'It's not our fault' say landowners in wrangle over repairs to major Sussex road
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The A29 at Church Hill in Pulborough was shut in December after a landslide left debris strewn across the road. The road remained closed for four months – causing traffic chaos – until it was reopened to single-lane traffic only in April.
West Sussex County Council says that there is now ‘no clear solution’ to reopening the road fully. It says it has been trying to secure agreement of the two landowners ‘but unfortunately this has not been successful.’
However, one of the landowners – Andrew Mussett – said this week: “There would seem to be the perception that the landowners are preventing the council from undertaking the repairs necessary to reopen the road. This is not the case.
"In reality the council have no concrete plans for the restitution of the cutting or in the prevention of further problems.”
He added: “The responsibility for the cutting lies with the council, which is, as far as I'm aware not contested. The problem from the landowners’ standpoint is that the council are unable to describe in any detail the short and longer term measures they propose. Nor are they prepared to state their intentions as to what they are ultimately trying to achieve.
“The problems on the hill are multifactorial and extend beyond the simple clearing away of earth. There are significant traffic and safety concerns as well as the contributory elements of increased traffic utilisation.
"The landowners recognise these complexities and have tried to work with the council in both understanding the problems and suggesting various solutions. Despite assertions to the contrary, the council have been reluctant to engage in any meaningful dialogue. Such is our frustration that independent expert mediation has been suggested.”
He added: “Threats of legal action in respect of the intransigence of the landowners is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. We can't agree permission for work that can't be properly described.
"Permission has long been granted to undertake work on the trees and access to properly determine areas of concern. A comprehensive dialogue has long been sought. The suggestion that legal action is now necessary is at best misleading.
“This is, to some extent, a community problem, and a community forum has been proposed. It remains unfair to simply lay the blame at the door of the landowners who are probably keener than most to see matters sensibly resolved.”
Fellow landowner Fran Bune said: “Both Andrew and myself are keen to get this all sorted.”
She said she had written to West Sussex County Council’s Highways Department’s head of law but had not received a reply nor an acknowledgement.
And, she said, she had continually raised concerns about dead trees in the area, adding: “As Mr Mussett has stated we both gave permission for them to address the trees, yet nothing has been done and they still pose a real danger and risk to the public driving through the cutting.”
It has been suggested that the problems should be addressed at a public meeting “where both parties can present their concerns and explain their standpoint.”