Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, local cycle groups including the 1066 Cycle Club and Bexhill Wheelers, and local walkers celebrated a return to safer roads and country lanes yesterday (Thursday, 2 February) as Wealden District Council councillors unanimously blocked retrospective planning permission for a heavy goods vehicle operation to operate out of premises at Chilley Farm, Rickney Lane, Pevensey.
Countyclean Environmental Services Limited had been operating out of Chilley Farm for several years without having first secured planning permission. Consequently their business accounted for 71 per cent of all motor traffic on Rickney Lane, of which 35 per cent was Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs).
Rickney Lane is part of a series of traffic-free paths and supposedly quiet on-road cycling and walking routes which forms part of route 2 of the National Cycle Network (NCN2) which is a long distance cycle route which, when complete, will link Dover in Kent with St. Austell in Cornwall via the south coast of England. This particular section of the route was established in June 2000.
After a cyclist was seriously injured on 15 September 2015 in a collision with a lorry travelling along the lane from the Chilley Farm site, and following reports of multiple incidents involving HGVs and cyclists, Cycling UK raised concerns first with East Sussex council and then with the Wealden District Council regarding the safety implications of regular HGV movements on a narrow country road, particularly for cyclists and walkers.
In August 2015, Traffic Commissioner Nick Denton stated that Rickney Lane was unsuitable for HGVs. Following representations by Cycling UK, East Sussex Council’s Highway Authority subsequently acknowledged that the lorry movements presented a risk to cyclists and walkers, a particular issue given the Council’s promotion of NCR2 as a safe and quite route for tourists visiting East Sussex.
We should not have to wait until someone is seriously injured before action is taken."
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK
On Thursday, 2 February, Countyclean made their application for retrospective planning permission to Wealden District Council councillors at a hearing in Hailsham. Following Cycling UK’s submissions, councillors unanimously agreed to refuse Countyclean’s application.
Wealden District Council is now looking to work with Countyclean to help them relocate to a more suitable location which will not put vulnerable road users at risk.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer said:
“It was obvious to the Traffic Commissioner and East Sussex Highway Authority that Countyclean should never have been operating from such an unsuitable location which put walkers and cyclists at risk.
“We should not have to wait until someone is seriously injured before action is taken, but at least we can take consolation that Wealden District councillors have made the right decision and significantly cut the risk on one of the UK’s flagship cycle routes.”