At a special planning meeting on Wednesday (December 15) – which was called solely to deal with the barrier – councillors supported a height reduction from 3.5 to 2.5 metres.
The barrier is intended to mitigate noise from the Fitzalan Link Road which was commissioned by developer Persimmon to join the new Lyminster bypass at the A259.
But errors have since been found in the original noise assessments and a new noise report commissioned by the council and published last month, found that a 2.5 metre wall would have been sufficient to bring noise to acceptable levels.
The costs of shortening the wall are currently speculative and a planning application will have to be submitted for it to go ahead.
Council officers said: “It’s not going to be a simple, quick, or cheap process.”
Councillor David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said the barrier ‘must be absolutely overbearing’ for residents.
‘We feel vindicated’
Resident Tracy Lynch, whose garden backs directly onto the acoustic barrier, said she felt ‘vindicated’.
“We are naturally delighted to have this much-needed review of the acoustic barrier and the vindication that the installation is inappropriate and over-engineered for such a minor road,” she said.
“Moving the fence or changing the material would be absolute folly, incredibly expensive, and an entirely inappropriate waste of more public money.
“The route forward here is a sensible reduction in height which will hugely reduce the horrific visual impact and, despite what may be thought by some, only reduce the noise mitigation by a mere four decibels – less than the sound of rustling leaves.
“There was not a single thought for the residents that would need to live behind this – now is [the council’s] chance to put this right.”
Concerns over compensation claims
Although they supported a shorter barrier, councillors had concerns over potential legal costs.
Persimmon agreed to indemnify the highways authority, West Sussex County Council, against legal costs arising from noise complaints for up to seven years.
If there is any change to the barrier, council officers said Arun District Council would need to ‘enter into a similar agreement’ with WSCC which could make it responsible for costs.
Councillor Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East) said: “I do think we need to know what we’re letting ourselves in for.
“One thing we don’t know is the issue that might occur as a result of the Land Compensation Act if there are people who are concerned about the noise that results from reducing the height of the barrier.
“We are dealing with public money – we’ve got to be very careful about this.”
Councillors also supported a consultation with Highdown Drive residents affected by the barrier and agreed to extend the consultation to include Amberley Close.
This was proposed by councillor Richard Bower (Con, East Preston) who said that some residents with ‘very small gardens’ had to ‘endure the wall’ and deserved a say on the way forward.
Campaign to lower speed limit
Some residents are also campaigning to have the speed limit lowered from 40 to 30 miles per hour but this would be a matter for WSCC, rather than Arun District Council.
Two days after the road opened last week, a Littlehampton Academy pupil was involved in a collision with a car and knocked off his bike.
The pupil was wearing a helmet and was discharged from hospital with minor injuries on the same day.
Head teacher Morgan Thomas said: “I had already contacted the West Sussex highways principal engineer about this stretch of road before today and I have now followed this up with a further letter to highlight my concerns.
“I am keen to ensure that we do not see another accident which could lead to serious injury or death.”