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Winchelsea Speed Watch

Who we are and what we are seeking to achieve

We are a group of Winchelsea residents who wish to reduce the speed of traffic passing through the village by:

  • lobbying for effective traffic calming and speed limit enforcement
  • promoting the adoption of new solutions to traffic speed problems
  • helping in the implementation of schemes to reduce traffic speed.

We are not an “anti-car” group. All our members are drivers, but we try to behave responsibly when driving through other villages. We are simply asking other drivers to behave responsibly when driving through our village.

The excessive speed of traffic is the most serious day-to-day problem in Winchelsea, as it is in most villages. Speeding traffic not only poses a risk to life and limb, but intimidates residents on their own streets, and disrupts the community by making it difficult to walk around freely, particularly if you are elderly, infirm or young.

Despite the importance attached to traffic problems by residents, it has proved almost impossible to get effective action from the responsible authorities. To a large extent, this difficulty has reflected:

  • lack of community leadership by Icklesham Parish Council, which has not only been reluctant to support community action against speeding traffic, but has even opposed community traffic-calming initiatives in Winchelsea
  • lack of interest in local traffic problems by our District and County Councillors, and our MP
  • progressive reductions in the traffic management budget of East Sussex County Council and in the traffic enforcement budget of Sussex Police.

Winchelsea's traffic problem | What we have done

The quality of life with less traffic

In 2001, a landslip on Strand Hill closed Winchelsea to through-traffic. For 16 months, residents enjoyed civilised streets and freedom from the noise and pollution of traffic.

During this period, pedestrians - both residents and visitors - became noticeably more relaxed. People lingered on the street to chat, undisturbed by speeding cars. The local children took to the streets on their bikes. Many of them met each other for the first time, having previously been kept off the streets by parents worried about traffic, and made friendships that have endured. Someone commented that they did not realise there were so many children in Winchelsea.

The closure of Winchelsea to through-traffic had no impact on the business of the village shop (we have the turnover figures) nor the butcher. Neither benefit much, if at all, from passing trade. The local tea room and pub complained of loss of passing trade but this was never substantiated. And ironically, the tea room has since closed and the pub has continued to decline, virtually to the point of closure, despite having increasing volumes of traffic flowing past these establishments since the road was re-opened. Their problems have not been due to lack of passing trade!

When a proposal was made in 2001 to keep Strand Hill closed permanently, a referendum was held by East Sussex County Council. Although the majority of residents were in favour of either closure (38%) or a one-way system (23%), the County Council chose to interpret the result simply as a majority against closure, rather than a majority in favour of restricting through-traffic. It would appear that a cash-strapped County Council Highways Authority was worried by the cost of closing the hill and had come under pressure from County Councillors who did not want to have to stay on the A259 when driving through Winchelsea. The referendum form was structured in a way designed to split the vote against traffic restrictions by offering two choices of one-way system, even though one of these options was dangerous and the County Council subsequently admitted that it would not consider either of one-way options. Moreover, one of the ballot boxes was situated in the premises of an opponent of closure, who was able to lobby voters (shades of elections in Zimbabwe).