South Downs National Park Authority’s approved of East Sussex County Council’s proposal to replace the ageing one-lane bridge, with conditions in place to protect the natural landscape.
Although permission has now been granted for a two-lane bridge and improved pedestrian access to the South Downs National Park, construction is not expected to start until the beginning of 2024 to allow extensive and vital environmental work to be completed.
Cllr Claire Dowling, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment, said: “For years we have been working on options to address the bottleneck created by the existing one-lane bridge at Exceat and I am pleased that we are able to move forward with our plans.
“But we recognise the huge responsibility we have to protect the unique nature of the area and ensure that the work we do not only benefits those using the road, but also protects and enhances this ecologically sensitive location.
“We are keen to get started on construction but will only do so once we have carried out the extremely important and necessary survey, investigation and mitigation work.”
With the current bridge ageing and requiring extensive repairs, East Sussex County Council applied to the Government for funding through the Levelling Up Fund and secured nearly £8m towards the replacement bridge.
The new structure will improve accessibility for visitors with the introduction of viewing platforms, crossing points and a new, wider footway on the south side of the bridge.
The project will also include a shared meeting space in front of the Cuckmere Inn with bike racks and seating, and environmental work to enhance wildlife habitats.
Final detailed designs for the bridge are expected to be completed in the new year, while negotiations for the required areas of land are ongoing. This includes compensation land to replace environmentally important wetland that is needed for the construction of the bridge.
This requires surveys of protected species and habitats as well as the installation of ground water level monitoring equipment in the area.
Cllr Rupert Simmons, lead member for economy at East Sussex County Council, said: “It will be some time before people will begin to see evidence of construction work, as there are a number of important steps to take before that happens.”
Welcoming approval of the county council’s plans, Cllr Simmons added: “As well as being frustrating for motorists and impacting the local environment, the bottleneck at Exceat does nothing to help the businesses in our county.
“This vital scheme will help to improve reliability across our travel network and help support a boost in economic growth in East Sussex.”
The new bridge will be constructed alongside the existing bridge to ensure as little disruption as possible for road users. The temporary traffic lights currently in place, will remain until the new bridge is complete – a process which is expected to take two years.