The cycleway was installed in Upper Shoreham Road in September 2020 as part of a bid to encourage active travel during the first UK Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
It was one of six in the county paid for using grant money from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.
The move did not sit well with Cycling UK, which sought a judicial review, accusing the council of acting illegally and ignoring government guidance.
On Wednesday (January 26), the charity announced that the council had chosen to settle the case ahead of a High Court hearing, which had been scheduled to be heard on the 25th.
Cycling UK’s solicitors, Leigh Day, said a Court Order had been made upholding the claim that the council did not follow statutory guidance when it decided to dismantle the cycle lane.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “In Shoreham, Cycling UK has drawn a line in the sand, showing there are repercussions for councils which ignore government guidance.
“Hopefully West Sussex County Council’s acceptance they acted illegally will put a stop to short-sighted decisions like this happening across other parts of the UK.”
The pop-up lanes were used as a way to encourage cycling during the early months of the pandemic.
While some proved hugely unpopular – a petition to have the Crawley lanes removed attracted thousands of signatures – the Upper Shoreham Road lane proved popular.
Cycling UK said it was used for more than 30,000 cycle trips and featured in a government publicity video highlighting the community benefits of the lanes during lockdown.
A council spokesman said: “We have settled the court case so as to avoid further cost to the public purse in relation to a decision taken some time ago and which has no implications for other proposals or schemes.
“We have accepted that we should have included in a council report a clearer account of government guidance and its effect before taking the decision.
“This may or may not have led to a different a decision about the temporary cycleway in Shoreham.”
The spokesman added that there was no prospect of the cycleway being restored.
He said: “The declaration therefore has no significance other than to resolve the litigation Cycling UK chose to undertake.
“We decided to minimise costs by making the declaration rather than have the matter go to a further hearing where the best outcome Cycling UK could reasonably have achieved would have been the declaration now agreed.”
While not involved in the case, Shoreham-By-Cycle followed it with interest.
A spokesman said: “With this issue now behind the council, we are hopeful that [it] can move forward with future decision-making that will better serve Shoreham residents, who are seeking safer easier choices for their local journeys.
“This would be in line with the clear policy and instruction of the Department for Transport, in addition to the council’s own policies and strategies.
“We are involved in conversations with officers and councillors, and with our MP Tim Loughton, who we know are all engaged in sincere efforts to find a design approach for Upper Shoreham Road that will work well and enhance the street for all residents of Shoreham.”
John Milne (Lib Dem, Horsham Riverside) said: “West Sussex County Council’s record on cycling continues to be bottom of the class. If they continue to ignore national standards for cycling provision, then further legal challenges and fines are only a matter of time.”
Fellow Lib Dem Kate O’Kelly (Midhurst), who spoke at the scrutiny committee meeting to oppose the decision to remove the cycle lanes, said: “Despite being presented with strong evidence of the benefit of the Shoreham cycle lane in particular, Cllr Elkins [the cabinet member at the time] proceeded to ignore the advice of backbench councillors and removed all of the lanes. It is hugely frustrating that the Conservative leadership have squandered the opportunity these temporary lanes gave to support active travel within the county. They have got to do better for the residents of West Sussex.”
Kirsty Lord (Hassocks and Burgess Hill South), leader of the WSCC Liberal Democrat Group, added: “Poor decision-making by the Conservatives in West Sussex has cost the county’s residents twice. Not only is the council now paying out public money to cover legal costs but they also became the only council in the country banned from bidding for the next round of the government’s Active Travel Fund which will likely cost the council millions of pounds in lost funding for cycling improvements.”
The county council is currently exploring options for improving active travel in Shoreham.