Sweet special places

IssueNovember 2012
Feature by Derrick Coffee

For those who know the valley – and the smaller valleys that feed into it – you will already appreciate the peacefulness of the places, and a sense of remoteness that is utterly amazing considering that just over the hill is a population of 140,000 people.

Combe Haven Valley, East Sussex

You'll also know that the valley contains records of human habitation going back 4,000 years, with evidence of bronze age settlements, Roman pottery and Saxon trackways. The valley was certainly part of the theatre of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion. 

Only a few days ago, what are thought to be ships' timbers at least 900 years old, but possibly much older, were discovered 10 feet down in the layer of peat at the bottom of the main valley. 

All the ditches and streams and most of the field boundaries can be seen on maps of 350 years ago. Nature and landscape have – until now – been respected.

We need beautiful places like this to inspire us, to escape to from our busy and noisy traffic-dominated world. 

And yet, this valley and all its qualities, which are freely available and within walking distance of so many people, are needlessly under threat.

Here's why – for the sake of the next generation – we should not give up trying to protect these highly-valued places from East Sussex County Council's (ESCC's) bulldozers:

  • The numbers of jobs which are claimed by ESCC to follow the developments attached to the road have been exaggerated and uncertain;
  • Alternative and sustainabl
    e transport solutions have been held back through an obsessive pursuit of the Link Road by the county council;
  • The CO2 emissions from the predicted 30,000 vehicles a day passing through here are the worst of all the 45 English transport schemes considered for funding by government in the Spring budget.

The minister for climate change – Greg Barker – is the MP for Bexhill! He supports the road!

  • The scheme is the only one of those 45 described as 'poor' in terms of value for money.

Those four criticisms are not ours alone: the government's department for transport voiced them! 

How could East Sussex County Council have spent 12 years (and loads of money on consultants) to come up with such a pointless road scheme? 

The costs are likely to be in the region of £120m – close to 500% more than the 2002 figure of £24m. In a time of cuts to essential services, shouldn't we be asking what else could be done with that money? Student grants? The NHS? Schools? 

We say to the government: Stop it!

We in the Hastings Alliance and our wonderful and supportive friends have been working very hard for 12 and more years to stop this truly awful, wasteful scheme. 

We are ever-hopeful and have our fingers crossed for a positive result in the courts next Friday where we might get leave for a judicial review. [Unfortunately, the high court ruled against this on 5 October – eds.]
We now welcome the birth of the Combe Haven Defenders and applaud their energy and passion and achievement in organising this great event in a very short space of time. And I can't wait to hear John Stewart – fantastic he can be here!