Crash concerns after diversion ‘nightmare’ in Balcombe Road, Haywards Heath

Herts County Council is spending money on road improvements.
Herts County Council is spending money on road improvements.

Residents have complained about ‘confusing diversions’ which they say have caused an ‘absolute nightmare’ for motorists around Balcombe Road.

Their comments followed a crash at the junction last Friday afternoon, when an 80-year-old and an eight-year-old were taken to hospital after a collision at the junction between Hanlye Lane, Borde Hill Lane and Balcombe Road.

An 80-year-old Cuckfield woman sustained a cracked rib and was treated at hospital before being allowed home. An eight-year-old girl was taken to hospital but was released following a check up.

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) closed the Penland Road junction with Balcombe Road in Haywards Heath from July 17 until August 12.

This was brought into place after some drivers repeatedly ignored road diversion signs around roadworks in Balcombe Road and used Penland Road as a rat run, causing complaints from residents and parents of children at Harlands Primary School.

All traffic now has to follow a route via Hanlye Lane, London Road, the A272, Perrymount Road, Mill Green Road.

Now residents off Balcombe Road who have been forced to take a long diversion to get into Haywards Heath town centre - turning a five minute journey into a 25 minute journey - have said the closures are unnecessary and confusing.

Martin Parnell, of Orchard Close, off Balcombe Road, said puzzled motorists were stopping to try to work out where to go, and were baffled by the confusing diversions now in place.

He said the diversion signs ‘either take you in a circle around town with no obvious exit or end with no signs at all’.

He added: “Presumably the police are aware that the junction is an accident black spot and is far more of a risk to the public than anything in Penland Road.

“We personally feel very exposed when using that junction, given what we have seen on Friday and pressure should be applied on the police to force a change to the notices around that area before there are fatalities.”

Julia Dearing, also from Orchard Close, drove around the diversion to get home at about 5pm on Friday - during the aftermath of the crash - and was told by the police officer that she could not pass and there was no diversion for her to get home.

Not knowing when she would be able to get home, she drove to her daughter’s house in Burgess Hill, then called police and waited to be told she could access her house again at about 6pm.

She said: “It’s just been an absolute nightmare. I go to Lindfield a lot and to get there I have to go up Borde Hill Lane, along Copyhold Lane and down passed Haywards Heath Golf course. It’s ridiculous!

“There are elderly residents who regularly have to get taxis to doctors appointments at The Dolphin and their fares will be double because they have to go through Cuckfield to get there.

“I can’t see that Penland Road has to remain closed after the school has closed for the summer holidays. Why do the residents in that road get more consideration than us?”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “We have been reassured by our contractor that all signs, advanced warning signs and diversion signs, were correct and appropriately placed. All signing is routinely checked and signed off by our contractor every morning before works begin.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “It is often impossible to say how long the road may be closed for, for any number of reasons eg the seriousness of any injuries, numbers of casualties, time taken to release any trapped casualties, time taken to recover vehicles, etc.

“As to diversions, the location of this crash would appear to be semi-rural and the map discloses few if any options to avoid the scene by taking an alternative route.”