Road closure beggars belief

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As a resident of Sheepsetting Lane, Heathfield, I have to say East Sussex County Council’s ability to plan, timetable and communicate with the town’s traders and residents beggars belief.

My concerns refer to ESCC’s decision to close the town’s High Street for the whole of November.

And officers are now in dictatorial mode, executing this ill-thought-out scheme with no understanding of how a community functions.

Our MP, councillors and shopkeepers have expressed their concerns and been met with obstruction and unwillingness or inability to listen. Rumour has it that the closure and renewal of the road concerned the Cuckoo Line rail tunnel collapsing. When the Tilsmore Court residential and retail complex was built, I do recall a comprehensive survey was carried out on the tunnel.

The outcome was that the tunnel was in good order. If it was not, why was the development allowed to go ahead? So, if it is in an urgent state of collapse and is unsafe, why have residents and shop workers not been evacuated?

The timing could not be worse for the hard working High Street traders. Christmas stock has been ordered (and is unsaleable from January,) extra staff employed, marketing and advertising booked – some in this newspaper – all to no avail. I am sure a number of traders are on the cusp of going under and most say they do 40 per cent of their business in the next two months.

Will the GPs’ surgery, pharmacy, veterinary clinic and opticians be open and if so, how are people supposed to get there if they are elderly, infirm and cannot walk from the car parks?

The High Street closure had been planned some two years ago, so why the rush? Why not wait until after Christmas, plan a brief overnight resurfacing of the road and wait until spring when the clocks go forward?

The planning of the road works is a farce. I understand ESCC only sought services from sub-contractors two weeks ago. The Holdenhurst private development in Mill Road started on October 31 which limits access to Mill Road, so it is going to be absolute chaos.

Communications from ESCC left a lot to be desired. Residents have the right to know the route buses will take to avoid road works, where traffic will be diverted and where to park. Yes it was on the ESCC website but a lot of the folk in Heathfield and the surrounding areas are elderly and retired and a number do not subscribe to social media.

Because of the lack of communication, the head of Cross in Hand Primary School sent out an emergency email on October 30 to all parents of pupils informing them of the parking arrangements in and around the school. As a resident, I was told on Tuesday that tree surgeons would be chopping back overhanging branches along Ghyll Road and Sheepsetting Lane the following day so buses could access the roads. It was the first I had heard of it.

Finally what were the Parish Council, County and District Councillors (with some valiant exceptions) doing to avert this farce? Certainly Sheepsetting Lane residents have had no contact from the Cross in Hand representative on the Parish Council. It does seem all the above mentioned kept a very low profile.

On a positive note, well done Huw Merriman, our local MP, for putting his head above the parapet to visit and give deserved support to our High Street traders.

Mel Butcher

Sheepsetting Lane,

Cross in Hand, Heathfield