Lewes is the County Town of Sussex. Because of its location as a gap in the South Downs, it was once an important road junction, with several main roads meeting in the Town Centre, though bypasses and downgrading have reduced this somewhat in recent years.
The key transport developments in Lewes have been the Cuilfail Tunnel, which allows traffic on the A26 to avoid the town centre, and the replacement of the old level crossing at Beddingham, southeast of the town (carrying A27 and A26 traffic) with a bridge, though frustratingly it was not upgraded to dual carriageway as originally proposed.
By far the most controversial road scheme the town faced was an inner relief road planned in the 1950s-60s. The plan at the time was to improve the A27 through the town. The earliest plans are not yet known but by the 1960s at least two different schemes are known to exist. These both provide a dual carriageway with grade separated junctions although the junctions are at-grade on the periphery of the town. No details are yet known which scheme, if any, was chosen before been scrapped but both were to be built in stages. The first stage is common to both. This consisted of Phoenix Causeway, dualling a short section of Malling Street and the gyratory made up of East Street and Little East Street. This was built as planned and opened in 1969. Local opposition to the proposals meant the next stages were not completed and led to plans for a southern bypass instead. This was built in the 1970s.
The relief road was contentious on two fronts. Firstly the destruction it would have caused but more significant was the potential loss of the Lewes-Uckfield railway. Although one of the plans has provision for saving the railway at an higher cost for an additional bridge the overall feeling from local government and planners was that the line should close to make way for the road which it did in 1969.
This scheme has the road on a shallow embankment either side of the river which cuts through the railway embankment. No retention of the railway seems to be provided. East Street flows eastbound and Little East Street flows westbound which would become the westbound exit slip. The scheme below has these roads flowing in the opposite direction.
This scheme shows the road passing beneath the railway. A bridge was possible to retain the railway but would cost an additional £135,000. The East Street/Little East Street gyratory flows clockwise in this scheme. The A26 towards Uckfield is dualled with at-grade junctions. This necessitates demolishing all the buildings on the east side of the road. South Street is bypassed to the southwest whereas it was eventually bypassed to the northeast by means of the Cuilfail Tunnel.