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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
Head to Head: The road-building debate

The government's decision to reject plans for the controversial Hastings bypass has delighted conservationists but angered many residents and businesses.

Gillian Bargery, co-ordinator for the "Hastings Alliance - Better than the Bypasses" movement, and Graham How, of the 1066 Enterprise which fought for the Hastings bypass, give their reaction to the decision.

Gillian Bargery, Hastings Alliance

My first response to the decision announced today is one of immense relief.

However, it is important that this decision is not seen as a concession to environmentalists, so that another road can be slipped through elsewhere.

The decision was taken, and quite rightly, because none of the arguments in favour of the road held water.

A road-based solution will not be acceptable, because road building is entirely discredited

I think the impact of this decision will be to restore some faith in the government's credentials, and in its avowed commitment to protect our environment.

Nonetheless, campaigners will remain vigilant. The South Coast Corridor Multi-modal Study is now underway - a study looking at the transport infrastructure along the whole South Coast from Southampton to Thanet.

We must be clear that a road-based solution will not be acceptable, because road building is entirely discredited.

The immediate priorities in Hastings now are to expedite the public transport improvements recommended by the consultants and endorsed by the government.

Gillian Bargery, Hastings Alliance
Gillian Bargery: Campaigners will remain vigilant
These public transport improvements could have and should have been introduced many years ago.

It is now a priority that all influential people in the town come together to look at ways of bringing regeneration to the centre of Hastings where it is needed, and of keeping the prosperity in Hastings rather than having it based outside the town as the bypasses would have done.

In broader terms, anti-road campaigners will continue to fight against any proposed road schemes nationally - evidence and precedence have shown us for many years now that road schemes neither solve congestion, nor bring guaranteed prosperity to poor areas.

Graham How, 1066 Enterprise

What happens now?

As the owner of a business operating from Hastings town centre, I find it quite stunning that the secretary of state finds no "convincing case" for the Hastings and Bexhill bypasses.

We are not just talking about the regeneration of Hastings, we are talking about the saving of Hastings.

How on earth could this government let so many people down?

For once, we believed that we would have what Hastings needed - and still needs - so badly, an infrastructure that would enhance people's lives and livelihoods, reduce environmental pollution and improve the health of those thousands of people who live on the A259 trunk road.

A road that runs along the seafront of a seaside resort and cuts a beautiful old town in half.

They will still have to suffer the endless, crawling traffic jam that makes the five miles between Hastings and Bexhill a 30 minute trial whatever the time of day.

In 2001, it takes longer to drive to Brighton, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone than it did a decade ago. The train to London (when it's running and not a health risk) takes 10 minutes longer than in the last days of steam.

The government's arguments are, I'm afraid, naive. They appear to have totally missed the point.

The whole "Access to Hastings" argument seems to have been completely disregarded in favour of "future proposals" to regenerate just five wards within the town.

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