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Environmentalists threaten legal action over Hastings bypass

OPPONENTS OF the proposed Hastings bypass warned the Government this week that they will press for a judicial review if it decides to go ahead with the scheme.

Solicitor Leigh Day, acting for lobby groups Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth (FoE), set out grounds for legal action in a letter to deputy prime minister John Prescott.

The environmentalists claim it is unlawful to proceed with the £150M bypass because the environmental impact assessment for the scheme in the recently completed Hastings road study fails to comply with the Government's own guidance on the conduct and methodology for multi-modal studies.

It is claimed that construction of the 21km road would run foul of the Habitats Directive, Birds Directive, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, and the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000. It would cross the High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty and the Combe Haven and Marline Valley sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), and affect the Pevensey Levels SSSI and Ramsar site.

The letter also points out that to approve the scheme without first building the A250 Pevensey to Bexhill improvement would require the 1995-96 public inquiry to be reopened.

Meanwhile, Leigh Day says that, if the Government decides to go ahead with construction, the secretary of state for transport's involvement in the public inquiry would breach the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention demands that inquiries and planning decisions are free from bias.

The letter summarises: 'The economic and social regeneration effect of the bypass is at best uncertain and there are alternatives. The environmental impact will be major. The necessity for the scheme and the public interest has not been clearly demonstrated.' FoE and Transport 2000 believe improving bus and train transport would ease congestion in the town. They also propose a light rail scheme to combat traffic snarl ups caused by school run traffic.

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