Pavement widening plans could be rejected

Controversial plans to widen pavements in the town centre are expected to be scrapped after social distancing measures to combat coronavirus were relaxed.

Footways in Western Road and Devonshire Road were earmarked for enlargement as part of a Government drive to encourage walking and cycling.

But East Sussex County Council officers are recommending the idea is dropped due to changes in Covid-19 advice and objections from businesses.

Only the footway widening in Buckhurst Place, which runs underneath the railway bridge at the junction of Sackville Road, is expected to proceed.

The recommendations are revealed in a report that’s due to be discussed by councillors on Monday morning (August 17th).

The plans would have seen the closure of Western Road, as well as one lane in Devonshire Road, to support social distancing and allow pedestrian access, as well as, potentially, cycling.

A view down Devonshire Road towards the seafront

Cafes may have also been allowed to extend into the extra space.

However, the relaxation of social distancing guidance from 2m to 1m+, the lower risk outside, and new rules about wearing face masks/coverings, has changed the situation.

“This means that the widening of the footways originally proposed are not now so necessary, particularly bearing in mind the width of the existing pavements on Devonshire Road and the north side of Western Road,” stated the report. “Signage to remind people about social distancing has already been received.”

Looking up Western Road

The document revealed that Bexhill Chamber of Commerce had objected to the proposed removal of parking spaces after consulting with 150 businesses.

They pointed out that parking was already in short supply as 80 spaces in Wainwright Road car park had been removed to make way for a coronavirus testing station.

However, officers are still backing the widening of the Buckhurst Place footway as this is less than 1.5m on both sides of the road. 

“The widening increases the width by one metre on both sides,” stated the report. “This is a pinch-point where there is significant footfall and anything that improves the situation should be introduced. This would be ahead of the implementation of a proposed permanent scheme at the Sackville Road/Buckhurst Place junction.”

The pavement widening is part of the East Sussex Active Travel for Recovery & Growth programme that was set up to take advantage of the Government’s £250m Emergency Active Travel Fund.

This fund, which was announced in May as a way to help local authorities restart transport in their areas, is part of a wider £2bn package to get more people cycling and walking.

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