Protests over grids and chicanes at Chailey Common

Cattle grids on Beggars Wood Road, North Chailey
Cattle grids on Beggars Wood Road, North Chailey

Chailey Common resident Paul Jenkins was so hot under the collar, he welcomed Monday’s (August 5) downpour.

He said: “My sleep is now permanently disrupted because of the noise from cars clunking over cattle grids - the sound of rain was a welcome distraction.”

The tranquility of his home at Romany Ridge off North Common Road is blighted by grids that were installed in what he describes as “a ridiculous scheme” to allow sheep and ponies to graze the Common.

In an effort to dampen the clatter from more than 6,000 car movements a day, East Sussex County Council begins work next week on making traffic calming chicanes a permanent fixture at a cost to the public purse of up to £50,000.

But residents say temporary chicanes, which act as pinch points to slow down cars as they approach the grids, have not dampened the noise, so permanent ones will not work either.

Paul said: “It’s a total waste of public money. We have repeatedly requested site meetings with the county council so that they can see and hear for themselves the continual noise.

“The county council’s own suitability study in May 2007 advised caution on installing grids along these very busy roads and recommended good consultation with the local community. Neither of these has been forthcoming.”

Resident Sara Vesey-Holt who lives at Phantom Ranch off North Common Road, said: “East Sussex County Council has rushed the process of public consultation without giving us any deadlines and refusing to meet us as a group.”

The county council told the Middy that surveys carried out in January and May 2012, before and after the temporary chicanes were installed, have shown that speed is reduced by the traffic calming measures.

“Due to the open nature of this part of the common, cattle grids are essential,” said a council spokesman. “The noise monitoring we carried out in Spring 2012 prior to and after the introduction of the temporary chicanes indicates the noise from the grids is reduced.”

However, Sara Vesey-Holt pointed out: “They took sound readings on January 23 to February 2, in mid-winter, when the road was at its quietest.

“Permanent chicanes won’t make any difference. It would be cheaper and safer to fence each common separately and do away with the grids altogether.”

The grids were installed to link some of the commons and allow the free movement of grazing animals but residents say they regularly see animals too close to cars on the verges, where grass is less swamped by invasive undergrowth.

Paul Jenkins said: “East Sussex County Council claims the grazing scheme has been successfully implemented - they should go to Specsavers!

“The Commons are now entirely overgrown due to lack of maintenance and lack of public funds. The fencing project is a failure. The county council has locked the door and thrown away the key.”

Referring to the outrage over fracking in Balcombe he asked: “Is this a Balcombe part 2? We believe the actions of East Sussex County Council over Chailey Common represent a blatant abuse of power.”

Despite the barrage of criticism, a council spokesman insisted: “The Chailey Common grazing scheme is vital to saving the ancient heathland for future generations.

“We’ve been working closely with a small number of residents who’ve raised concerns about the noise and we will continue speed and noise monitoring at the site.”

What do you think about the cattle grids and chicanes? Send your letters to: dianne jones