There’s probably only one word to describe the way East Sussex County Council have handled the closure of Frant Road – fiasco.
Some smart person somewhere thought it would be a good idea to close the A267 for nine days, in both directions and for 24-hours a day. Job done; resurfacing complete. Councillors themselves also knew what was about to happen.
When they sent out letters to local residents and businesses in Frant itself, where the half-mile stretch was to be shut down, guess what? Outrage. Businesses looked at the impact and talked of losing up to 60 per cent of their trade. In the case of the Abergavenny Arms, landlord Richard Burrell stood to lose up to £35,000.
Naturally, no losses could be claimed back from the county council because they are legally required to maintain the highways and are therefore protected. i.e. cannot be held responsible.
This newspaper received numerous calls of protest from retailers and commuters who faced long detours and delays; more than 16,000 cars, vans and lorries would have been diverted through already congested villages.
Following the protests, and within hours of the Times highlighting the story on its front page, there came a U-turn.
The council announced the road would not be totally closed for nine days. It would be open at the weekend and for certain hours during the half term, plus access to businesses would be maintained.
It’s a victory for common sense, but why, oh why, did East Sussex County Council not consult with local people before issuing its dictate? Why did elected councillors at both Wealden borough and county level not talk to those who elected them? This is pretty basic grassroots stuff.
In its own, very small, parochial way, it’s another example of how out of touch those ‘in power’ have become. How some officials and elected representatives do not consider themselves accountable. Have they learned no lessons from Brexit? Have they learned no lessons from the rise of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn? Have they not seen what has happened in America, where Donald Trump is one vote away from the Presidency?
There’s a new wind blowing through politics and it’s called accountability. Not that anyone at East Sussex County Council will be held to account for the fiasco. But will any lessons be learned? We can only hope.
Richard Moore, Editorial Director