Refusal by West Sussex County Council (WSCC) to agree to cap legal costs leaves it prohibitively expensive to pursue a community claim to keep safe footways at Westgate/Sherborne-Rd. Map Link https://email@example.com,-0.793768,17z
Legal action to preserve safe community pavements: Update, January 2022.
On behalf of ChiCycle, solicitor Alice Goodenough has sent a letter of complaint to WSCC dated 27 January 2022. This letter is available on this link (Letter HG to Council complaint 27.01.22).
The County Council has refused to agree to cap costs as set out in the Aarhus Convention. The Convention is part of The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and relates to “Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters“.
ChiCycle is concerned that new ‘green’ infrastructure in West Sussex is too often worse than it need be. As a way of illustrating the shortcomings, ChiCycle has been opposing, a scheme to reallocate safe pavement space – currently dedicated just to pedestrians – and turning it into an unsafe shared-use track where pedestrians and cyclists are forced to mix. Compounding the problem, there are entirely blind corners to negotiate as can be seen from the following street-view link.
This is a clearly not only a reduction in comfort for both pedestrians and cyclists, but also raises safety issues. The justification given for this slashing of provision, is to allow heavier volumes of motor traffic from a new housing development to flow through our residential streets.
These are already busy neighbourhood streets, and Westgate also serves as a school route and part of National Cycle Route 2. The reasons for the increase in motor traffic is due to an outdated local authority attitude that – instead of preserving or (perish the thought) improving ‘green’ infrastructure for existing and new residents alike – the new housing inevitably needs to funnel its new traffic through the existing residential areas. To do this, they are essentially forcing pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way and share the inadequate pavement areas, even though this goes against all national guidance.
Current national guidance for walking and cycling makes it abundantly clear that moving away from car-dependent communities is a vital national commitment. Safe opportunities for walking and cycling are a vital step towards communities becoming environmental sustainable.
The founder of Sustrans, Mr, John Grimshaw, even wrote to ChiCycle expressing his dismay at the plans to put cyclists onto the pavements. On the 7th December 2021 John wrote:
You can quote me saying – ‘It is a sad commentary, in this year of COP26, that the Council cannot bring themselves to extend the popular Centurion Way right through to the City Centre all to the same high quality traffic free standard – space should be taken from the highway so that the balance is shifted from cars to sustainable transport -bikes in this flat City.
Best wishes and good luck
John Grimshaw CBE”
It is therefore particularly disturbing that WSCC have chosen to dispute ChiCycle’s ability to cap legal costs and have refused to acknowledge that, under the Aarhus Convention, ChiCycle’s claim qualifies under the provision relating to ‘Access to Justice in Environmental Matters’. Our attempts to bring a legal case defending the rights of pedestrians and cyclists are purely motivated by a desire to secure safe and sustainable environments in our city, for the benefit of everyone who uses the streets.
Regrettably, the council’s refusal to allow legal costs to be capped means that ChiCycle and our supporters could be exposed to prohibitively high legal expenses. For this reason, and this reason alone, ChiCycle feels unable to go further with this as a community claim/legal-action. In effect, the council’s strong-arm legal tactics have prevented the arguments from being considered on their merits.
ChiCycle has instead now submitted a letter of complaint. This rebuts WSCC claims that the designs meet national standards for walking and cycling and that the council provided adequate opportunities for public consultation.
Additional details and documents relating to the action are included below.
WSCC sent the following response and accompanying documents to ChiCycle on the 14th January 2022: Response to pre-action letter 14.1.22, White House Farm Infrastructure Steering Group Terms of Reference, PLAN _ WGSR_100_GENERAL ARRANGEMENT_Rev P04.
WSCC also sent a copy of an email invitation for ISG meeting No7 showing that Chichester District Access Mobility Group had been invited by emails addressed and sent to Info@chichesteraccessgroup.org.uk. CDAMG had changed their email address in early 2021 to firstname.lastname@example.org and therefore probably would not have received the invitation to meeting No7, however it appears they would have successfully received earlier ISG invitations. We have not provided a copy of this email as it contains various private email addresses of people who may wish to have their contact details kept private.
WSCC County Highways (Development Management) Team Manager Steven Shaw was unable to confirm or deny planning documents for the conversion of the Westgate/Sherborne-Rd pavements had ever been made publicly available. To ChiCycle, it appearers that they have never been made available either on the WSCC or CDC planning portals. Steven Shaw wrote to ChiCycle on the 22nd December 2021 explaining:
I am not aware of the Stage 2 RSA being made publicly available on either the WSCC or CDC website.
On the 17th of December, Steven Shaw had replied to ChiCycle’s request for disclosure of a road safety audit stage two for the proposals to alter Westgate/Sherborne-Rd mini roundabout. Although a stage one road safety audit was published as part of the S106 agreement outline planning agreement, these outline plans did not show conversion of pavements to shared use in any of the contentious and dangerous locations around the periphery of the roundabout. The stage one road safety audit plans showed cyclists would be safely segregated from pedestrians at the south east, north east and north west quadrants of the mini roundabout.
Further to Becky’s email please find attached the Stage 2 Road Safety Audit for the highway works at the junction of Westgate/Sherborne Road.
The Stage 1 RSA should already be publicly available on the Chichester District Council planning register (https://www.chichester.gov.uk/viewplanningapplications) by searching under planning application CC/14/04301/OUT.
Steven attached a document curiously named “Westgate Road Sherborne Road mini roundabout Chichester RSA 1 Final Nov 16th 2020 (002).pdf”. This contained a Road Safety Audit Stage 2 (RSA2) that was previously unseen by ChiCycle. The RSA2 was produced by M & S Traffic on behalf of Jubb and dated 16th November 2020. The meta data of the file sent to ChiCycle includes a last modified date of Fri 17th Dec 2021 10:42 GMT when it appears to have been converted to PDF format from a word file. The metadata creation date for the word document is “Wed 25 Nov 2020 05:48:29 GMT”. It is curious that the recorded metadata creation date of the RSA2 word document is 9 days after its stated date of final draft (16th November 2020)? A copy of the RSA2 PDF document sent to ChiCycle on the 17th Nov 2021 is available on this link.
Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) CHS9038RC documents appear to remain the only source of plans made publicly available showing the conversion of existing footways on Westgate/Sherborne-Rd into shared use cycle tracks. Residents are anxious that the proposals for the West of Chichester Development Southern Access Road dovetail precisely with TRO CHS9038RC conversion of pavements into shared use cycle tracks. This will result in effectively all cycle traffic from the National Cycle South Coast Route being forced onto inadequate pavements which will be impractical for cycling at many times of the day due to significant levels of pedestrian traffic and when cyclists can use the pavements this will severely endanger vulnerable pedestrians.
Details of the West of Chichester Development Southern Access Road proposals around the vicinity of the Westgate/Sherborne-Rd mini roundabout can be seen on this plan given in PDF format. Further details of the SAR & the development Phase 2 proposals are available here.
Steven Shaw has given residents several assurances that only few “confidence lacking” cyclists will use the proposed shared use cycle tracks on the Westgate/Sherbourne-Rd pavements. These reassurances will be valuable to argue against the Southern Access Road proposals relocating effectively all the cyclists onto unsuitable shared use pavements around the mini-roundabout. These assurances are available on the following links. Sent to ChiCycle Wed, 7 Jul 2021 11:47:41; Sent to Sarah Quail Chair of Westgate Residents Association 14th Dec 2021.
ChiCycle’s solicitor Alice Goodenough suggests we could now pursue a case to the Local Government Ombudsman.