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January 2010

On the Home Front

We are starting 2010 with a feeling of great optimism. During our fairly short life we have learnt a great deal about how best to work with our District Council in a joint effort to improve accessibility for all. With their support and guidance we have achieved far more than we expected when we took our first tentative steps.

The fact that we have this website is one indication of how far we have come. This update gives a good idea of the variety of projects in which we are involved. It also shows our versatility. The listed projects are all in the future. That means there are no photographs as yet – so we’ve produced a thousand words instead. Read on.

 

Chichester Canal Basin Development

Some years ago the east side of the canal basin had a very welcome facelift. The old workshop building, and its car park, was replaced by a terrace of homes that gave a far more attractive view from the towpath on the other side. Behind the trees lining the path, another area was crying out to be developed, but the first plans that were submitted, for a complex of private and social housing, did not meet CAG’s standards of accessibility and we quickly made our opinions known.

After a meeting with the developers in October, our Chairman and Vice-Chairman reported that they were impressed by the latest plans. They were assured that all the properties will have level access and the apartments will be serviced by lifts. They discussed landscaping and heard there were going to be two, gently sloping ramps to the towpath and a beautifully accessible, ramped entranceway from Stockbridge Road. We are all very satisfied with this conclusion to our efforts.

 

East Wittering Beach Access

This seemed a straightforward request, but turned out to be surprisingly complex. Way back in the summer, the Group had been asked by a local scooter user to look into the current poor access to the beach from Shore Road and for help to get a safer concrete ramp installed.

Before anything else could be done, the person or group who accepted responsibility had to be found – and that was easier said than done. We discovered that ownership of this small area of the Manhood peninsular is shared amongst an amazing number of people and organizations. Eventually our intrepid Chairman found a man who knew the answer and, in October, she went with our Treasurer to meet him at the site.

Immediately, he explained that the power of the sea made the requested smooth concrete ramp an impossible dream. Strong tides and currents would just wash it away. The only advice they could give was that a new wooden walkway should be built, with a gentler slope and an extra handrail, and that the gap between the boards should be adjusted so that shingle thrown up by the waves could still drop through, but the legs of walking aids and walking sticks could not. The question of accessibility and safety concerning the western seafront continues to be a problem.  Watch this space!

 

A Tale of Three Crossings

Whether we walk, or use a scooter or wheelchair, we all need to be sure that we can go out and about safely, particularly when we have to cross roads or railways. During the last few months the Group has been very pleased to be consulted on three very different crossings in Chichester.

 

City Pedestrian Crossing

The simplest, and fairly common problem, concerned the timing of the traffic lights that controlled the crossing at the town end of St Paul’s Road. No-one likes having to sprint to get across before the lights change. The time has now been adjusted to cater for the slower pace of those with mobility issues and mothers with pushchairs and toddlers.

 

Kingsham Footbridge

The new footbridge across the A27, near the Whyke Road/Hunston roundabout, is a far more complicated project. This is a Highways Agency commission to improve the safety of people crossing a very busy, major road. When it has been completed the four gaps in the central reservation that are currently used will be closed.
As you would expect of a £2m project, the plans for this needed far more careful consideration. During a consultation, CAG had recommended that the slopes of the approaches to the 13m high structure needed to be gentler and that a resting place should be provided on each side to make the crossing easier for everyone to use.

In October, two of our assessors went to a meeting and exhibition at Kingsham Primary School where the amended plans were unveiled to the public. On the whole they were well received, although some local residents, whose homes may be overlooked, would have preferred the bridge to be 50 yards to the west. CAG has advised the Highways Department of West Sussex County Council that pedestrian crossings will also be needed on the roads on each side of the roundabout - Whyke Road and the road to Selsey. Work will start in March and is expected to take four months to complete.

 

Fishbourne Road East Railway Crossing

Local residents and groups, with support from their District Councillor, have been campaigning for the past seven years to improve safety at a site that has been labelled as “notorious” and the “death crossing” by local papers. Three people have been killed by trains and there have been many reports of incidents, near misses and also vandalism, since 1992. At long last something is being done.
During November, Network Rail set up a mobile exhibition near the site to display the two suggested solutions to the problem. Users and residents had the opportunity to ask questions, and make comments, on the merits of a bridge or a subway. Our Chairman had previously spoken to the WSCC and Network Rail officers responsible for the project. CAG’s preferred option is for a footbridge on the grounds of safety and accessibility. The proposed subway would be below the water table level and therefore liable to flooding.
Hundreds of forms were received following the consultation. A statement issued in December stated – “Once the preferred option of either a bridge or a subway is decided on, project teams will prepare a detailed plan on the way forward, taking into account feedback received from users of the crossing and local residents.” Once again, CAG have recommended to WSCC that a pedestrian crossing be provided on Fishbourne Road. We’ll also examine the final plans very carefully.

 

Seaford College Petworth

Members of the Group are frequently amazed that developers and their architects pay so little attention to the regulations concerning disabled access. When it comes to a major redevelopment, such as this, our reactions can become exasperated cries of “What on earth are they playing at?”, or “Have they no idea of the meaning of disabled access?". There were no less than three separate applications for this ambitious project. As they covered new houses, landscaped grounds, student boarding blocks and a sports centre, we had a field day with our recommendations.

In particular, we specified hard surfaces instead of the proposed loose rolled stone paths and gravel drives; alternative sloped routes to avoid steps; level access into all buildings; doors wide enough for wheelchairs and (of course) properly accessible toilets throughout the complex. CAG is proud to report that the agent for this project has responded very positively to our detailed comments.

 

Advance Notice

Saturday May 22nd 2010

Make a note on your calendar or in your diary to remind you that this is when Chichester Harbour Conservancy are holding an –
Accessible Footpaths Event

More details later.