Horsham cycling community calls for project to take ‘once in a generation’ chance

Campaigners have urged councillors and developers to take a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to create a path that crosses the A264 via an underpass.

Sunday, 8th March 2015, 5:14 am
JPCT 280215 S15080524x Cyclists campaign for proper cycle link between Horsham and Crawley -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150228-131223001

Horsham District Cycling Forum (HDCF) has called on the developer for the North Horsham development, Liberty, to fund the proposed pedestrian and cycle path instead of creating traffic light crossings on the A264.

Some 30 residents gathered at the start of the route in Bartholomew Road in the rain on Saturday (February 28) to support HDCF’s ‘Missing Link’ campaign.

Liberty published its ‘Land North of Horsham Transport, Infrastructure and Flood Risk Report’ in October. Its potential transport strategy map did not include the ‘Missing Link’. The report stated: “An alternative route via the subway that exists under the A264 adjacent to the railway line has been considered, but negotiations with the landowner have not been successful to date.”

Liberty has proposed traffic light, ‘at grade’, crossings on Rusper Road roundabout, which would link to Wimland Road via a bridleway.

It is believed the landowner had wanted to sell the field to a developer.

District councillor Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park) said: “It’s part of the [development’s] business park - there’s no way that’s going to be left as a field so there’s an opportunity for, to encourage, Liberty to use it.”

Ruth Fletcher, a lead campaigner for HDCF, said: “It’s hard to conceive any fundamental problem with access on that land now.”

The HDCF’s route would connect Bartholomew Way in north Horsham to Wimland Road in the North Horsham development area instead.

The sections to and from the underpass would run parallel to the A264 on fields and woodland.

The route would go through a field north of the A264 which has not been allocated in the North Horsham development plan.

A spokesman for Horsham District Council said: “Until this site is allocated and a master plan approved this last link cannot realistically be achieved.

“The HDPF [Horsham District Planning Framework] is scheduled to be adopted in the autumn of 2015 and a planning application may come in after that.”

Andrew Blevins, managing director of Liberty Property Trust UK, said: “We will be working with Horsham District Council, West Sussex County Council and local groups to deliver the best possible link across the site.”

But Mrs Fletcher said: “I think it’s lots of greenwash.

“The council need to be more robust with dealing with the development.

“To date there’s not a proper commitment from Liberty or the councils to fund the cycling infrastructure.

“At the moment they are going to do the cars and say we can add in some cycling stuff afterwards, if it works out and we have the right money, and at that point it will be too late.”

Mrs Haigh, a member of the Development Control Committee North, added: “I hope that they will commit to this.

“Cars can still go over there, and they are not held up by people crossing.

“I don’t think what [Liberty] have done so far is adequate.

“There have to be more links for pedestrians and cyclists, we cannot just give priority to the car all the time.”

Representatives from Sustrans, a UK charity that promotes travelling by foot, bike or public transport, attended the gathering.

Gordon Easden, 50, of Crawley, who coordinates Sustrans volunteers in Horsham and Crawley, has campaigned for the ‘Missing Link’ to be finished for a decade. He said: “What we’ve got here is a once in a generation opportunity to connect Horsham to the national cycle network.

“If we don’t get it now it will never happen in our lifetimes.

“The Horsham, Crawley and the county council have invested in this route between Crawley and Horsham.

“It is substantially in place because of that investment, we just need to finish it.”

The path would connect to an existing Sustrans route from Wimland Road to Crawley.

The Sustrans route stops at the A264 junction on Wimland Road, where there is an unmarked crossing to a path on the other side of the dual carriageway.

Louise Skipton-Carter, 49, of Forest Field, Horsham, manages Sustrans officers working in communities and has lived in Horsham for 25 years. She said the way to Crawley was beautiful but ‘you take you life in your hands’ crossing the A264.

Louise said Horsham was a ‘black hole’ for cycling and the route would connect national cycle networks from Crawley and the Downs Link.

She added the charity wanted national foot and cycle paths to avoid traffic as much as possible and the A264 crossing had stopped it being made part of the network.

Philip Borroughs, 27, is a Sustrans ‘Bike It’ officer who promotes cycling in Horsham schools.

He said pupils at the development’s proposed school would benefit from the underpass crossing.

“There would be kids that would have to cross the development,” he said.

“Having that link is incredibly important.

“Kids really want to be able to cycle to school, feel safe, be active and have fun in the morning when going to school.”

Mr Borroughs said a lack of cycling infrastructure stopped children cycling to schools in Horsham.

He said: “There’s an incredible amount of interest - young kids want to cycle, a lot of parents want them to cycle but there’s the reality - the infrastructure simply isn’t there a lot of the time.”

Mrs Haigh said: “Where there are good cycle routes for children to get to schools the children are healthier and fitter. There’s a black hole around Horsham and Horsham is a growing town, it needs to be connected.

“There’s a lot of pressure to have cycle parking in houses but there’s nowhere to cycle - it’s just laughable.

“We have to keep talking with the developer to ensure they deliver the infrastructure as part of this development.”

Stephanie Lyons, of Pondtail Road, Horsham, said of the campaign: “Long overdue. The last time I cycled to Crawley I got knocked off my bike by a lorry.”

Chris Nayler, 52, of Dickens Road, Horsham, an engineer, crosses the A264 commuting to Crawley on his bike. He said he sees two or three cyclists on the A264 on his journeys and added: “I must have a near miss everyday.

“It [HDCF’s route] would be a perfect, safe way to get to Crawley and it really is a missing link.”

Gordon, chairman of Crawley Cycling Forum, said: “We cannot directly get involved in the process - it’s something we want but not something we can directly affect.”