isfield station to assist buses reversing and to enforce the diversion, but nobody was working on the still-closed stretch. There were no contractors’ vehicles, no ramps, no obstacles, and no workmen. Traffic approaching from the south was met with a “Road Closed” barrier just past the Old Ship pub. Those who might have tried to follow the diversion were then met with a “Road Ahead Closed” sign at the entrance to Horsted Lane. How many drivers gave up trying to access the village at all at this point?

On Saturday morning I asked the sole bus-directing employee why the road was still closed. He said he didn’t know. I called Highways (difficult on a Saturday) to get the response “we’ve checked our list and the road isn’t due to be re-opened until Monday”. And so this morning (Monday) at 7am guess what happened? Contractors arrived and the first thing they did was to reverse the diversion again. When asked, they said they didn’t know why the road had not been re-opened on Friday night. If it had been, buses could have come through the village by their normal route, and there would have been no need to employ a man from dawn to dusk on both Saturday and Sunday just to help them reverse.

The unnecessary closure of Lewes Road over this weekend has caused inevitable loss of business both to our pub and to Holly Gap Farm Shop. Somebody at Highways should have been able to order the road to be re-opened. It seems Highways have no regard whatsoever for the impact of their actions on local businesses. There should be a duty on the authorities to get roads re-opened as soon as it is safe to do so.

Andy Brooks