New roundabout plan for Haywards Heath after opposition from local businesses

A fresh plan for a new roundabout in Haywards Heath has been revealed following strong opposition from local businesses.

Friday, 19th June 2020, 10:48 am

Developer Redrow was set to close Balcombe Road, Borde Hill Lane and Hanlye Lane for three months starting in June to build a new roundabout as part of the Penlands Green development.

But Borde Hill business owners protested against the closure of the major route into Haywards Heath, which they said would cause huge disruption and would stop access to their businesses, threatening their survival.
Mid Sussex MP Mims Davies, who backed the business owners’ fight, revealed this week that there was a new plan for the roundabout ‘keeping access to local businesses at the heart of the project’.

She said: “A working party has regularly met virtually over recent months, after listening to concerns of business and nearby residents about how to address concerns raised regarding the planned road closures.

Upset Borde Hill business owners. Picture: Steve Robards

“We had hoped via these meetings to be able to get works underway much earlier – ideally during the lockdown before the start of the recovery period with appropriate social distancing observed – unfortunately there proved to be constraints around availability of materials, contractors and utilities due to the Covid-19 situation.

“Although Redrow put plans in place to bring forward the start date by two to three weeks, its agreed contractor unfortunately succumbed to financial difficulties and so this was unable to happen. A new contractor has since been established but this has lost the time advantage we all hoped to achieve.

“One of the major concerns for businesses and residents was the long term closure of the Hanyle Lane/Borde Hill Lane junction for the duration of the works.

“As a group, we have worked hard to overcome this, so I’m delighted that Hanlye Lane will remain open for most of the build weeks allowing for local access to businesses and means the total closures will be kept to an absolute minimum.

Picture: Steve Robards

“Current estimates are that this junction will need to close for approximately three weeks from mid-July.”

When will work start?

West Sussex County Council confirmed the roundabout-build will start on Monday (June 22).

A spokesman said: “The work is scheduled to take about 12 weeks but, following extensive efforts by the local MP, county councillor, highway officers and the developer itself, it has been agreed that the period of full road closures involved will be reduced.

“Current estimates from the contractor are that the Hanlye Lane and Borde Hill Lane junction will be able to remain open for local access for the first phase of the works. Originally it had been planned for the junction to be fully closed for the full 12 weeks.

“There will be extended working hours to enable weekend working to get the work done as quickly as possible and minimise disruption for the community as a whole, and local businesses in particular.

“Once built, the roundabout will improve the current junction arrangement to meet current and future needs and make the local highways network safer.

“Details of the road closures will be posted on Redrow’s website and advertised on local road signage as work progresses.”

‘Huge relief’

In response to the new plan, Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, owner of Borde Hill, commented: “With Covid-19 closing many businesses during the spring and early summer the loss of profits and ongoing overheads meant that we are all very grateful for the support from all.

“However to remain viable, we also need to get summer trading income and the threat of a full 12-week road closure and access impacted would have made some local businesses insolvent.

“It is therefore with huge relief, and many grateful thanks to MP Mims Davies and councillor Pete Bradbury, that our request that Hanlye Lane remain open most of those weeks has now been heard and agreed by Redrow and Highways. We thank everyone who has made this change possible.”

‘Failed’

But Borde Hill Businesses Group, which set up an online petition in a bid to stop the road closures, said that in spite of the offer by Redrow to keep Hanyle Lane/Borde Hill Lane intersection open for the initial stages of the construction work, the developer has failed to explore in any meaningful way the option of undertaking these works on a phased basis, so that partial rather than full closure of Balcombe Road could be achieved.

It added: “The Borde Hill businesses commissioned engineering consultancy advice which categorically states that it is perfectly feasible to undertake the reconfiguration in a manner which will allow the new highway to be built safely and with minimized disruption to local businesses and the travelling public.

“The Borde Hill businesses have been urging West Sussex County Council as local highways authority to call for a thorough appraisal of the options and an assessment of the inevitable impact on non-designated diversion routes such as Copyhold Lane. That lane is entirely unsuitable for volumes of traffic in both directions – with a single file railway bridge – and will impact on the ability of emergency services to reach people and properties in a timely manner.

“Thus far the county council has failed in its duty either to ensure that full closure is an appropriate measure or to have regard to the obvious economic impact on the businesses and the jobs of their employees.

“This, of course, comes immediately on the heels of three months of Covid-19 lockdown – the timing could not be worse.”

‘Positive conversations’

Robert Phelps, technical director at Redrow, said: “We can confirm the roundabout works are set to move ahead as scheduled and we have worked hard with all parties to maintain the programme against the backdrop of Covid-19.

“The lower levels of traffic on the roads at this time due to the pandemic meant we could again revisit plans and hold positive conversations about the access arrangements, listening to the concerns raised, resulting in some local routes being kept open through periods of the works.

“We’re pleased to have been able to significantly reduce the closure time of the Hanlye Lane/Borde Hill Lane junction.”