Cyclists want more say ahead of planning bids

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Horsham District Cycling Forum wants to be consulted on planning applications before they are submitted.

Cycling experts, councillors, council officers and residents discussed how to improve Horsham’s cycling provision at its inaugural summit meeting at Parkside on Thursday (July 9).

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Some 50 people heard planning authorities in London and Brighton consulted cycling groups before developers apply for planning permission. People asked what needed to be done to ensure cycling schemes were taken forward.

Cycling Forum (HDCF) committee member, Ruth Fletcher said: “The problem in West Sussex is that we don’t have anybody who has a responsibility for cycling.” She said the county council was not able to bid for funds for cycle infrastructure as a result and added: “A lot of it is actually about political will and the need for the local planning authority demanding more from the highways authority (West Sussex County Council).”

Peter Smith, Crawley Borough Council Cabinet Member, said people should ‘get friendly’ with council officers who manage Horsham District’s planning bids. He said the county council would not implement cycle schemes without funding grants from developers.

County councillor Jim Rae (Ind, Roffey) said: “We must get the cycling in as part of the statutory consultation. Unless that happens cycling will be tacked in on the back end because it’s the last thing that’s thought of [in the planning process].”

County councillor Brad Watson (Con, Southwater and Nuthurst) said: “We need the lobby big enough for the voice to be heard.”

Mark Strong, who works for Transport Initiatives, is a transport consultant who became involved with cycling in Horsham in 2009. He said: “Horsham should have everything that makes a city or a town cyclable because it’s small and compact.

“It’s better than most places and it’s almost completely flat - all the factors that should be there to make Horsham cycle friendly.”

Dr Rachel Aldred is a senior lecturer in Transport at the Westminster University who specialises in cycling.

She said: “I think there’s pretty solid evidence that people say they don’t want to cycle in mixed traffic.

“There’s growing evidence that if we built routes that people actually say they want they take it (cycling) up.”

Mrs Fletcher said: “Although the long term benefits massively outweigh the risks of cycling it’s simply not safe enough to get people on to bikes.” She said the number of people seriously injured or killed cycling in Horsham had doubled since 2010. The rise was higher than the rise in the number of cyclists. She added major developments were an opportunity to build better and safer cycle routes.

A spokesman for Horsham District Council said it supported HDCF’s opportunity to comment on major developments in the plan preparation process and planning applications. The prospective developer of land north of Horsham, Liberty Property Trust, was engaged with the council in pre-application discussions before it submitted an application. The council has asked Liberty to engage with HDCF to gain its views and help shape the proposed cycling strategy. She said: “A similar process was undertaken in the preparation of the masterplans and subsequent major planning applications on land west of Horsham, Southwater and at Kilnwood Vale.”

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