Christs Hospital bridleway diversion

West Sussex County Council are proposing to divert a bridleway (BW 1642) that provides access for Southwater residents to Christ’s Hospital station.

Map showing existing all-weather path (in green) and proposed diversion (in red)

Map showing existing all-weather path (in green) and proposed diversion (in red)

The closure of this bridleway would remove an attractive, direct and well-used cycle route from the north of Southwater (which is significantly shorter than using the road) and replace it with a more indirect route which would be unlikely to have such a good surface or width.

Map showing proposed diversion of bridleway

Map showing proposed diversion of bridleway

At a time when the population of Southwater is rapidly increasing, the on-road cycle routes are becoming more hostile and there are significant problems from commuter car parking on the verges in Christ’s Hospital, this closure would prevent using this bridleway to form part of a viable all-weather off-road cycle route to Christ’s Hospital station and play a role in reducing our car dependency.

The bridleway that is to be "entinguished"

The bridleway that is to be “extinguished”

Please send your objections in writing to:

Legal Services (ref:CC3/13022/AD) West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1RQ

or by email to:

legal.services@westsussex.gov.uk
(include ref:CC3/13022/AD in the message header)

Objections must be received no later than the 22nd April 2016. To make your objection more effective you will need to state the grounds on which it is being made.

N.B. Please copy your objections to info@hdcf.org.uk so we can update you on the next stage.

You can view the forum’s response here.

Background

BW 1642 is an ancient way from Southwater to Itchingfield which pre-dates the establishing of Christs Hospital School in 1902 on the site of the former Stammermans Estate and predates the railway station of c.1912.

In 2014 the cycle forum published a proposal in response to planning application DC/13/1412 to enhance the missing link from West of Horsham, Southwater and Broadbridge Heath to Christs Hospital Station and to the Downs Link on the old Rudgwick railway line to provide a contiguous all-weather sustainable cycleway. The metalled part of the way across the school’s playing fields, BW 1642, is an example the vision for the whole route.

If made, this order will degrade a useful direct way for the local communities. It will make the improvement of future sustainable travel envisaged by the cycle forum for the purposes of access to the railway station and safe access to and from the Downs Link much more difficult to establish.

Possible grounds to object

This is a “special” extinguishment and diversion (under sections 118B, 118C, 119B and 119C of the Highways Act 1980) to protect pupils from violence, threat of violence, harassment, alarm, distress or any other risk to their health of safety arising from unlawful activity.

Make your own arguments, as far as possible in your own words and from your own experience. Legally relevant arguments for objection could include any of the following.

1. The risks are not high enough to justify the order

From viewing the school’s incident log over several years, very few significant incidents have been recorded. For some of these, access to the site was almost certainly obtained from another place, not the bridleway, for example thefts from the tennis pavilion which is near the road.

  • The majority of incidents are trivial things such as dog fouling and picnicking.
  • The bridleway is not close to the main school area and its buildings. The school is required to safeguard the pupils and, if it had really considered the risks to be serious, it would already, as an interim measure, have taken more temporary measures both to safeguard the children and to protect its vulnerable property (such as the nearby games pavilion) from vandalism.
  • The school allows its pupils to travel unsupervised into public areas such as Horsham town centre where all the same risks (flashers, dogs, broken glass etc.) are present.
  • The police are stated to be “silent” on the risks – indicating they do not consider there to be a serious problem here.

2. The school has not taken reasonable alternative measures

For example, it would be easy and affordable to put up a fence or hedge alongside the bridleway (with gates for legitimate access by school pupils and staff) as well as more prominent notices telling people to stay off the private land and/or install CCTV (as they have used elsewhere on the site). These measures would be straightforward as well as being cheaper and less disruptive than the current proposals.

The school has an obligation to provide an appropriate level of supervision to safeguard the children in its care. It is not reasonable for the school to expect to be able to exclude the public from large tracts of the surrounding land simply in order to reduce the need for appropriate supervision.

3. The proposed measure will not result in a substantial improvement in security

Diverting the bridleway will just remove the problem slightly further away: it will not prevent access to the school site from the diverted bridleway.

The school has a very extensive boundary and the risk of intruders from elsewhere along the boundary will remain and be larger than that from the bridleway. For example, gaining access from the road either through the gates or across a fence brings an intruder closer to buildings and children.

