‘Stop regarding cyclists as a bunch of nutters and nuisance people’, one Tory councillor told colleagues last week.
Horsham District Council is looking to spend £200,000 reconfiguring Hurst Road Car Park to provide extra spaces, and is also introducing entry and exit barriers to facilitate the ticketless automatic number plate recognition system.
The council’s own Planning Committee North Committee deferred the planning application back in August due to concerns about pedestrian safety and a lack of consultation with the Horsham District Cycling Forum.
However the forum claimed that proposals, which were approved by the committee last Tuesday (September 5), were finalised 15 minutes after their meeting with council officers to discuss alternatives.
The group said they had been ‘deceived’ and called the consultation a ‘sham’.
Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East) said: “There was not a genuine consultation with the cycling forum and we have to engage with them earlier in the future and not just regard them as a bunch of nutters and nuisance people.”
Connor Relleen (Ind, Horsham Park) described a ‘strong need’ for the extra spaces, but expressed concern about a lack of ‘meaningful’ consultation.
The changes to the application have see the replacement central footpath widened to three metres, extra replacement planting on either side, 33 instead of 37 car parking spaces, and 28 additional cycling spaces.
Chris Lyons, director of planning, economic development and property, explained that the proposals could have been redrafted following the meeting with the cycling forum, adding: “From that conversation there’s nothing that we can see from that meeting that we can change the plans any further.”
The cycling forum’s proposals would have kept the pedestrian boulevard, most of the landscaping, and added a cycle path, as well as between 16-23 car spaces.
During the meting, Ruth Fletcher, speaking for the cycling forum, said: “If you settle for the mediocre here, developers will know they can get away with mediocre elsewhere.”
Meanwhile Jonathan Chowen, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said he was ‘sorry to disappoint Ruth’, but added: “I do not think there was an opportunity to do anything meaningful. It would have just been tokenism if we had done anything.”
A spokesman for HDC said: “We take seriously all comments on planning applications and in all cases have to weigh up competing and conflicting interests to arrive at what we consider to be the best decision in the circumstances.
“That is what we did in this case and as was explained at the committee meeting, the deadline for the committee agenda meant the report had to be published when it was but if the council had found there was a better solution following the meeting, then the application could have been amended before the committee or withdrawn for further consideration.”