Stephen Hand, Chairman of Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common Parish Council, explains the current status...
Last summer’s project to redesign the road layout resulted from many residents telling us over many years that they were fed up with risking life and limb on the narrow pavements in the High Street. From 2012 the Parish and County Councils prepared a joint plan to address the issues, taking on board many suggestions from local groups and people during public exhibitions and meetings, and the advice of transport consultants. A number of options to the selected plan were analysed by professionals, including traffic lights, and all were rejected for various reasons.
It is clear from the public response since September that, although many people find the changes beneficial, some serious issues still remain in the public perception. These issues fall into two categories
1) High St Retail Economy – It has been reported that retail business turnover fell in August (the month of the changes) and September across all shops by between 10% and 60%. Currently, across all shops, it appears that this is still down by between 10% and 30%, although some report no drop in business. Several shops have closed, but it does seem that most are reopening in different ownership.
2) Continuing safety concerns – Regrettably, stories of pedestrians being brushed by cars, lorries and even buses climbing the pavements to squeeze past other vehicles continue. There is evidence from residents of the High Street that these incidents are less frequent than before the changes. Typically these are caused by bad - if not dangerous - driving rather than the road layout.
Parish Council response to issues
The Parish Council believes that, while the adverse publicity that has accompanied the road layout changes has deterred some people from coming to the village, there are a number of factors that are contributing to the current situation. The Council has resolved at its meeting of the 25th February to develop a joined up plan in conjunction with County and District Councils to address the concerns of Traders and Residents. The areas to be addressed will include
1) Business Promotion and Development
• Many rural High Streets are suffering serious downturns in business and many villages have vacant shops. Trends toward online and Retail Park shopping are affecting village shops everywhere, and the Parish Council will work with Economic Development staff from MSDC and WSCC to understand the wider economic picture for rural high streets and work with County and District Councillors to promote our High street and village generally using lessons from others.
• The Council is keen to work with traders to promote the attractiveness of our parish villages. We will initiate and support projects with this aim. For example, the Council has contributed to new ‘welcome bags’ for people moving into the village containing information and samples from the traders and information on services and societies.
• Lack of parking has been cited as a reason for falling trade in our High Street. The Council has requested MSDC to create ‘3 hour’ car parking bays in Brown Twins Road car park. This would allow people to stay longer to visit hairdressers, shops and cafes or restaurants. The Council will also look for ways to create parking at the east end of the village, which would help bring people in from Hassocks and mean less traffic having to use the High Street.
2) Traffic Movement
The Council has commissioned an independent review of High Street operation to address concerns and make recommendations for improvement, including:
• reviewing the operation and improving the marking of the loading bay outside the New Inn
• improving the visibility of signing for the current car parks in Trinity road and Brown Twins Road
• continuing to press MSDC for better parking enforcement in the High Street and elsewhere
• continuing to press Sussex Police to support eliminating the dangerous and antisocial driving taking place