‘Great need’ to improve Arun’s cycling and walking routes

Councillors have supported the idea of investing in five routes which would improve the way people travel around the Arun district without a car.

At the first meeting of the district council’s planning policy committee on Tuesday (June 1), members were given an update on the Active Travel Study commissioned to look into the area’s cycle paths, bridleways, shared paths and public rights of way.

A report to the committee said: “As part of updating the Arun Local Plan and following declaration of a Climate Change Emergency, Arun District Council is making steps towards reducing carbon emissions.

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“As part of this effort, the council is looking to prioritise active travel as a way to give communities the opportunity to reduce car-use, while at the same time improve safety, health and wellbeing.”

Adam Bunce, director of 2020 Consultancy, which carried out the work, told the meeting that, other than around the A259 link, there was ‘very little active infrastructure’ for cyclists, walkers and riders.

The study showed that the district has one of the lowest rates among neighbouring authorities for people who cycle to work or other destinations – only Horsham’s rate is lower – and the lowest of all for people who walk.

The number of people who cycle for fun in Arun is much higher.

But the study said there was a ‘great need for improvement of the existing facilities’.

Arundel to Littlehampton via Ford Road

The 2020 team highlighted 15 potential routes for improvement but said it would be ‘unrealistic’ to expect to receive funding for them all as they would cost tens of millions of pounds.

Instead, they narrowed it down to five priority routes:

Arundel to Littlehampton via Ford Road route;

• Aldwick region route;

Part of National Cycle Network (NCN2) Littlehampton to Goring-by-Sea Inbound route

• Ford to North Mundham via old canal route;

• Fontwell to Felpham missing links route;

• National Cycle Network (NCN2) Littlehampton to Goring-by-Sea Inbound route.

There were some mixed feelings among the committee about the study’s suggestions.

Aldwick region route

While the estimated costs of the five routes would be £14m, Isabel Thurston (Green, Barnham) felt that would be money well spent.

She said: “It sounds like a lot of money but actually it’s not very much money compared to road improvements. They’re value for money in terms of what they are going to give to our residents for the future.

“This is the sort of thing we need to be completely supporting.”

But Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East) wondered whether so much new infrastructure was really needed given that some was already in place.

While acknowledging there were gaps, he said the idea of five new routes was like ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’.

There were also concerns from chairman Richard Bower (Con, East Preston) about how much of the land needed to build the routes was not owned by the council.

The committee was initially asked to simply note the study – but that recommendation was changed, asking them instead to support its use to inform the development of the revised Local Plan.

That support was duly given.

Campaigners have been pushing for a safe route between Arundel and Ford’s railway stations and welcomed the route’s inclusion as one of Arun’s top priorities.

A petition in support of the route has already topped 1,500 signatures and will soon be presented to both Arun and West Sussex County Council.

Campaigners say that WSCC has already indicated that with Arun’s endorsement, the route can qualify for government grants.

Meanwhile Highways England has also said it will work with the campaign to apply for funding to complete a detailed design study during 2022 if the business case can be proved.

Campaign spokesperson Andy Batty said: “We know we have a strong business case. The support for this campaign has been incredible. We are delighted with the ways things are coming together. At last, the three towns within Arun might become joined up for active travel.”