RESULTS OF A TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SURVEY CONDUCTED BY THE BURWASH COMMON AND WEALD RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION FOR BURWASH PARISH COUNCIL

 

Burwash Parish Council (BPC) is compiling a traffic management strategy for the parish of Burwash.  With a significant focus on difficult traffic management issues in Burwash village, BPC asked the Burwash Common and Weald Residents’ Association (BCWRA) to explore traffic related issues affecting the residents of Burwash Common and Burwash Weald and report back to them so that the eventual traffic management strategy can reflect the views of the whole parish.

 

Accordingly, in December 2018, BCWRA carried out a survey of its members (at that time around 55 households) to identify traffic-related concerns.  This survey identified 5 major issues:

 

There should be better enforcement of the 40 mph speed limit on the A265 through Burwash Common and Burwash Weald, with penalties for offenders.

 

There should be a reduction in the speed limit to 20 mph for local residential roads where there is a significant density of housing but no footways or pavements, particularly Vicarage Road, Vicarage Lane and Wiillingford Lane (but not excluding other roads where this is sensible).

 

There should be better enforcement action to stop inconsiderate and illegal parking, particularly where this obstructs pavements and footways for pedestrians or damages grass verges.  (Civil parking enforcement will be introduced by Rother District Council (RDC) in 2020 across the whole of Rother and this provides an opportunity to influence the remit of the new parking authority to ensure that rural areas, including Burwash Common and Weald, are included).

 

We should lobby for changes to the layout of the junction of the A265 at the Burwash end of Vicarage Road to improve visibility for drivers pulling out of Vicarage Road onto the A265 heading east (towards Burwash village).

 

We should support BPC’s proposal to install “village gates” (white picket fences on the sides of the roads with speed warning signs) at the entrances and exits to Burwash, Burwash Common and Burwash Weald.

 

In order to secure a more representative view, it was decided to extend the scope of the survey to cover as many as possible of the households in Burwash Common and Burwash Weald (regardless of membership of the BCWRA).  To this end, 248 households were surveyed by personal visit during January and February 2019.  140 households (56.5%) responded to the survey, either through direct discussion during the visit itself or by e-mail subsequent to the visit (the survey team left information inviting householders to do this if they were not at home at the time the team called).

 

The survey covered households in the following roads:  Vicarage Road, Vicarage Lane, Willingford Lane (Burwash Weald end), Heathfield Road (A265), Swing Gate Hill (from the junction with the A265 to Oakdown Court), Foots Lane and Westdown Lane.  Properties at the far eastern end of the Heathfield Road in Burwash Weald, and those on Swing Gate Hill  from (and including) Oakdown Court to the northern parish boundary were not included in the survey primarily out of concern for the safety of the survey team which was on foot.

 

There was very significant support - above 90% of those who responded - for each of the 5 proposals listed above.  Some people made additional comments about each of the proposals and a number of other useful suggestions were also made.

 

Enforcement of the 40 mph speed limit on the A265

 

131 respondents (93.6%) supported this proposal.

 

There is a widely held view in the community that drivers regularly exceed the 40 mph speed limit on the A265.  The question is whether this is a perception or the reality.  We are told that the Speedwatch team has been effective in reducing the number of drivers speeding on the A265 (a significant proportion of the offenders caught so far have been local residents) but this is not generally appreciated by the community at large.  There is support for extending the operating times of the Speedwatch team – which would require additional volunteers – and for varying its locations as these are now becoming well known.

 

There is a view that the speed limit on the A265 between Broad Oak and the western approach to Burwash village changes too frequently and that it would be simpler – and safer – if the limit was set at 40 mph (one person suggested 30 mph) for the whole of this stretch of road.  It was also noted that the electronic speed indicator boards are not always functioning properly (if at all) and the maintenance of these should be improved.

 

Those residents who live at the top end of Swing Gate Hill close to the junction with the A265 were strongly of the view that the 40 mph speed limit on this stretch of road should also be better enforced, particularly during the periods when drivers are hurrying to Stonegate station to catch trains.  Some were of the view that the speed limit here should be reduced to 30 mph.  Some people suggested that the speed limit should be extended much further down this road, perhaps as far as Stonegate station itself.

 

Despite Speedwatch, there are a small number of drivers and motorcyclists who see the sweeping curves of the A265 as an opportunity to test their driving skills and who appear to be completely oblivious to the dangers of speeding on this road.  These individuals need to be identified and prosecuted by the police and subjected to heavy penalties because they are risking not only their own lives but the lives of every single person who lives in our community.  BPC should be putting pressure on the police to treat traffic offences generally more seriously.

