A268 queries still being asked

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East Sussex County Council (ESCC) roadworks planned to start this Thursday, June 18, on the A268 at Rye Hill on the outskirts of town, are likely to affect both the hospital and the medical centre at their busiest times, and questions are still being asked about how they can cope with the disruption. ESCC has already had to split the final stage of the three phases of roadworks along the A268 around Peasmarsh and Rye after concerns were raised about access, but the council still does not seem to understand how much access is needed.

During the two week period that work takes place on Rye Hill, for example, two large NHS mobile units are visiting the site for MRI scans and breast screening and the patients attending for life-saving checks will not necessarily just be local. And Rye News’ own traffic survey last week showed about 100 vehicle movements in and out of the site each hour. The possible effect of the roadworks on the hospital and medical centre was never discussed with them – even though the planning of this work by ESCC started back in January.

The first that the hospital and medical centre knew about these works was a few days before the first stage started, at the beginning of the month on the far side of Peasmarsh. Apparently, an ESCC official did visit the hospital site last week – but not the hospital, despite more than one request to do so. The site’s only entrance (see top photo) is not particularly wide and, with the roadworks being split into two parts, only one lane in the entrance is expected to be available for use. Katie Gurney from the hospital therefore had to ask ESCC officials a number of questions on Tuesday.

These included :

  • Will there be a couple of road signs indicating that the drive will only be single track at the entrance, and indicating that drivers will need to be aware that traffic will be coming in and out of the site on the same¬†piece of road (Last Saturday a van tried to drive through the hospital’s fundraising fete on the site).
  • Will the contractor manage large delivery vehicles (often from the NHS) which need to come on site, as they will need much more turning space.
  • Will there be clear directions to the site as the MRI scanner and breast screening units may well have people coming who are not local

Since then, ESCC have said the contractors will have a gateman to help people in and out of the Kiln Lane entrance and there will be signs in place informing people they can access the site “as there have been for this phase of the works”. However, drivers have complained about the muddled mixture of signs at the bottom of Rye Hill by the railway bridge ; tourists, who are not “locals” – as will be some of the patients coming to the hospital – have experienced considerable problems and annoyance ; and there have already been complaints during the earlier stages of the roadworks about gatemen being unhelpful, rude or simply just not there.

Council Highways Director Rupert Chubb has told Rye Town Council that disruption will be minimised by working outside “peak times” (the morning and evening rush hours on the roads), but the peak times for the hospital and medical centre are during the day, so disruption to them will be at a maximum. He also said it was simply not practical with the volume of resurfacing handled by ESCC “to sit down with every group of local stakeholders”, but in this case they have already had to change their plans once because they failed to consult.

Rye Community Transport's Dial-a-ride service is a frequent visitor to the site, but even larger vehicles visit - like the mobile units for MRI and breast scans.
Rye Community Transport’s Dial-a-ride service is a frequent visitor to the site, but even larger vehicles visit – like the mobile units for MRI and breast scans.

However, on the same day ESCC Assistant Director Karl Taylor was having to apologise to Town Councillor Pat Hughes (who is also Operations Manager for Rye Community Transport) for the contractors starting work early and stopping traffic going through.

Hughes has been in regular contact with ESCC in the past few weeks about problems with the roadworks, and the contractors and has warned Taylor about a wedding and a funeral next week at Playden’s St Michael’s Church (opposite the hospital). She commented ” I am sure you do not want either of these important and emotional ceremonies to turn into a farce” because of the roadworks. St Michael’s Vicar, Teresa Munro, has also been in touch with the council.

Hughes’ request for a specific signposted diversion to “help everyone” as it is unrealistic “to assume that they will go along a 16 mile diversion to get half a mile up the road” was however rejected by Taylor. He argued that “most people attending the medical centre and hospital will be local people who will know the back routes”. But Katie Gurnie at the hospital is less sure, and the county council never asked her – which was why she was chasing them this week, and asking for clear signs. Neither, as far as we know, did the council count how many vehicles use the site.¬†And the fact that Taylor was saying to the hospital on Monday that “regrettably our contractor has let us down again” must be a cause for concern about whether anything will go smoothly.

The correspondence has been copied to council leader and local county councillor Keith Glazier, who has not been heard from since June 1, when he said access would be possible to the hospital site. Since then the council officials have split the Rye Hill roadworks into two, to assist access, but Pat Hughes and the hospital are still not satisfied.

Jempson's Peasmarsh Superstore
Jempson’s Peasmarsh Superstore

The first stage of the roadworks was on the Beckley side of Jempson’s Peasmarsh superstore, and the second stage was on the Rye side, and the superstore, petrol station, Post Office counter and pharmacy are still open for business despite the weekday roadworks. Stephen Jempson said : “Our Shopper Bus will continue to run as close to its scheduled service as possible, although we do respectfully ask our passengers to allow for some additional journey time. We are mindful that there will be some disruption to customers during these works”. Hospital and medical centre patients will experience some disruption too.

 

Photos : Ray Prewer and Andrew Jempson

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