Alfriston is a village in East Sussex, the eastern gateway to our newest national park, the South Downs National Park. As the park authority itself states, 'Alfriston is a fine survival of a medieval and post-medieval market centre sitting in a very attractive rural setting. The core of the village is largely untouched by modern development.' (See SDNPA's conservation area character appraisal and management plan for Alfriston, in 'Background documents' under 'How you can help!')
Alfriston was granted its market charter in June 1406 - celebrated, incidentally, in 2006 with a village market in the High Street and round the market cross. Its market cross is a grade 1 listed monument with the original medieval stone base and shaft still remaining in situ. It is one of only two grade 1 listed market crosses remaining in Sussex, the other one being in Chichester.
The road layout in the centre of the village still follows the medieval and post-medieval plan, which means that, at points, there are places where the approaches to the High Street are narrow, especially at the southern end of the village.
The village is a favourite destination for visitors who come to enjoy the current unspoilt nature of the High Street in which all the buildings are listed, the Tye and the church and river, and the Clergy House - the National Trust's first building! Both the South Downs Way and the Vanguard Way take walkers and cyclists through the village. Many visitors choose to get married in Alfriston. Because of this the village is able to support a number of eateries, pubs and shops, including a much-valued village shop and post office, and a newsagent, sat right in the heart of the market square, as well as two village halls.
At times, therefore, there is congestion in the High Street, largely due to deliveries taking place to the various businesses, or by large lorries (sometimes over the weight limit legally allowed to come into the village) using the High Street as a shorter route from the A27 to Seaford and Newhaven. This can be exacerbated by cars ignoring the yellow lines in the High Street and parking for more than the permitted time to load or unload, or pop into the shops, rather than using the car parks. What can cause problems, when there is congestion, is the attitude of drivers, particularly those in private cars. The majority of drivers behave well, and carefully negotiate their way past the congestion, or patiently wait for traffic to flow again. Most congestion is over in a minute or two. However, there are some who have the attitude that they always have right of way, and drive through the village at an inappropriate speed, and refusing to wait when faced with a larger vehicle coming from the opposite direction. This means that sometimes they drive on the edge of the pavement to get by, or force the larger vehicle on to the pavement with the consequent minor risk of minor damage to buildings and pedestrians based on evidence to date, or have the potential to end up in a collision with the larger vehicle.
Various plans to manage traffic have been put forward over the years (click here for details) before this latest set, proposed by ESCC in May 2016.
It is worth noting that www.crashmap.co.uk, a site that records in detail reported incidents and has data currently from 2005-2014, records a total of seven reported incidents the area concerned, two in the High Street outside the Star, one in the 'Narrows', one south of the 'Narrows' and two in North Street. Only two of these incidents were noted as being serious, the rest were slight. None were fatal. The latest incident reported was in 2013. Whilst having sympathy for those involved, reading the detailed reports it does not seem at all clear that these incidents couldn't have occurred were traffic lights in place. And it does support the view, set out in the Safety Audit (in 'Background documents' under 'How you can help!') prepared for APC and ESCC in 2014 by Hampshire County Council, that currently the risk level of vehicle/pedestrian impact was medium, but that risk of severe incident was low. (The same safety audit did not clearly show that traffic lights would be a solution to the perceived problem, or would be a less risky solution than the other proposals put forward.)
Most of the time, as the photos on this site show, Alfriston High Street is relatively tranquil. ESCC's own traffic monitoring data shows that the number of vehicles coming through the High Street is relatively low. Occasionally there is congestion, where the High Street narrows to the South, but in most cases the congestion clears quickly and road users and villagers are patient. And the High Street soon returns to tranquility.
And it can't be emphasised enough - most of the time there is little or no traffic and, what there is, flows freely.
To find out more about Alfriston, visit the village website.
Protect our village...