Horsham’s Missing Link – WS County Times article now online

The 2-page Special Report in the West Sussex County Times is now available online.

Photo courtesy Steve Cobb (WSCT)

Photo courtesy Steve Cobb (WSCT)

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

  • Cyclists show support to support campaign for ‘missing link’ between Horsham and Crawley
  • Cyclists have been pushing for link between Horsham and Crawley for more than a decade
  • Developer behind North Horsham plans says it will work to deliver best possible link across the site

Article by Berny Torre published Sunday 8 March 2015

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.

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.

“The council need to be more robust with dealing with the development.” – Ruth Fletcher, a lead campaigner for the Horsham District Cycling Forum

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.”

Comments

  1. Lorenzo says:

    There’s a bit of an (admittedly poor) in joke in our family. Whenever my parents in law ask, is there an Aldi in Horsham, or a cinema, for example, the retort is generally “No, but there’s one in Crawley”. My younger son even goes to school in Crawley (we live in Horsham). Doubtless there are many reasons for citizens of Crawley to visit Horsham too. There will inevitably be a large number of people who live in one town, but work in the other. The demand for travel between the two towns is surely high.

    There is a high quality road link (dual carriageway) between the two towns, an infrequent bus service,
    and a slightly better rail service, but for those that might want to cycle options are poor. One option is the A264 dual carriageway, it takes the shortest route and is flat. I’ve used it myself a few times, most memorably to cycle home in the dark from Three Bridges Station during weekend rail engineering works (I usually check, but had failed to on this occasion). I’ve never seen any other cyclists on this road and this is totally unsurprising as provision for cyclists is non existent and one is forced to cycle at the very edge of the road with your life basically in the hands of drivers of fast moving traffic.

    An alternative to the A264 is the “Forest Road” and this is my usual preferred choice. It is not without it’s own problems though. The road takes a circuitous route (for most of Crawley) and has a surprisingly high level of traffic (presumably avoiding the A264). I’ve been tailgated on this road at 20 mph with the driver of the vehicle behind blaring his horn at me. I wouldn’t expect my son to cycle here (even if he were a few years older).

    The third alternative for those attempting to cycle between the two towns is a country lane (Wimlands Road and Lane) and bridleway (Kilnwood Lane) broadly parallel to the A road, but to the north. This was the route I chose to try today. I was familiar with the first part, but used Google maps for the part beyond Kilnwood Lane. Google suggested two routes and I chose the one that went via Coniston Close and Fairway.

    I left Horsham via the Crawley Road through Roffey. Once you reach the Roffey crossroads and turn left to stay on the Crawley Road the traffic gets noticeably heavier. There are no facilities here for people on bikes. In fact the only dedicated infrastructure on the whole route is a few hundred metres of track near Ifield (with an underpass under the A23).

    I turned right onto the Old Crawley Road. Traffic levels here were low as this is essentially an access only road. To reach Wimland Road it is necessary to cross the A264 on the level. The access path to the “crossing” was not signposted, and was very narrow. I suspect it may have been a footpath only. Crossing the A264 involved using the grassed central reservation. Judging from the car tyre tracks it appeared a number of motorists had crossed the central reservation to turn right out of Wimland Road. Once on Wimland Road the route was simple enough. The road is narrow and although traffic is light I did need pull over to let a car past. Once on Kilnwood Lane traffic is even lighter, but the surface is a bit poor. The surfaced part of the route finishes and you need to open a gate to continue. Once through the gate the bridleway was passable on my touring bike at slow speed.

    After a short distance I spotted the path through to Coniston Close. This was the poorest part of the whole route, being extremely muddy. When I returned later there was a man coming through on a mountain bike. I didn’t notice any signposting to help find Crawley town centre, but obviously this wouldn’t be a problem for regular users.

    The route from here towards the town centre was fairly low traffic and even included a cycle track around the perimeter of a school and under the A23. It took me about 50 minutes on the way there starting near Horsham Cricket Club and taking one wrong turning. On the way back it took a more reasonable 40 minutes, but I only went as far as Hurst Road.

    If I needed to travel between the two towns daily I’d be very tempted to use the route via Kilnwood Lane, which whilst slow was relatively peaceful. I still wouldn’t expect my son to use this route on his own though as the lanes are narrow and there is still some traffic, and on the Crawley Road in Horsham, quite a lot of traffic.

    I believe if we were serious about increasing the use of cycling the ideal solution would be a high quality track paralleling the A264 with on road segregation at both ends. This would probably cost considerably less than the £150m being spent on the futile M23 junction 8-10 “smart motorway” project. Yes they’re different corridors with different providers, but pretty indicative of current thinking.

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