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.
Another crash at Basin Road unfolds its tale of human pain and agony. We don’t know the cause of the crash as police are still seeking witnesses, but we do know that not enough is being done to keep people safe in Chichester.
We know that timescales to deliver any improvements to this area are very slow and linked in with the major development to the area. If the Highways Infrastructure is to be left in the hands of the Developer I am seriously concerned that we will not end up with high-quality walking and cycling infrastructure that we need to promote people’s health and well-being and fulfil our climate change commitments.
We need urgent and radical re-designs of this gyratory system and all the other major gateways into the City. Above all we must start to put people first and champion people-centred places. Up to now our Highways Engineers have pursued the need to keep traffic moving, fighting congestion with more roads – all in the name of continuing economic growth.
We need to change all that. We aspire to healthy, green, clean and safe places for people to be. It is that which will attract more people into the City.
In the meantime, the state of our roads seriously puts people off walking or cycling. Whole areas become no-go zones – places we learn to avoid if we can help it. As a victim of a Road Traffic Collision on this very same road, I have changed my shopping and leisure habits radically as a result. I am only one person and my concerns are undeniably more acute than most people’s but I am not alone. We continue to push people on bikes and on foot into the margins at our peril.
The well being of the City doesn’t, contrary to most people’s beliefs, depend on abolishing or reducing car parking costs. It depends on people knowing they are safe.
At the moment we are not. We need to do more to ensure that we are. Waiting for WSCC and CDC to act is not enough.
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?
Chicycle is extremely concerned that we are spending nearly £20,000 of public money on replacing perfectly adequate cycle racks. This is essentially a “prettification measure”. When you decide to travel by bike, when we as councils planning for health and to prevent climate change are trying to encourage cycling, the colour of the racks doesn’t matter. You need more racks… and you need to spend on safety on the streets. But replacing like for like is not essential especially despite all the planning documents (Chichester Vision Feasibility Study, Walking and Cycling Strategy, Growth Plan, Chichester Area Strategic Transport Investment Programme, Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan…) we don’t have a single length of segregated cycle lane to show for it – we have been commenting on such studies on behalf of ChiCycle supporters for nearly 10 years. All we are proposing today do is put in what, I must say, look like rather plain and sterile new racks as replacements for our perfectly sound existing racks.
Council tax has gone up again this year. In the past three years the city council’s precept has gone up by 3 ½ percent and 3 percent – which is in line with inflation if not everybody’s salary – but this year it’s up by 5 ½ percent which is well ahead of inflation and salaries. We owe it to our residents to take stock of what we are spending their money on. And I simply don’t think that a £20,000 prettification project is value for money. Particularly not when the hospital-sterile steel frames are so very unsympathetic to the city centre appearance and the oldy-worldy atmosphere of our York flagstones that visitors come to see (and fall over). (On the one hand we are wishing to retain the old flagstones and on the other we want to revamp the old fingerposts, bins and racks for shiny new steel).
If we are going to spend money, at least let our citizens and visitors see safety measures and something worthwhile, not just a very expensive spring clean. CIL monies should and must be spent on sustainable infrastructure that links the new developments into the city centre and allows people to travel sustainably and safely around the city. CIL monies should mitigate against the new development – this has nothing to do with a vanity project of “smartening up” the city especially when major safety measures are not being prioritised. We are repeatedly told that here are different pots of money and we can’t finance public realm / highways projects. There seem to be a lot in the pots for less important things for example a multitude of statues. When vital safety measures aren’t being funded, the pots need to be shared out better.
Friday 1st March sees the start of the consultation into parking on our city streets.
There will be an exhibition on Friday and Saturday in the City Council, North Street from 10 am – 4 pm as well as on 20th March. There will be one chance to get to the exhibition in the evening in Swanfield Community Centre 2-8 pm on 25th March.
It might be worth going along to find out more details as it will affect you if you drive into Chichester or if you live here and need to park on the street.
