A long-awaited new car park in Uckfield should be in place within a year – after agreement was reached to transfer ownership of land opposite the town’s railway station.
Network Rail has confirmed it has agreed terms to buy the 4.7 acre site and, subject to completing the deal and receiving planning permission, expects to start work on the 139-space car park in early 2014 and for the facility to be up and running by April.
The land, currently owned by British Railways Board (Residuary), is situated on the west side of High Street and was occupied by the town’s original railway station before it closed in 1991.
Confirmation of the agreement to transfer land comes after members of the Uckfield Town Steering Group, comprised of representatives of East Sussex County Council, Wealden District Council and Uckfield Town Council, travelled to Westminster with Wealden MP Charles Hendry to raise the issue with minister of state for transport Simon Burns.
Mick Harker, chairman of the steering group, said: “This is fantastic news for Uckfield. It is the product of years of hard work by everyone involved and shows the value of members of different authorities working together in a common cause.
“The new parking area will provide much needed parking spaces for commuters, free up spaces for shoppers to park at the existing car park at Luxford Field and help ease congestion in the town centre.”
A new car park was the favoured option arising from a public consultation held in 2012 which asked people what improvements they wanted to see in Uckfield.
It will take shape alongside pavement improvements, traffic light modifications, improved facilities at Uckfield bus station and the installation of real-time bus timetable information boards.
The improvements will be funded from contributions of up to £4 million of ‘section 106′ money – paid by developers as a condition of planning agreements for permissions granted in Uckfield.
The car park will leave free the route of the currently disused Uckfield to Lewes railway line, which closed in 1969, while its layout allows for provision of a new station building should the line reopen in the future.
Tim Robinson, Network Rail’s route managing director for Sussex, said: “This acquisition will provide much-needed parking benefits to Uckfield, which is vitally important as passenger numbers continue to rise.
“It will also keep open the long-term possibility of the line between Lewes and Uckfield being brought back into use. We have worked closely with local authorities to make this happen and will do all we can to open the car park as quickly as possible.”
Councillor Harker added: “The new car park, and the improvements to the High Street and bus station, are the things people said they wanted to see during the consultation, and will make Uckfield a better place in which to live, work and shop.
“The improvements will allow for a more integrated approach between bus, rail and pedestrian travel and will be able to fit around any future reopening of the Uckfield to Lewes line.”