The school actively welcomes the public onto its site for commercial gain (Bluecoats sports centre, theatre, various holiday activities etc.) and other events (e.g. pupils and their guests from other schools for musical and other events). Large numbers of the public enter freely during the day and evenings.

4. The proposed replacement route is inferior

The proposed diversion is less direct and less convenient: it takes you round three sides of what is roughly a rectangle instead of going along one side.

It will not have an all-weather surface (commensurate with the current majority use by cyclists and people going for a stroll).

The established hedgerows butt right up against the existing footpath/proposed new bridleway and, although the overhanging vegetation has recently been cut back, it will grow back repeatedly and obstruct the bridleway.

There will be a loss of views of an iconic local building.

The overall result is a net loss in the total length of public rights of way.

The proposed route passes next to a pond and is likely to become boggy and/or flooded in wet weather.

5. There will be environmental damage

The proposals will require hedgerows to be grubbed out to give the notified 4m width.

The proposed route passes very close to a pond and, if the games pitches are not realigned, an area of wild habitat will have to be removed to give a 4m wide route.

6. The bridleway is well-used and loved by walkers, cyclists and equestrians

It provides part of a direct traffic-free route between the northern part of Southwater and the station and the Downs Link which avoids fast and heavy rush hour traffic.

7. The proposal would be against NPPF requirements to prioritise sustainable transport

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires planning to protect and exploit opportunities for sustainable transport (including cycling). The Horsham District Cycling Forum has put forward proposals to make use of this bridleway, together with bridleway 1662, to form a short and direct cycle route from the north of Southwater to Christs Hospital station and the Downs Link. This would improve uptake of sustainable transport and reduce the need for commuters to drive to the station.

This would play a part in reducing the acknowledged problem of unsafe and environmentally damaging parking on the road and verges of Christ’s Hospital (over 60 cars per day).

8. This is an ancient bridleway which predates the school

This is an historic route. The school has always known of its existence and had the opportunity to design its operations to accommodate the existence of the bridleway.

Why BW 1642 is important for cycling

  • This route more than halves the current on-road distance from Southwater to Christ’s Hospital station (1.8 miles against 4.1 miles).
  • It avoids fast and heavy rush-hour traffic on busy Worthing Road and the rural lanes.
  • With another 600 new dwellings from the Berkeley homes development, Worthing Road will become even busier and road widening will make it more hostile for cycling.
  • Christ’s Hospital is blighted by commuter cars parking on the verges and junctions – typically over 60 cars every weekday in a tiny hamlet. With a proper all-weather surface, this route could put all the commuters from the northern part of Southwater within about a 10 minute cycle ride of the station – most of it off-road.
  • It’s also a lovely cycle ride: already well-used (despite deficiencies in the surfacing) with one of the best views across the playing fields to the architectural gem and local landmark that is Christ’s Hospital School.

Find out more

If you would like to know more, or want to contribute your views to the debate, please join us at our next forum meeting, which is on Tuesday 5th April at 7.30pm in the Bodium Room, WSCC, County Hall North, Parkside, Horsham. (Please use the entrance on the left side of building.)

Related documents

Notice of Extinguishment

Extinguishment Order

Diversion Order

Rights of Way Committee agenda

Rights of Way Committee minutes

Comments

  1. Ruth Fletcher says:

    This closure is being readvertised now (April 2017) because WSCC made a technical mistake last time and need to repeat the process to meet all the legal requirements.
    The school has confirmed that they still want to push ahead with the closure and we are expecting this to go to a public enquiry. WSCC tell us this could be early next year.
    If you have already made an objection, there is no need to repeat it, but if you didn’t object last time, or want to add to your earlier objection, then now is your chance.
    All new objections need to be sent to Legal Services (ref:CC3/13022/AD) West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1RQ and must be received by 4th May.
    It will help us if you send a copy of your objection to us at info@hdcf.org.uk.

  2. given theat the replacement route is very boggy most of the year. This whole right of way will be all but lost.

  3. I find it infuriating when ancient rights of way are arbitrarily moved by institutions. I have ridden (horses) along the bridleway for over 30 years and object strongly to this move by the school. It isn’t the first time they’ve upset the community though. I well remember protesting against the building of hundreds of houses and a school on a flood plain and the old toxic waste tip! Thankfully we won that battle.

  4. A disappointing move. Things really don’t seem to be going in the right direction in West Sussex when it comes to cycling 🙁 I have objected.

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