Following the 5th April County Council meeting where our councillors unanimously supported Mr Michael Jones motion on Climate Change, ChiCycle wish to promote focus on sustainable transport and pressure our local politicians into adhering to their commitments. If our elected representative are genuinely committed to the objective of a zero carbon society, then this must be reflected immediately in our local town planning decisions. All new housing development must now be designed to promote sustainable modes of transport over and above the conventionally accepted desires of the motoring lobby.
Unfortunately current planning decisions for local housing developments do not follow the high aspirations of our elected officials. Draft plans for Whitehouse farm development show significant potential for down grading at least three local cycleways and footpaths. Local cyclists, pedestrians and environmentalists must reject these sub standard plans and demand a reappraisal targeted towards provision towards sustainable transport infrastructure.
To emphasise the importance of preserving existing cycle and footpath networks, ChiCycle is beginning production of a few short videos documenting the benefits local people enjoy from these community assets. The first of these videos follows Centurion Way from the bridge over Newlands lane to Chichester City centre.
The project is very much inspired by the work of Richard Vobes who produces videos under the name of the Bald Explorer. Indeed we are shamelessly copying (stealing) some of his mobile video making techniques but are unlikely to achieve his high levels of production quality. His website and videos are an enjoyable and fun look at local history and community and worth a watch.
Saltern’s way is a delightful cycleway that leads from the Market Cross in Chichester all the way to West Wittering beach. It leads through miles of rural countryside and around the perimeter of Chichester harbour.
ChEmRoute is the name of the project to upgrade the cycle way provision between the centres of Chichester and Emsworth. This also forms a vital section at middle of the National Cycle Network South Coast Route (No 2). The South Coast Route covers a distance of 361 miles from Dover to St Austell.
The Centurion Way is a much loved 5.5 mile (9km) path that runs between Chichester, Lavant and West Dean following the old dismantled Chichester to Midhurst railway line, which closed in 1991. There are plans to extend it all the way to Cocking in the heart of the South Downs.
The ChiCycle team has seen draft plans showing a new busy road dissecting Saltern’s way and the ChEmRoute paths and the removal of the entire section of Centurion Way that runs adjacent with Bishop Luffa school. The 1600 home Whitehouse Farm development is destined to be the largest ever in Chichester’s history. The developers have pledged to open a new southern access road by occupation of the 225th home – and even earlier for construction traffic. The ground is already broken for construction of the new homes, it cannot be long before construction of the access road must begin. Unless high quality provision for cycling is provided for the existing cycleways they will become less appealing, less direct and significantly more dangerous with the heavy increase in traffic. Segregated cycle ways are needed between the green railway bridge and the town centre or existing local sustainable transport users will be forced towards motor-vehicle dependency. We need the local authorities to encourage the cities new residents to walk or cycle into town by making sound planning dissensions before construction begins on the new access road.
Despite grave concerns for the future of the path, our group still see room for optimism. Many of us attended the recent 5th April County Council meeting and heard the motion on Climate Change being debated. Reducing local carbon dioxide emissions was stated as being of highest priority with particular attention being drawn to the importance of promoting and enabling walking and cycling.
Councillors Peter Catchpole (Holbrook speech) and Dr Kate O’Kelly (Midhurst speech) declared that all West Sussex housing developments must now include at their earliest stages adequate infrastructure to allow a future modal shift towards sustainable transport.
Jacquie Russell (East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood speech) pledged West Sussex Counties ongoing commitment to their Walking and Cycling strategy.
Jamie Fitzjohn (Chichester South speech) overcame his issue with the term “humans have caused climate change” after speaking of the influence of subterranean rivers of molten iron. He concluded that humans do indeed have a climatic impact and compromised on the term to then support the motion.
There was also a substantial public demonstration of support for the motion calling for emergency climate action to be taken and a report from the Chicheter Post can be read here.
West Sussex county council’s concrete committent to reducing transport driven CO2 emissions gives the Friends of Centurion Way enormous hope for the future. The Whitehouse Farm Southern access road threatens to dissect three popular cycle routes: Saltern’s Way, the Chichester to Emsworth coastal route and Centurion Way. Our local planing priorities are rapidly changing to embrace sustainable transport. We now look forward to local residents participating in constructive consultation so we can find ideal solutions to these challenging planing issues.
The Chichester Post is running a story explaining how previously promised safe cycle routes are no longer likely to be put in place in Chichester. The full article is available to read here.
Promised Cycle infrastructure now seems unlikely to arrive at Graylingwell
The Post reports:
“Graylingwell Park housing developers agreed to build a cycle route. But county councillor Jeremy Hunt said he did not think this would happen because of opposition from Chichester Festival Theatre and Chichester District Council.”
The Paper also adds:
ChiCyle co-ordinator, Sarah Sharp said: “We have always said that new development needs proper links and road crossings as well as safe, segregated routes to allow people to leave their cars at home and feel safe while cycling into the city or crossing the road. New developments go in, but somehow it seems that developers and the council officers are unable to deliver the promised cycle and walking infrastructure. ”
The ChiCycle team are anxious a frequently repeating pattern is emerging. New housing developments are being granted planning permission based on conditions that are never met or enforced in practice. Indeed in this case the local authorities have actually impeded the project by refusing to reallocate space in a car park to facilitate more sustainable forms of transport use.
Published government planning guidelines explain:
Planning obligations are legal obligations entered into to mitigate the impacts of a development proposal. This can be via a planning agreement entered into under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by a person with an interest in the land and the local planning authority; or via a unilateral undertaking entered into by a person with an interest in the land without the local planning authority. Planning obligations are also commonly referred to as ‘section 106’, ‘s106’,
The ChiCycle team concern that a community may engage all its efforts into consultation to ensure responsible planning decisions are made but this is a meaningless waste of their time unless there is a realistic expectation that these s106 planning agreements will be adhered to. What chance do Chichester residents stand of transitioning towards sustainable transport use, when even new developments fail to deliver safe opportunities for residents to cycle?
Totnes Town Council have also declared a climate emergency and a link to the draft minutes that can be read here
It is a promising sign that local authorities are finally acknowledging the extent of global climate crisis and particularly significant that London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has also declared ‘climate emergency‘.
Acknowledgement of climate emergency is an essential move forwards but only a tiny step towards implementing the significant changes necessary to transition society towards sustainability. Let’s hope appropriate actions follow these declarations.
Wishing everyone (especially Chichester’s community of cyclists) a very happy new year (on behalf of ChiCycle),