One of the downsides of charging for parking might be that we see more people wanting to pave over their front gardens with the loss of plants and drainage.
The wider aspects of the Road Space Audit have been put on the back burner, but it might be worth mentioning your support for more road space being allocated to bikes and buses and the “to not through” idea which aims to reduce traffic, or reducing the number of inner city car parks.
It might be worth asking where the monies from the charges are going.
Car Free Day is an international day that has been around for many years – it has long been a dream of mine to make this a focus for health and activity and clean air in Chichester. As a by-product I hope this would give the opportunity for more people to cycle more safely without fear or worry.
In 2010 I helped organise a take-over of a car parking space in Northgate Car Park but my dream has been to do something much larger and involving the whole community – a real celebration of the inner city space that we own collectively but don’t often use – or only allow motorised vehicles to use freely.
There are lots of spaces within the city walls of Chichester that shout out for more use to be made of them. They are the hidden away bits that you discover when you aren’t on the main streets – when you wander behind the shops or cut down a twittern for example behind M&S alongside the Oxmarket or behind the Pallants and Baffins Lane. Much of this space is given over to bins and car parking and deliveries – but I imagine that this space used to be gardens, orchards and workplaces fitted in between or behind the houses. There are also some amazing trees if you look up behind St John’s Street for example – behind the new UK Harvest headquarters on Market Road there is a bit of the city walls I have never seen before and some huge trees! Please do go and explore this for yourself.
The Car Free Day idea would allow some of these spaces to be used more creatively. You can imagine a pop up park, or children’s play area or mini farm with animals fitting into these under-used spaces.
There are so many fun things that these spaces could unlock – street art on the ground with chalks, or music spaces for people to relax and listen and dance.
It is only with your support and engagement that we can get this to happen.
We would like this to be a community day to recapture the city streets for people to encourage residents and visitors to wander and discover and explore these hidden corners. To take time and not to rush around in a car but to enjoy the cleaner air and quieter streets we would be making.
I have put in a Freedom of Information Request about asthma levels in the area. Although the reduction of disease is very much one of the driving forces behind this idea – there is so much more fun we could have in bringing together and celebrating our city on such a special day. It is the potential for positive change that a car free day brings with it that I want to be the key idea to take away with you from reading this post.
The Chair of the Cycle Forum, Ian Smith, is moving on. Many thanks go to him for this voluntary position which he has served with dedication and thoroughness. Commenting on behalf of the Forum on many a planning document and persevering through all the bureaucracy set in our way.
It is important that this group continues as it is a key link between the cycling groups and the community and the councils.
We have input from Sustrans, SDNPA, the Selsey cycling group, Friends of Centurion Way, CDC and WSCC.
The Forum was founded in 2010 as I noticed that we didn’t have a Forum but Worthing and Crawley and other places in Sussex did. The Cycle Forum brings together campaigners and the councils and the community a few times a year to share news and updates about cycling. Over 30 people turned up on 6th July 2010 (I think that was the date) in County Hall. This was an impressive start and we have had various Chairs in the intervening years.
It is really, really important we find an individual who can step up to this role. There is a lot to get involved in – 27th Feb is a key stakeholder meeting for sustainable travel plans. We ideally need a representative to go along to this meeting (afternoon).
We cannot afford to let this really valuable Forum fade away. If you can get involved and come to the next meeting or speak to me to find out more that would be great.
The next meeting of the Cycle Forum itself is 25th March at 6 pm at County Hall. The Forum doesn’t meet every month but has various sub-groups that work underneath it that meet up in between times – eg the Friends of Centurion Way Users’ Group.
Yes, there is a bit of reading of council documents involved but it really is a unique opportunity to get the voice of people on bikes heard – and it also plays a key role in standing up for people on foot too as so often their voices are not heard either in the room where the “Growth” plan seems to be the main motivation for everything.
If you think you would like to get involved, please do email me firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me on 07789 843556 for a chat about the role.