The saga of the roadworks on the A268 at Rye Hill blocking access for around two weeks to the hospital, medical centre and sheltered housing is taking many twists and turns. Rye Town Council decided Monday night (June 9) to protest about the plans. But Karl Taylor, Assistant Director at East Sussex County Council (ESCC) was back with an answer before the Town Hall had time to protest.
However, Town Councillor Pat Hughes was not entirely satisfied with his answer, which seemed to rely on patients, staff, visitors and others having to rely on unsafe roads – or very lengthy diversions. Karl claims “continuous access can be maintained to the medical centre and hospital at all times, initially from the south and then from the north”, but does not detail what route or what diversion.
Pat Hughes pointed out that Kitchenour Lane in Beckley had been used as a way round the first stage of the road works last week and was “trashed” as a result. Pat had earlier expressed concern , which she repeated, about “the routing of diversions as the lanes round Rye Hill are unsuitable for volumes of traffic or large vehicles”. She expressed concern in particular about Houghton Green Lane in Playden “needing protection from this sort of rat run driving, especially as it has the primary school part way along”. However, the alternatives, because of the area’s geography from the time when the sea came much further inland, may be very lengthy diversions via the Isle of Oxney or the High Weald.
Simon Marchant (ESCC Team Manager, Highway Maintenance) then said to Pat that signs would be put up at the lanes mentioned saying “Not suitable for diversion”. However, he did not say what routes were suitable. In an earlier email to Karl Taylor, Pat Hughes had pointed out the “huge task (for the contractors) of making real the assurances that you (ESCC) have made to Rye Hospital and the Rye Medical Centre is not possible for them to achieve” and the county council then proposed splitting the work into two stages.
Department of Transport guidelines expect reasonable risk assessment to be made of any roadworks’ impact on the community, services and overall resilience. It is open to the NHS to seek an injunction restraining the council from starting the work if it has failed to adequately consider the risks and consult. It is open to the NHS to also seek damages if the roadworks have a significant impact on costs as a result of missed or cancelled appointments.
Pat Hughes quite reasonably asked ESCC this week : “Did anyone ever think to do a count of vehicles going in and out of the (hospital) site ?” No answer has been received from the county council, but Rye News took up the challenge and our count supports Pat Hughes’ claims of how busy the site is, meeting the medical needs of Rye and surrounding villages.
Pat Hughes told ESCC on Monday that about 300 vehicles needed to go in or out of the site during the day (and Rye News can confirm the figure is probably higher) and asked “can any work be possible with this number of vehicles to manage?” The same day, Karl replied saying that the work would be split into two – but still without any detail of how this would actually work. Many questions remain unanswered, but ESCC say they have been planning these roadworks since January.
Photo: Ray Prewer