Core Strategy Issues & Options
7.THEME 3: COMMUNICATIONS AND ACCESSIBILITY
7.1 How to address poor connectivity with the wider region and London, localised congestion and high reliance on car use, given the likely level of strategic transport investment and trends in movement patterns and communication technologies?
7.2 Government very much takes the lead on strategic transport investment, with regional priorities being set by SEERA.
7.3 In line with Government transport planning policies, the draft South East Plan adopts a "manage and invest" approach. This recognises that there is a finite transport capacity, which may increase through investment, but must be focussed and tied to "rebalancing of the transport system" in favour of non-car modes to improve overall levels of accessibility.
7.4 Limitations in terms of the quality of both road and rail links to the rest of the country and Europe are widely acknowledged locally, and is regarded as a major factor in not attracting inward investment as well as in constraining growth of existing firms. It also impacts on the accessibility for local people to the wider region.
7.5 Of the trunk roads serving the district, the A259 to the east is of a lower standard, the A21 to the north suffers from particular bottlenecks and unreliable journey times, while the A27 from Bexhill to the west is becoming increasingly congested. The A259 between Bexhill and Hastings is the most obviously congested section of main road.
7.6 Similarly, the rail link to Ashford to the east has limited capacity, the Hastings - London service has capacity and speed restrictions, while a recent decision removes through trains from Bexhill to Gatwick.
7.7 The Local Transport Plan (LTP), produced by East Sussex County Council, sets local transport policy and investment priorities up to 2011.The only current major scheme is the Bexhill Hastings Link Road.
7.8 The County Council also has roles in bus services, both as a coordinator and financial supporter of rural services. Notwithstanding this, bus services in rural areas are not sufficiently frequent to provide for many travel-to-work journeys.
7.9 The planning system can help accessibility to public transport through decisions on where development is sited and by securing developer contributions.
7.10 Broadband is available across the whole of Rother and, particularly as subscription prices fall, this may enable more people to work wholly or partly from home. This could also enable more business people to move into the area and benefit from the high quality living environment. Local businesses may also be able to exploit the trend for more business transactions to be conducted via the internet, giving them access to a wide range of customers.
7.11 The Core Strategy should follow national principles of transport demand management.
7.12 It should take account of identified regional priority schemes. It may identify other local or longer-term schemes important to achieving the vision and strategy, but there must be a realistic likelihood that they will duly be carried out by the respective agencies.
7.13 Road improvement schemes identified in the Regional Transport Strategy, 2004 are:
*Schemes also supported by Government in the 'Regional Funding Allocation' July 2006
7.14 Even where the funding of schemes has been accepted by Government, they still have varying procedures to go though.
7.15 The draft South East Plan highlights the importance of strategic transport infrastructure improvements to achieving regeneration and sustainable economic growth in the Sussex Coast, while new development will add to the need for transport improvements.
7.16 Further schemes identified as integral to the development strategy for this area include: Ashford-Hastings Line dualling; Willingdon Chord; new Stations at Glyne Gap and Wilting; Bexhill 'Country Avenue' extension; and a A259 South Coast 'Quality Bus Corridor'.
7.17 The prospects of such improvements is fundamental to developing the Core Strategy, as they have a direct bearing on decisions about the scale, location and timing of new development.
7.18 For example, progress on planned A21 improvements has been protracted. The most pressing improvement, Tonbridge to Pembury dualling, is still not likely to be built until after 2011.While there is currently a 'preferred route' for the Flimwell - Robertsbridge section, the scheme is not yet funded. Also, there is no current commitment by the rail industry to any of the above proposals.
7.19 In considering the respective importance of the transport schemes to securing improved accessibility to the rest of the region, account should be taken of their contribution to improving the coastal towns' economy and hence job supply, the impacts on people and businesses affected by them and on the character of the AONB and designated nature conservation areas.
7.20 The value of such rail and road routes to overseas travel should be considered.Ashford, Gatwick, Newhaven and the Channel Tunnel are the main points of interest. Rye harbour also has local freight role. There is also the suggestion of an enhanced role for Lydd airport.
7.21 Access to nearby larger towns, notably to Hastings, Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells, that act as "higher order" centres, especially in broadening job supply, are perhaps as vital.
7.22 The Bexhill Hastings Link Road, which has already received Government support, is considered to be of paramount importance. The planning application for the road is imminent.
7.23 Without the Link Road, the Highways Agency's clear advice is that there is no capacity for significant new business or housing development in Bexhill.
7.24 The implications of this situation for the development strategy for Bexhill are reviewed in Section 12.
7.25 Improvement to the link between Queensway and the A21 to the north of Hastings is regarded as an essential complement to the Link Road.
7.26 This should increase junction capacity at The Ridge and ease access to the A21.The actual form of the improvement will need more detailed scrutiny.
7.27 Local priorities will be further considered in the light of preferred strategies for urban and rural areas.
7.28 In addition, there may be general transport concerns, such as inappropriate speeds, which can inform both planning policies and transport programmes.
7.29 Considerations of health and 'social inclusion' reinforce the Government's policy on making cycling and walking safer and more convenient. The Core Strategy may give particular emphasis to extending local facilities if this is regarded as important and effective in those areas. There would seem to be most potential for promoting more cycling in Bexhill and for recreational cycling in rural areas.
7.30 To accord with the Government's policy on increasing accessibility to local services, it is helpful to be clear on which services are most important to meeting day-today needs. This would provide valuable information for policies aimed at securing and retaining local services, as well as for the location of development.
7.31 Car parking provision is a subject with particular tensions. Car ownership continues to increase notwithstanding increasing costs.
7.32 While reducing off-street parking provision is increasingly used as a form of demand management in some areas, this can simply move vehicles on-street, with consequent impacts on the safe flow of traffic and on "streetscapes". Local investment for other modes of transport may be combined with design solutions that reduce the prominence of the car.
7.33 Traffic management measures are primarily matters for the local transport authority (East Sussex County Council) to deal with via its LTP, but the Core Strategy may set priorities for local people in terms of the types of areas where such initiatives are integral to planning for them.
7.34 The increasing use of communications technology will enable further extensions of home and remote working, as well as businesses in rural locations. This may increase local earnings in itself. If it is the case, then it may galvanise a further demand for small high-specification business units.