Independent expert to look at controversial Littlehampton fence

Councillors have called for an independent expert to review decisions which allowed a 3.5m acoustic fence to be built in Littlehampton.

Developer Persimmon is building the Fitzalan Link Road, which will run past The Littlehampton Academy and eventually join up with the new Lyminster bypass at the A259.

As part of that work, permission was given for a fence to reduce the noise of the traffic, which is being built right behind the back gardens of some homes in neighbouring Highdown Drive.

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At a meeting of Arun District Council’s development control committee on Tuesday (May 18), members discussed concerns raised about the position of the fence, its height and the decision to build it in weathered steel rather than wood.

The posts for the new acoustic fence behind Highdown Drive properties

Highdown Drive resident Tracy Lynch told the meeting she had no problem with the road or the idea of some sort of acoustic barrier – but she did have problems with the height, position and look of the fence.

She said: “I genuinely cannot tell you how awful this fence is. It’s 12ft tall and going to be made of rusting steel – a product actually designed for a motorway, as they currently are on the M27, and not a minor A-road.”

The fence was originally going to be 2.5m high and made of timber – suitable for the 30mph limit planned for the road – but a report to the committee said that it was increased to 3.5m after the speed limit was changed to 40mph.

As for the change to steel – that was approved in April 2020 as it was felt the steel would last four times longer than timber, cutting down on maintenance costs.

Campaigners have called for the speed limit to be dropped back to 30mph, allowing for the height of the fence to be reduced as well.

David Britton, county councillor for Littlehampton Town, said it was plain to see that the fence was ‘going to be a blight on the people who live along there’, especially those living in bungalows.

He added: “This barrier so close to their properties really does overshadow their homes. They are east-facing gardens, they are going to get no sunlight now in the morning because this barrier completely overshadows their homes and gardens.”

Mr Britton asked whether it would be possible to move the barrier away from the homes and closer to the road and if it could be built from transparent materials rather than steel.

It was a view shared by John Charles (Con, Barnham).

Mr Charles said: “I’ve every sympathy with the residents who will have this large fence so close to their homes. I understand the reason for the fence, however there’s no need for it to be so close to people’s homes.”

He added: “If the fence was moved to nearer the edge of the road, the height would not cause such a problem.”

The committee voted unanimously to call in an independent expert.

Their remit would be to review the decisions already taken to establish if there were any problems; to work out what legal options existed to make changes; and to tell the council what the financial and legal consequences would be.

Before that can go ahead, the full council has to agree to allocate up to £15,000 to pay for the work.

With that not likely to happen until July, the meeting was told that a report could be expected in September.

In the meantime, though, Persimmon is legally allowed to continue building the fence.

A spokesman for Persimmon Homes Thames Valley said: “We are in regular talks with Arun District Council and West Sussex County Council, and all works carried out on the Fitzalan Link Road are as specified in the approved planning permission.

 “We continue to work to a timetable set by the councils with a legally binding completion date of June 2021.

“Unfortunately any postponement of our works will prevent this target date being met.”