Poor Quality New Proposals for the Sherborne/Westgate Spine Road Junction viewed in a Wider Context

Poor Quality New Proposals for the Sherborne/Westgate Spine Road Junction viewed in a Wider Context

On the 10 March 2023 Active Travel England justifiably awarded West Sussex authorities with a score of Zero to reflect their consistently poor support for active travel (walking & cycling).

This Zero score recognises the absence of all three key ingredients (local leadership, ambition and capability) necessary for a local authority to make meaningful improvements that support walking and cycling.

Out of the 79 UK authorities that Active Travel England assessed, only three others (Worcestershire, Rutland & Leicestershire) scored as low as West Sussex. This means West Sussex is on the absolute bottom rung of the 5% very worst performing local authorities in the UK. Our council are wilfully ignoring the most urgent challenges/concerns of climate change. WSCC and CDC in particular are shamefully failing to address that our transport sector that is the biggest contributor to global warming gas emissions. They refuse to move forward in any meaningful way to promote sustainable modes of transport.

Despite this glaring failure, CDC are nonetheless readying to further worsen the situation by granting planning permission for low cost, substandard spine road option for the West of Chichester Development. These proposals will turn the previously quiet residential/school streets of Westgate and Sherborne Rd into heavily trafficked arterial roads carrying high volumes of both private motor vehicles and construction traffic.

No satisfactory explanation is offered why the West of Chichester development (similar in size to Midhurst) should not have dedicated transport infrastructure linking its motor vehicle traffic directly onto the strategic/trunk road network and away from local streets? The shamefully poor quality alternative of converting quiet residential/school streets into arterial type roads to accept the grinding volumes of new traffic generated by development is the complete antithesis to current UK guidelines/policies on urban sustainable transport. Shopwhyke Lakes, a recently constructed local development, has in fact two dedicated and separate connections to the A27. Previous assertions made by district councillors that such connections between the A27 and the West of Chichester development are impossible/unrealistic to pursue, are therefore groundless.

Indeed, current Department for Transport town planning guidelines (Manual for Streets MfS) recommend the following design hierarchy that prioritises reduction in traffic volume and speed. It shows shared use footways/footpaths are the very least desirable option. It is unforgivable that developers and the advice of our our local authorities has been to invert this hierarchy of priority to favour heavy traffic on our sensitive residential/school streets.

The Westgate/Sherborne junction carries two national cycle routes NC2 (South Coast Route) NC88 (Centurion way). It also carries cyclists joining the Salterns Way cycle route. There are no alternative routes that cyclists can realistically take to get between the Chichester Centre and Fishbourne. 

Bishop Luffa school (1,400 students) and Chichester college (5,000 full time students) have their property boundaries start within only 100 metres of this junction. Chichester college also includes the First Steps Nursery which is only 185 metres away from the junction. This causes many family’s to use the pavements with young children and prams. Parklands combined Nursery/Infant school is only 490 metres away. Tesco, one of Chichester’s main supermarkets (only 370 metres from the junction ) is only accessible to most pedestrians and cyclists from the city by crossing this junction. There is an active 12th Chichester Scout Group based on the North West corner of this junction. On the South East corner of this junction is also busy osteopathy clinic frequently visited by people with disabilities.

Carly Sitwell conducted a survey of pedestrian traffic on Westgate during rush hour periods and discovered there is regular foot fall exceeding 300 people per hour on the northern pavement! UK Guidance on walking and cycling recommends the effective width of shared use spaces should be at least 4.5 metres with this volume of pedestrian use. The plans put forwards by the developers show this width of pavement will not be delivered!

In addition, West of Chichester developers claim many new residents will chose to walk of cycle this route into the city. With such high predicted pedestrian and cycle traffic it is hard to comprehend how under current guidelines thess pavements could be considered suitable for conversion to shared use. UK Guidelines on walking and cycling infrastructure LTN1/20 state shared use routes are only acceptable in the following situations.

5.5.3 Where a route is also used by pedestrians, separate facilities should be provided for pedestrian and cycle movements. However, away from the highway, and alongside busy interurban roads with few pedestrians or building frontages, shared use might be adequate (see Chapters 6 and 8)…

The busy urban environment at Sherborne/Westgate junction is a completely inappropriate location to force pedestrians and cyclists onto share pavement space. This is particularly true when the only imaginable justification is so developers can to avoid building a more expensive (but far more realistic) alternative with a direct connection to the national trunk/strategic road network. It is unacceptable that corporate profits from land-speculating/property-development should be put ahead of the environmental/sustainability objectives of our local community. It is an abuse of our planning system to allow this poor quality and environmental damaging proposal to go forward so that land-speculators/developers can externalise their costs onto both our environment and our local community.

Current Department for Transport guidelines state clearly that shared pavements are inappropriate in residential urban areas. Both LTN1/20 and National Policy for Cycling and Walking (Gear Change) state in Summary Principle No2:

Cycles must be treated as vehicles and not as pedestrians.
On urban streets, cyclists must be physically separated from pedestrians and should not share space with pedestrians. Where cycle routes cross pavements, a physically segregated track should always be provided.
At crossings and junctions, cyclists should not share the space used by pedestrians but should be provided with a separate parallel route.
Shared use routes in streets with high pedestrian or cyclist flows should not be used.
Instead, in these sorts of spaces distinct tracks for cyclists should be made, using sloping, pedestrian-friendly kerbs and/or different surfacing….

It is clear that converting the pavements on Westgate into shared use cycle tracks will also contravene Summary Principle No2. Particularly where people with disabilities visit the Oseopathy clinic, converting these pavements into shared use cycle tacks on a blind corner will contravene Summary principle No1:

…The ability to deliver a right to cycle requires infrastructure and routes which are accessible to all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or disability and does not create hazards for vulnerable pedestrians.

From this wider context alone, it is clear that these poor quality shared pavement proposals for Westgate represent a severe reduction in provision both for existing pedestrians and cyclists alike.

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