 

The technology exists to largely eradicate speeding.  Speed warning signs showing red (frown), amber (neutral) or green (smile) faces are available and in use on the continent.  It should be possible to couple these with ANPR cameras to identify speeding vehicles.  Drivers whose speed generates a red (frown) signal could be sent an automated penalty (a fine and points on their licence).  Perhaps also those whose speed generates an amber (neutral) signal could be sent a warning letter advising them to slow down a bit.  The cost of introducing this technology must be set against the benefits to the community and the savings that would accrue from the reduced need for other forms of enforcement.  It seems likely that in-car technology will be available in the foreseeable future which will force compliance with speed limits.  An alternative approach would be the installation of standard speed cameras at strategic points on the A265 (although this is looking increasingly like outdated technology).

 

A reduction in the speed limit to 20 mph for local residential roads

 

128 households (91.4%) supported this proposal.

 

Excluding the properties bordering the A265, residential development in Burwash Common and Burwash Weald is concentrated in a small number of roads – particularly Vicarage Road, Vicarage Lane and Willingford Lane - which currently have 30 mph (or higher) speed limits.  None of these roads has pavements or footways, which means that pedestrians and vehicles must share the roadway.  A large proportion of residents are elderly.  Vicarage Road hosts an old peoples’ home and is on the route of the local school bus.  All these roads are being used more regularly by delivery drivers as online shopping increases and Vicarage Road and Willingford Lane are being used as “rat-runs” by drivers looking to reduce their journey times.

 

For all the above reasons and others, there is strong support for the introduction of 20 mph speed limits on local residential roads.  We are aware that, for this proposal to be supported, there must be a realistic chance that the lower speed limit will be effective.  We believe this to be the case but would encourage BPC to initiate the necessary traffic surveys to establish this definitively as a prelude to a formal proposal to reduce the speed limits on local residential roads.

 

Some residents support the introduction of additional traffic-calming measures on local residential roads, including the introduction of speed humps, width restrictions (or additional width restrictions) and weight restrictions (to avoid the use of these roads by large/heavy vehicles other than for local deliveries).

 

A small number of residents remember the time when the access restrictions applying to Vicarage Road (and by extension Vicarage Lane) were enforced by the police.  Perhaps this is something that the parish’s PCSO could re-introduce?

 

Better enforcement action to stop inconsiderate and illegal parking

 

134 households (95.7%) support this proposal.

 

The high level of support for this proposal indicates that inconsiderate and illegal parking is regarded as a significant problem in Burwash Common and Burwash Weald.  A particular issue is vehicles parked so as to block access to pavements or footways.  This behaviour can prevent disabled people from getting around if they are reliant on the use of wheelchairs for mobility.  It can also force elderly residents and parents with small children in pushchairs or buggies into roadways to bypass obstructing vehicles – particularly dangerous if the roadway is the A265.  Badly parked vehicles can also block access for the emergency services.

 

We note that Rother District Council (RDC) is to introduce civil parking enforcement (CPE) across the Rother district in 2020.  It will be important to ensure that RDC understands that CPE must be introduced uniformly across the whole district, rather than just being focussed on more urban areas such as Bexhill and ensures that the contract operates to this effect.  BPC has an important  role to play here.  Properly implemented and enforced, CPE should eliminate, for example, the illegal parking by non-residents at the Heathfield end of Vicarage Road.  In the meantime, we would very much like to see our local PCSO more actively engaged in dealing with parking violations in Burwash Common and Weald.

 

The BCWRA has written to our MP, Huw Merriman, supporting his proposal to make pavement parking illegal nationally.  BPC might also consider supporting this initiative.

 

Parking on grass verges is also a concern.  This can churn grass verges into mud, destroying them completely and reducing the quality of our local environment.  The verges along Willingford Lane have recently been designated as outstanding wild flower habitats.  In a similar vein, the BCWRA (with financial support from the BPC) has recently planted spring flowering bulbs on the verges along the A265 at the boundary between Burwash Common and Burwash Weald.  We hope to extend these areas of planting in future years.  Actions like this should help to protect our verges from damage by inconsiderate parking (or at least make careless parkers think twice).

 

There is a view among some residents that more parking spaces are needed in the local area and that consideration should be given to identifying locations where these can be created including the provision of additional lay-by parking along the A265 at convenient and safe points.  The planning authorities also have a responsibility to ensure that new housing developments do not exacerbate local parking problems by providing insufficient parking space for their occupants.

