The 2018 survey of over 1000 East Sussex businesses was communicated to ACES in January this year. It measured the most important features business people look for when deciding on their business location.
On the plus side those surveyed said that local amenities, cultural attractions and schools & colleges were the top 3 features that they like about East Sussex. However on the negative side the biggest concern raised was the local road network.
For this reason East Sussex County Council are working closely with ACES to push for a new dual carriageway north of the existing railway line, as well as improvements to the existing road.
The £3 million route study has been completed and we are eagerly awaiting the results.
Our Chamber representatives explained that they believe there are three parties in the dispute; the employer, GTR; the RMT Union; and the Government. However Mr Grayling made it clear that he was not prepared to get involved in the dispute and was also not prepared to introduce any compromise to bring the dispute to an end.
Mr Grayling was also asked to look closely at the senior management team of GTR. When ACES representatives met them earlier his year they were asked how they planned to build rapport with their staff and customers after the damaging dispute was over. Unfortunately they were unable to describe how this might be achieved and were not able to explore these basic business practices to improve their customer relationships and service.
Mr Grayling said that it was not possible to give permission to both Heathrow and Gatwick to build another runway as this would "legally endanger the decision" and "jeopardise the investments concerned". He also said that Gatwick had no freight infrastructure and that Heathrow was the strategic hub. He did not accept our argument that lack of competition was likely to increase prices and said that all the airlines favour Heathrow.
On a positive note Mr Grayling said that £3 million would be ring-fenced to conduct a full study into the potential route of any new road. This money will be allocated from the £75 million promised before the 2015 election to carry out small scale improvements to the existing road in order to make access easier and safer for residents along the route.
ACES welcomes a site survey and environmental study to redirect the road north of the railway, away from both the South Downs National Park and the villages bisected by the existing A27.
Note added in 2019 - The survey has now been completed and we await the outcome with baited breath.
"There has even been talk of putting a roundabout at the Wilmington crossroads, something which would inevitably slow traffic, increase congestion and increase pollution due to more stop-start driving."
Calls for improved local access at junctions and a single speed limit are likely to worsen driving conditions on the A27, slowing traffic further and increasing congestion.
There are over 45 junctions with the trunk road between Polegate and Beddingham, one of the principal failings of the road which is the main east-west road through Sussex.
"Suggestions thus far have included cutting a new road into the South Downs National Park to bypass Selmeston - an option considered during the feasibility study to have poor strategic benefit, no economic benefit and high environmental impact."
Despite some claims to the contrary, DfT counts show traffic on the A27 between Polegate and Lewes is increasing. Traffic flows between Berwick and Beddingham have increased for 4 of the last 5 years, and in 2014 stood at just over 34,000 vehicles per day, an increase of over 20% since 2009.
The poor quality of the existing road is known to make many drivers detour through the National Park via the A259 and the neighbouring villages, many of which are reporting problems with speeding traffic. Wealden has one of the highest accident rates in the country on its rural roads, being 63% above the national average.
"Traffic flows between Polegate and Berwick have increased each year for the last 3 years, having decreased during the recession and in 2014 stood at over 22,500 vehicles per day, an increase of 29% since 2000."
A new road between Polegate and Beddingham, whether single or dual carriageway, would take through traffic away from the existing route, further away from the National Park, encourage consistent driving speeds (reducing pollution), reduce traffic through the adjoining villages, and provide significant scope to enhance the existing road for local traffic, horse riders, cyclists and walkers. Local traffic would no longer be in conflict with through traffic and the villages along the road would no longer be cut in two. While there are highly exaggerated claims made about the impact of a new road across the Weald, landscaping and tree planting will do much to conceal any new road.
The ‘untouched countryside’ between the Long Man of Wilmington and the High Weald already hosts the existing A27 (34,000 vehicles/day), the A22 (22,500 vehicles/day), the Polegate to Lewes railway line (137 trains/day), Arlington Reservoir, thousands of houses, miles of roads, electricity pylons, industrial estates and the impact of man’s activities over several millennia, yet virtually all is obscured by trees or hidden within the landscape and invisible from the Downs.