Road raging in Winchelsea

Cars meet between parked cars. Traffic backs up. Who will give way ?

Winchelsea. Two cars hurtle down the High Street, one uphill from the Strand Gate, the other downhill from the other end.

Each is trying to beat heavy traffic on the A259, the trunk road which skirts round the village. But as vehicles are parked on both sides of the High Street, there is only a single lane for traffic. The two cars meet in the middle.

Both drivers consider that they have right of way, so neither will give way. Other vehicles pile up behind them. Tempers fray. Drivers get out and remonstrate with each other. The air turns slightly blue. Horns are sounded. Residents pop their heads out of their houses to see what the commotion is all about. But it’s just another spat between rat-runners.

These unseemly little pageants are reportedly becoming a more frequent feature of life in Winchelsea. Residents say it is startling, and not a little depressing, to see normal people get so angry over such petty incidents which could be resolved with just a little politeness. “It’s like Jekyll and Hyde”, according to one householder in the High Street.

And there is little consolation for residents in the thought that these stand-offs could deter rat-runners. Winchelsea Community Speed Watch has observed an unfortunate side effect – drivers attempting to circumvent possible hold-ups in the High Street by using side roads. They say an increasing number of vehicles are racing down narrow back lanes which have no footpaths (and therefore the cars are a threat to pedestrians) as well as concealed junctions, and go past the primary school.

The aggressive behaviour of rat-runners has been a growing concern in Winchelsea for some time. When German Street was closed recently by fire engines attending a blaze, some drivers were outraged that the route had been blocked and were abusive to residents diverting traffic.

Photo: Richard Comotto


  1. You can certainly suggest one-way downhill on Strand Hill but East Sussex Highways will not allow this, as it is “unenforceable” and it would be condoning what they recognise is a dangerous exit onto the A259.

    15mph would be nice but it is not legally possible. 20mph is possible and is available in villages in counties like Oxfordshire but in East Sussex, councillors will not allow it.

    Cameras at Winchelsea’s six entry/exit points and the requisite enforcement mechanism is pie in the sky, even if the police and local authorities had the resources and interest in managing traffic. And under what law would prosecute someone for staying more than 5 minutes in Winchelsea and how would you distinguish residents, deliveries and visitors from rat-runners?

  2. With respect Richard, you have dismissed three sensible suggestions but not come up with alternative. Do you actually want a solution, or is the problem not really a problem?

    As far as my own is concerned, then surely ESCC Highways should be challenged. One way would actually make the junction with the A259 safer as there would be no traffic flow turning in; the whole width of Strand Hill could be used to improve sightlines. I said safer, not safe! Alternatively close Strand Hill from the Gate downward to vehicular traffic totally – Winchelsea has sufficient access points onto the A259 and other roads already, doesn’t it?

  3. Hi John
    Three suggestions but two are not legally possible and one will be rejected out of hand (it is also not very satisfactory, as it encourages a one-way rat run). Yes, we definitely want a solution and are grateful for all ideas, and especially for support for traffic calming. The simplest and cheapest solution is to close Strand Hill. This happened for 15 months, when the hillside slipped. The results were amazing. But East Sussex blocked the idea as a permanent solution, in large parts thanks to the efforts of Keith Glazier and some chicanery on the part of East Sussex Highways. The fact is that there is no political will at East Sussex to tackel rural traffic problems. In fact, there appears to be a determination not to slow drivers down, even for safety reasons.


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