It is ironic that the Bexhill Hastings Link Road was opened just a few days after the total failure of politicians to reach any kind of legally-binding agreement on climate change at the COP21 talks.
In the same way that politicians in Paris chose to ignore the desperate urgency of the situation and the need for immediate and decisive action, East Sussex County Council likewise ignored the critical situation we are in with regard to climate change and loss of biodiversity, and decided that building a road which would devastate precious habitat, encourage car use and hugely increase carbon emissions was a good thing to do at this point in history.
The Link Road is a tragedy: a tragedy for the environment, for Combe Haven – once tranquil green space, now concrete and roaring traffic – and for all the surrounding green spaces that will now be ‘opened up’ for development.
Far from being the one-off, necessary improvement to transport infrastructure that we were supposed to believe, it has spawned no fewer than three additional roads (the Bexhill Gateway, Queensway Gateway and North Bexhill Access Road), showing that it was always part of a much bigger road-building project, but one which it was considered wiser to advance by stealth.
The link road is also a tragedy for local unemployed people who – if the £120m plus the road will cost had been better spent – could have had the prospect of real jobs rather than more empty promises.
ESCC claims the road will create 3,000 jobs and bring £1bn into the local economy – a claim repeated ad nauseum by a credulous media – but fails to mention that the Department for Transport’s review of their funding bid found that they had ‘signficantly overstated’ the job creation and economic benefits of the scheme.
Furthermore, as the job creation scheme is in the hands of SeaChange Sussex – notorious for their many failed projects in Hastings – jobseekers would be well advised to start looking elsewhere for work.
Yes, car journeys may be quicker – at least temporarily – but if our measure of progress is how quickly people can get from A to B in their cars, with no consideration of how car use has a huge environmental price, blights communities, isolates people both with and without cars, and takes away money that could have been used to fund decent public transport, then we’re in a pretty sorry state.
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