Update from Green Councillors Adrian Ross (left) and Johnny Denis (right)
East Sussex Highways is due to carry out major changes to Earwig Corner junction in 2021. The road works and the operation of the new junction will have a big impact on local people. Yet, East Sussex County Council (ESCC), which is responsible for changes to the junction, has failed to keep local people informed.
Many residents have been asking us about plans to alter the junction at Earwig Corner in Lewes. We’ve spoken to ESCC on behalf of residents to find out what’s happening.
Earwig Corner - the junction where the B2192 Ringmer Road joins the A26 at the top of Malling Hill - is infamous for traffic hold ups at peak hours. Traffic queues a long way from the junction both going up Malling Hill and along the Ringmer Road towards Lewes.
The queuing traffic frustrates drivers and bus passengers, adding time to journeys. It also adds to local air pollution. There have been plans to improve the junction for at least a decade but so far little has happened. Furthermore, extra road traffic resulting from new housing in Ringmer is expected to make congestion around the junction worse.
A scheme to reduce traffic congestion at Earwig Corner was included in the "Lewes District Local Plan - Adopted Joint Core Strategy", which was consulted on and approved in 2019. The detailed design for the junction was developed as part of the planning process for the Bishops Lane development in Ringmer. The developer will pay for the works as part of the planning consent.
We’ve been informed that East Sussex Highways will install permanent traffic lights at the junction. There will be a central filter lane for traffic turning right off the A26 towards Ringmer. This filter lane will allow traffic continuing north on the A26 to pass on the left when the right-filter light is red.
Traffic from Ringmer will no longer be able to turn right onto the A26; and traffic from Uckfield will no longer be able to turn left towards Ringmer.
Traffic wanting to turn in those directions would have to go down Malling Hill, around the Cuilfail roundabout and back up Malling Hill. East Sussex Highways has told us there is very little traffic going this way now and there will be even less when satnavs are updated; nearly all of the traffic between Ringmer and Uckfield would go via Ham Lane (north of Ringmer church).
The A26 at the junction will be widened by about 3 metres to accommodate the central lane. The widening will be achieved by cutting back the bank between the road and the grass bank by Malling Down by 3 metres and reinstating the wall. Currently Highways are suggesting putting a railing on the top (similar to the current section by the layby), although a hedge or wall may also be possible if that’s what a majority of residents would prefer.
The layby and bus stop will remain, and the access road to the back of Malling Down houses doesn’t look like it will be affected significantly.
The work is provisionally planned to take place between June and October 2021. Plans for how to manage traffic during the works are undecided. It’s likely to be 3-way traffic lights for most of the construction period. The lights will probably mean increased congestion and delays for the period of the works.
We’ve been assured that there are no plans for construction work at night because of the noise disturbance to people living near the junction.
The existing flint wall retaining the grass bank at Malling Down will be partly replaced by a new retaining wall, faced with prefabricated blocks of flints to replicate the style of the existing flint retaining walls in the area. This photo gives an idea of what the flint block finish of the new retaining wall will look like. Highways have proposed that a parapet railing should be added to the wall to prevent falls during maintenance of the grass bank.
There is currently no final landscaping agreed. There could for example be a hedge to screen the road. We welcome your thoughts.
We’re appalled that ESCC or East Sussex Highways have not consulted Lewes residents about the plans. We understand this lack of consultation is because work carried out on the highway is considered “permitted development” and so does not require consultation or planning permission. But we still think it would have been courteous for ESCC officers or councillors to have at least informed residents of the plans.
We understand that ESCC will ask the Bishops Lane developer to inform residents living near the junction about the works when the timetable has been firmed up. There are also plans for a meeting with stakeholders about the construction work at the junction, although this meeting has not yet been arranged.
We hope that this article will answer most people's questions about the changes. Anyone with any further questions or concerns is also welcome to contact us using the email addresses and phone numbers below.
In the meantime we will stay in contact with ESCC to help keep residents informed of developments and to represent their views.
Adrian Ross, District Councillor for Lewes Bridge Ward
Johnny Denis, District Councillor for Ouse Valley and Ringmer