Controversial plans for new bus lanes are set to go in front of a senior county councillor today.

And angry Seaside traders are marching from Lewes Railway Station at 9.30am to County Hall for the 10am meeting.

On Monday (January 15), Cllr Claire Dowling, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment, is set to decide what comes next for seven schemes intended to improve bus journey times in Eastbourne, Newhaven and Peacehaven.

These schemes, part of the council’s government-funded Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), went out to public consultation late last year, with the council receiving a total of 1,854 responses from residents. 

According to council papers, all seven schemes attracted criticism from those who responded to the consultation, with none of the proposed works securing more support than they did opposition. 

As a result, officers are recommending that some of the works should either undergo significant revisions or not proceed at this time.

These schemes include a package of works proposed for the “Seaside Corridor” in Eastbourne, a stretch of the A259 between Springfield Road and the Langney Roundabout. 

The council’s initial proposals for this stretch of road included: dedicated bus lanes in both directions; cycle route and traffic light improvements; the relocation of several bus stops; and new and upgraded pedestrian crossings, including a toucan crossing at the Seaside Roundabout.

These proposals received a significant amount of negative responses, with more than 70 per cent of respondents strongly opposing the plans, mostly due to the loss of parking spaces caused by the installation of new bus lanes. A further seven per cent of respondents opposed the proposals in a more limited way, while fewer than 18 per cent of respondents were in any way supportive. 

In light of the negative consultation response, officers are now recommending the proposals be ‘refined’ in design and scope and should not proceed as part of the BSIP works. 

While this recommendation would allow the scheme to come back in some new form, the scale of the change means the council will need to seek approval from the Department for Transport (DfT) to retain its funding, due to the time-limited nature of the monies.

Officers made a similar recommendation for the improvements proposed in Sovereign Harbour. These proposals involved: the creation of a dedicated bus corridor between South Harbour and North Harbour; a new pedestrian and cycle route; landscaping improvements; and a junction alteration providing bus priority at Atlantic Drive and Harbour Quay. 

While these proposals also proved unpopular with respondents (with more than 50 per cent opposed in some form), the scheme’s bigger challenge is the need to use land not owned by the county council. 

Officers are recommending that these proposals should be “revisited” pending further discussion with landowners. As with the Seaside scheme, the council would need to secure approval from the DfT to retain its funding for the project. 

Officers are also recommending the council does not proceed with its plans for Kings Drive in Eastbourne at the current time. 

The council’s proposals for Kings Drive involved the creation of a dedicated bus lane on the southbound side of the road, serving Eastbourne District General Hospital and East Sussex College’s Eastbourne campus. More than 60 per cent of respondents were either opposed or strongly opposed to this plan.

Officers are recommending that the proposal should not proceed as part of the BSIP works, but say the proposals could come back in another form should alternative funding become available.

While the four remaining schemes had also proven to be unpopular, officers are recommending they do proceed to a more detailed design.

These schemes involve improvements (to include new bus lanes) to the areas around: Eastbourne Station; the Denton Roundabout in Newhaven; and the A259 South Coast Road in Peacehaven.

Officers are also recommending that the council proceed with plans to introduce a “virtual bus priority system” in Newhaven town centre. This project involves changes to the way traffic signals work, so buses are given priority when navigating Newhaven Ring Road.