The following is guest post from or friends at Cycle Seahaven, but is relevant for Eastbourne cyclists.
There is a proposal to allow motor vehicles on part of the Egrets Way, linking Newhaven to Lewes. The following objection letter sent by the Kingston Road and Cranedown Residents Association gives an excellent overview of the situation.
I am responding to this planning application on behalf of the Kingston Road and Cranedown Residents Association which I currently chair. In order to put our objections in context, I have first briefly outlined the history of the problem of vehicular traffic using this route.
The stretch of road which runs between the Stanley Turner Recreation Grounds and the Southdowns Sports Club on Cockshut Road is known locally as Cockshut Lane. It was constructed as a cycle route when the A27 was built in the late 1970s but its legal status was never formally established.
A letter from ESCC to LDC dated 2nd March, 1979 states that “This route will be open to use by the public for walking, cycling or riding and will also be used by Mr Robinson of Iford Farm [ the then owner of Rise Farm ] for agricultural vehicles.”
Subsequent correspondence from ESCC makes reference to the route’s status as a public bridleway but, again, this was never properly established. In fact, a report generated by ESCC in 2013 on the status of Cockshut Lane includes this statement: 7.13 “Further correspondence in LAND34 between ESCC and the Highways Agency shows that, almost 30 years after it was constructed, responsibility for the cycle track was still unclear!”
That situation has continued to exist to the present day.
In 2005 when the present owner of Rise Farm was granted retrospective planning permission to convert several farm buildings to commercial use, a condition was attached to the planning consent, specifically:
“2. Access shall not at any time be taken to or from the site via the Stanley Turner Sports Ground and Kingston Road, Lewes. Reason: In the interests of traffic safety having regard to Policy ST3 of the Lewes District Local Plan.”
I am aware that the present owner, Mr John Robinson, faithfully conveyed both the background to and content of this condition to his tenants at the time and that he pointed out that they would still have two alternative routes in and out of Lewes. However, despite being made aware of the condition, Rise Farm commercial tenants as well as members of the public have used and continue to use Cockshut Lane as a short cut.
It is against this background that, in 2013 when the shared off-road path from Lewes to Kingston was being constructed, a petition was submitted to the ESCC Lead Member for Highways on behalf of the Kingston Road and Cranedown Residents Association seeking a definitive determination of who may use the road known as Cockshut Lane. The key points cited on the petition were:
- The route was created as a by-product of the A27 Lewes Bypass construction in the 1970s.
- It runs from the entrance to the Stanley Turner Recreation Grounds on Kingston Road, passes under the A27 and terminates where it meets Cockshut Road.
- Its status has never been definitively determined although it is a designated and signposted cycle track.
- The road is regularly used by commercial and private vehicles as a short cut into Lewes and in order to access the businesses at Rise Farm.
- Complaints have been repeatedly made by pedestrians and cyclists about the speed and volume of traffic using the road.
- The construction of the Kingston to Lewes path makes it essential that this matter finally be clarified so that cyclists and pedestrians may use it safely.
It was agreed by the Lead Member on the 17th June, 2013 that “the County Council will continue to work to resolve the status and use of the cycle track.” This they have been doing ever since with the result that I was informed a few days ago that the designation of Cockshut Lane as a bridleway now only requires the agreement of Highways England.
In February, 2015 Mr Robinson submitted a planning application which proposed that the planning condition cited above be removed. It was refused in July, 2015 for the following reason:
“1. The proposal would result in an unnacceptable level of increased vehicular movements to and from the Stanley Turner Recreation Ground along the proposed route to Rise Farm and would be prejudicial to conditions of safety causing a conflict between vehicles and non-motorised users including pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. This would be contrary to policy ST3 of the Lewes District Local Plan, General Policy 28 of the Partnership Management Plan, South Downs National Park and National Planning Policy Framework.”
The current planning application was submitted in August, 2015 and reads:
“Vans requiring access to Rise Farm for business purposes in connection with Orange Badge Mobility Services may do so vai the Stanley Turner Sports Ground andf Kingston Road, Lewes. All other vehicle movements to and from Rise Farm must be made via alternative routes”
The Kingston Road and Cranedown Residents Association strongly objects to the current application being approved for the following reasons:
- More than 35 years ago Cockshut Lane was built expressly for the use of pedestrians, cyclists and riders with access granted for agricultural vehicles only. Its imminent designation as a bridleway should finally make it possible for these identified users to enjoy the route without regard to their safety. The variation of the planning condition to allow vans to access the Orange Badge Mobility Services facility would completely nullify the advantages which bridleway status is intended to provide.
- The two routes currently available to the Orange Badge Mobility Services facility are suitable for both large commercial vehicles (via Mountfield Road/Ham Lane) and private cars (Southover Road/Cockshut Road). With a total of three possible access routes available, it doesn’t appear to be necessary for them to be granted access to the one remaining route (Cochshut Lane) which was intended to provide safe and peaceful enjoyment for those who are not using motor vehicles.
- If the condition were to be removed, it would be impossible to screen out members of the public wishing to use the route when driving as unhampered access (no barriers) would have to be made available to the authorised commercial users, thereby resulting in no improvement to road safety which was the reason for our petition.