 

One resident has suggested that a ‘drive share’ scheme be established on a voluntary basis to help get parked cars off local roads.  It is not clear if such a scheme would be successful, but it is certainly worth a try.

 

Changes to junction layouts to improve visibility

 

127 households (90.7%) supported this proposal.

 

Most people living in Vicarage Road and Vicarage Lane (who are the most affected) agree that turning right at the Burwash end of Vicarage Road onto the A265 is hazardous, requiring vehicles to edge out into the westbound traffic lane of the A265 in order to see traffic on the main road coming from the Heathfield direction.  Turning left at this junction (towards Heathfield) is also difficult, requiring drivers to use the opposite carriageway of the A265, risking a head-on collision with oncoming traffic heading east.   A change to the layout of this junction to reduce the acuteness of the angle of these two roads is necessary to eliminate these problems and make the junction safer.

 

There is less support for changes to the junction of the A265 with Vicarage Road at the Heathfield end of Vicarage Road.  It is hazardous for vehicles to turn right (towards Burwash) at this junction but most drivers accessing the A265 from Vicarage Road to go east are more likely to use the junction at the Burwash end of Vicarage Road.

 

One resident suggested that there should be a ‘No Right Turn’ onto the A265 at the Heathfield end of Vicarage Road and a ‘No Left Turn’ onto the A265 at the Burwash end of Vicarage Road.

 

It became clear during our discussions with residents that there are also concerns among those who live in other roads adjoining the A265 about the dangers of pulling out onto the A265, for example the junctions of the A265 with Willingford Lane, Foots Lane and Boundary Edge Close.  The visibility of approaching traffic on the A265 from these junctions is (to different degrees) poor and the risk of accidents or near-misses is high.  One resident asked that consideration be given to installing driving mirrors at these junctions to improve visibility for drivers pulling out onto the A265.

 

The risk of accidents at all junctions with the A265 in Burwash Common and Burwash weald is heightened if drivers on the main road are exceeding the speed limit.  Consideration should therefore be given to installing double white lines and/or traffic islands at appropriate points, particularly on the long straight stretch of the A265 between the Burwash end of Vicarage Road and The Wheel inn, to deter speeding and dangerous overtaking.

 

Village gates

 

132 households (94.3%) support this proposal.

 

We understand that BPC has already approved the installation of village gates.  Most of the respondents in Burwash Common and Burwash Weald support this idea.  A small number of residents felt that this is not good value for money and/or were concerned about the cost of on-going maintenance.  BCWRA would like to be consulted about the siting of village gates.

 

Other ideas proposed by residents

 

There is a lot of support for the establishment of a school crossing patrol on the A265 near the junction with the Heathfield end of Vicarage Road.  Local children who go to schools in Heathfield or Burwash and who use public transport or school buses are obliged to cross the A265 to get to and from their homes in Vicarage Road, Vicarage Lane or Westdown Lane.  If the current plan to establish a volunteer-based school crossing patrol in Burwash village is successful, perhaps a similar approach can be taken in Burwash Common.

 

During the survey there was a lot of criticism of the standard of road maintenance in Burwash Common and Weald.  The BCWRA fought for nearly two years to get Vicarage Road and Vicarage Lane properly re-surfaced after years of temporary pothole repairs had left both roads like patchwork quilts.  Even this work had to be re-done because it was not done properly the first time around.  Significant potholes have now appeared at two places on the A265 at Burwash Common.  Lorries travelling at speed over these are – quite literally – causing some of the houses on the north side of Vicarage Road to shake.  These potholes have been reported by at least six residents since Christmas but to date ESCC Highways has not taken any action to repair them and has not said if or when they will be attended to.  Residents are exasperated by the length of time that simple road repairs take and by the generally poor quality of those repairs when they are done.  They believe that money is being wasted as a result of too many partial and temporary repairs - which frequently must be repeated several times – with insufficient effort being put into making permanent repairs first time around.  Other elements of highway maintenance, e.g., repainting faded white lines, verge cutting, are routinely not now done. The BCWRA is lobbying ESCC Highways for faster, better quality road repairs and invites BPC to support them in this.

 

In conclusion

 

The BCWRA looks forward to working with BPC to develop and implement an appropriate traffic management strategy for the whole of the parish of Burwash.

 

 

Burwash Common and Weald Residents’ Association

March 2019