bringing important railway connections together

The greatest act of betrayal, incalculable stupidity and environmental sabotage is set to be inflicted upon the South East by both Wealden and Lewes District Councils.

The BBC reports ‘Former railway line set to become a cycle route’ revealing that officers from Wealden District Council (WDC) and Lewes District Council (LDC) are collaborating to create a nine-mile walking/cycle route between Uckfield and Lewes. The BBC’s Huw Oxburgh explained: ‘The route is expected to run along the former railway line and also take in Isfield, Barcombe Mills and Hamsey’. On Wednesday (8th May) WDC will consider the scheme; a planning officer saying: “It could link the two towns whilst providing a new green space corridor.”

The Wealden Line Campaign, launched in 1986, has unrelentingly fought throughout 38 years to have the 7–mile link between Lewes and Uckfield restored to the national mainline network. Campaign chairman Cllr Duncan Bennett said: “Following the last district elections we thought that a council with a ‘greener’ outlook would promote a truly environmentally sustainable means of mass transport. So to add extra cost and obstruction to the historic Trackbed Protection Policy is senseless. Reinstating the railway, which has the support of Network Rail and train operators, would benefit the whole region between the Surrey Hills, the High Weald AONB, the South Downs and Seven Sisters National Parks. Pollution such as exhaust and particulates from ever-increasing traffic in our towns, villages and countryside is a very serious threat. Lewes–Uckfield is not some meandering old branch line but a strategic part of a well-engineered secondary mainline which should be delivering its potential. The Cuckoo Trail it is not!”

The ‘Alliance for Wealden’ currently runs WDC – comprising 11 Green and 13 Liberal Democrat councillors. Green Party Cllr Jessika Hulbert is Chairman, whilst Liberal Democrat Cllr James Partridge is Leader. Neighbouring LDC is also jointly controlled by the Greens and Liberal Democrats, having 16 and 15 councillors respectively. Cllr Zoe Nicholson (Green Party) is Leader of the council and Cllr James McCleary is Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

This proposal will directly contravene the councils’ Policy (INF5 – Safeguarding of Infrastructure) which states: ‘As defined on the Policies Map, development will not be permitted which would prejudice the reinstatement of the following railway lines: a) Lewes to Uckfield; and b) Eridge to Tunbridge Wells.’

It is therefore beyond astonishment that those who sermonize with their environmentally-aware principles could even contemplate such a profoundly crass proposal – and which runs counter to everything they preach. The Greens only MP Caroline Lucas has been a faithful and formidable ally for many years in her unwavering support for the Wealden Line to be reinstated into the national network, saying: “It’s a scandal that there is no political will to reopen it since it is such an obvious case. The Green Party completely supports re-opening because it makes such obvious economic and environmental sense.”[2009] – “Not only would the new line ease congestion on the route to London but it would connect Brighton to towns in East Sussex, Kent and Surrey.” [2016] 

Similarly, the Liberal Democrats have given solid backing to the reopening, famously championed for well over two decades by its leading advocate, former Transport Minister and Lewes MP Norman Baker:  ...... read the full story in The News section on this website