The campaigners handed in a petition with more than 1,500 signatures to Arun District Council and it was discussed at a full council meeting yesterday.
But the campaign received good news almost straight away when they heard the project had been given the green light a full day before the meeting.
This means that the infrastructure project – which would see cycle and footpaths between Arundel and Ford Railway Station – could finally get underway to provide a ‘safe route’ for residents and school children.
Campaigners argued that Ford’s station ‘is fundamentally inaccessible unless you arrive and leave by car’ adding that Ford Road can be ‘dangerous’ for cyclists and pedestrians.
In addition, they pointed out that Arundel secondary school children have ‘no local school’ and must ‘rely on busy parents to get them to and from the station’.
Andy Batty, from the Arundel Cycling and Walking Group, presented the petition on Wednesday.
“To be honest we didn’t expect 1,500 [signatures] when we first started,” he said.
“We were surprised how many people from Bognor and Littlehampton joined that petition when basically it started as an Arundel-centric thing.
“In 2020 Arun district’s own research into active travel revealed that people that cycle in the district, after they’ve cycled in their own area, their preference is to cycle through Arundel.
“It was like a hub really, and the reason for that is because the Ford Road is flat, the Ford Road is direct.
“My objective tonight is to ensure that councillors understand the level of public demand, explain why there is urgency, and ask the council to support the motion and instruct your officers to proceed urgently.
“This is really about doing the right thing for residents across the district: It does provide safe access to Ford station for Arundel secondary school children and workers who commute along the coastal plain; allows us to make more of the cycle route which was recently opened connecting Bognor and Littlehampton; and it makes it easier for workers to get from Littlehampton to Arundel, as there are no direct trains.”
In response, Richard Bower (Con, East Preston) said: “I have good news for you. As of last evening, planning policy committee considered this item under the CIL infrastructure project plan.
“This particular project was green lighted, much of the funding has been identified.
“It has to be delivered by West Sussex County Council, however, I can assure you that every member of the PPC voted in favour of the projects on that list – and this was one of them.”
Council leader Shaun Gunner said: “This council has committed to making the funds available to ensure this project goes ahead.
“So, from the town council, from the district council, to the county council, and from the Member of Parliament, you have got support.”
West Sussex county councillor Gary Markwell (Con, Arundel and Courtwick) said he was ‘delighted that the scheme has been supported so widely’.
He added: “This scheme will provide residents and visitors with a safe path to use, helping to encourage more environmentally friendly journeys to and from Arundel and improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
“I want to thank everybody who signed the petition and supported the scheme, especially Andy Batty.”
Councillors congratulated the ‘fantastic and professional campaign’ which saw a letter signed by 56 community leaders including the Duke of Norfolk, Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith, clergymen, Arundel headteachers and town, district and county councillors back in February last year.
Arundel’s mayor Tony Hunt, said: “Never has quite such a broad and representative group of Arundel leaders supported a request.
“It is not often that objectives relating to safety, the environment, climate change, and fitness and health can all be so well achieved by a single project.”