STATUS REPORT ON THE LOLA CAMPAIGN
BACKGROUND 2013 -2015
- The proposal to permanently close the Oving Traffic Lights was included as part of the Outline Planning Consent granted by Chichester District Council (CDC) in May 2013 to Hanbury Properties Ltd for a development of 500 houses on the Shopwyke Lakes site.
- The Highways Agency (HA) insisted on this condition as a quid pro quo for a new access onto the A27 to/from the north of the Shopwyke Lakes site. The permanent closure to all through traffic except buses and emergency vehicles was approved by the HA as a statutory consultee based on inadequate traffic data and inaccurate accident statistics at the crossroads.
- Since the installation of intelligent traffic lights in December 2009 by the HA at a cost of some £600,000, they have worked very well and are the preferred route into and out of Chichester from a large catchment area. Having spent the money on upgrading the traffic lights, why change them?
- A traffic survey carried out in Oving Parish indicate that during weekdays, an average of 4500 vehicles per day travel through the village in both directions. Only about 900 of these were from the village. Clearly, this route is used by a large number of vehicles from a wide catchment area, most of which regularly use the Oving Traffic Lights.
- Westbourne House School (WHS) carried out a traffic survey on Shopwyke Road and recorded nearly 7000 vehicles during the 12 hour weekday period. These include many of those coming through Oving and others coming from Tangmere Parish and beyond. Closure of the traffic lights will result in additional traffic being diverted onto the already congested A27.
- After the May 2013 decision, WHS and Oving Parish Council (OPC) commissioned traffic consultants to re-evaluate all the traffic data. They conclude that closure of this junction will not significantly improve the flow of traffic along the Chichester Bypass, but can be improved by the construction of a dedicated left turn lane into Oving/Shopwyke Road southbound from the Portfield Roundabout. There would also be significant reductions in extraneous traffic rat running through the new housing development site that would clearly be to the benefit of the developer and safety of the residents.
- Hanbury Properties (HP) have decided not to seek removal of the condition to close Oving Traffic Lights as they do not wish to prejudice their application for full planning consent. OPC therefore decided to file a Planning Application under Section 73 to remove this condition from the consent granted to HP. This required a Traffic and Transport report and the application was validated and registered as O/14/01777/OUT in August 2014.
- OPC also agreed to build on the success of the LOLA Campaign to seek widespread support from surrounding parishes whose residents and businesses are presumed to use the Oving Traffic Lights as their route of choice in and out of Chichester. This included a wide publicity campaign of presentations to parish councils southeast of Chichester plus numerous articles and in the Bognor and Chichester Observer newspapers. There was almost unanimous support to retain the Traffic Lights and their comments were posted and can be seen on the Chichester District Council website for the above application.
- A second e-petition was again supported with almost 2000 signatories.
- The planning application was never heard by the CDC Planning Committee as the HA, as a statutory consultee, imposed a series of “Holding Directions” to prevent this. The HA insisted that further work and unreasonable traffic modelling was required. OPC did not agree with these requirements nor have the funds to carry out such studies.
- A meeting with he HA, West Sussex Highways, CDC and stakeholders was held in March 2015. It was hoped that CDC would arbitrate on what additional work was required. This did not happen and instead OPC were advised that unless it was done the planning application would be cancelled as it had not been heard within the requisite time. Subsequently, we were advised that CDC officers could determine it using their delegated powers and would reject the application.
- OPC decided that it would be better to withdraw the application as it would buy us more time and could be resubmitted free of charge within 12 months. This was done in June 2015.
- On 1st April 2015 the HA changed their name to Highways England (HE) and following correspondence with our MP Andrew Tyrie we were informed that by the Secretary of State for Transport that the HE powers had changed. The HE power of veto has been removed and they can only submit a recommendation to the Planning Authority which does not have to be accepted. They are also now unable to issue “Holding Directions”.
- We were aware that significant improvements to the A27 Chichester Bypass were planned. These would require significant traffic modelling to be done by the consultants working on behalf of HE. This would have invalidated the modelling required by OPC that would have been a complete waste on our public funding.
PLANS FOR 2016
- In January 2016 the Observer newspaper and Spirit FM leaked details of the seven options for improvements to the A27 being considered by Mott MacDonald, consultants working on behalf of HE. HE has advised that these are only drafts that may change before they go for public consultation in March 2016.
- Brief comments on these options can be seen elsewhere on this Community Website.
- Groundworks have now commenced on the Shopwyke Lakes development site and construction of the roads and buildings will start soon. This is now identified as a “neighbourhood” of Chichester and further developments in the area are planned. These could double the population there and it is inconceivable that they should be isolated from the city by the closure of the Oving crossroads.
- Planning Application O/14/01777/OUT will be resubmitted by OPC to CDC at the beginning of June 2016. We shall again run a publicity campaign to encourage support from local residents and surrounding parishes that will be affected by the closure of the Oving Traffic Lights.
- OPC will insist that our planning application is considered by the Planning Committee. This will probably be after HE has issued their preferred option – currently planned for Summer 2016. There will then be a further consultation period until the decision is agreed in Summer 2017.
- When the Planning Committee hears or application, the most likely outcome will be that they will recommend to Defer it until the option for the A27 has been agreed. That will gain us further time for our Traffic Consultant to carry out any further studies required and hopefully mean that the application cannot be cancelled again. There is still a good chance that the committee members will vote to approve it!
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