Anger grows over closure of key South Downs road
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West Chiltington Road – a major route between the A259 Pulborough and West Chiltington – has been shut since before Christmas at Panners Drive after flooding and ‘severe damage’ to the road surface following the collapse of a culvert under the carriageway.
Residents say that local businesses are now being hit by a loss of trade and there are concerns about drivers using a nearby narrow road – Stream Lane – as a short cut between the two villages. The road has a blind bend and is bordered by a stream.
Brian White, chairman of Nutbourne Residents’ Association, said: “There have been two collisions there and three cars had to be recovered from the stream on different occasions recently.
"Sooner or later there’s going to be a serious accident there and, God forbid, someone killed.”
Now residents are drawing parallels with the closure of another major road – the A29 at Church Hill in Pulborough – which was shut for months by West Sussex County Council following a landslide in 2022. Traffic there is still controlled by lights while repairs are awaited.
The council had originally planned to start repairs on West Chiltington Road in the first week of January but put it back to last week following prolonged rain.
However, residents maintain that little work has been done. Brian White said: “We’re still struggling to get any urgency out of West Sussex Highways and the road remains closed.” He said no-one had been seen working over the weekend.
A number of businesses in the village now say that trade has been impacted. Raj Kuchhadia, manager of the convenience store Nisa Local, said he had seen trade drop by around 20 per cent since the road closed. He said the shop was losing business every morning and evening.
A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said: “We understand people’s frustration at the lack of activity on the site and would like to assure them this work is a priority for us. However, progress at the culverted area is dependent on rainfall and water levels.
"We had heavy rain on Friday which meant water levels rose again and work had to stop until it was safe to resume. The team returned to the site yesterday (Monday) and was able to make some progress.
“When work is possible it will also be slower than we would ideally like because it is a complex site, with a number of utility services located around the culvert, which means it has to be excavated by hand.”
He said the council was aware that some drivers were using unsuitable roads, such as Stream Lane, as a cut-through. “We are aware that, with sat-nav technology, and those with local knowledge, there are some road users who unfortunately decide to find an alternative route to the formal one, which can include unsuitable roads.
"We would reiterate our plea to drivers to please use the formal, signed diversion route to avoid causing issues for residents and other road users.
“We appreciate that some roads, not on the diversion route, experience increased traffic and we carry out more regular, proactive inspections of these roads to address any safety concerns, such as regarding potholes.”