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Residents call on West Sussex County Council/Louise Goldsmith to make road closure process open

Updated: Jul 27, 2018

Residents are calling for the proposed road closure for Velo South to be placed on the WSCC website for consultation, in the same way that any other proposed road closures are, in order to allow greater scrutiny, transparency and feedback.

CSM Active, the business behind Velo South, are yet to gain permission to close the advertised 100 mile route and are currently completing the road closure application process with West Sussex County Council. During a County Local Committee meeting at Elsted on 19th June 2018, Matt Davey, Director of Highways and Transport at the Council, confirmed that the process will not be open to public appeal as the event is “too large” and it would be down to him and him alone to decide on the outcome, with support from the Cabinet.

This lack of engagement is profoundly undemocratic.

Residents are left with unanswered questions after promised information leaflets failed to arrive and community engagement meetings were either promoted poorly or in some cases cancelled at short notice. Sharon Watters, a resident and teacher who lives on the route in Elsted, said,

The Velo South engagement event that I did manage to attend created more questions than it did answers. The event seems to have been rushed through without full or proper consideration, information is not comprehensive and when you fact check it seems as though due diligence is very shallow.”

This comes as residents have had to resort to issuing requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the Council to understand details behind the event. Gillian Keegan MP and Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, have both confirmed that communication and engagement with the community should have started earlier and been better. Opening up the proposed road closure to public scrutiny, in the normal way, would be a chance to start putting this right.

Over 400,000 residents living within the 100 mile route, the so-called “lycra loop”, face disruption, with access to 165,000 homes cut off. Ambiguity over the delivery of vital services such as healthcare within the closed off area is causing additional concern, with a single, little publicised telephone number being promised to residents to cope with issues from emergency services access, access for carers and feeding of animals across the 100 mile route. Heavy congestion will be expected in the rest of the county by the fact that there are only two crossing points for motorists, at Rogate and Cowfold.

Velo South, which is being described by councilors as West Sussex’s version of the Tour De France, and Ride Yorkshire, is positioned as bringing benefits to the local economy. However residents question the event’s ability to deliver on these promises, given flaws in the methodology used. David Chapple, resident in Compton said

“The event seems to have been prematurely rubber-stamped in the absence of any proper methodology and without thinking through the unique circumstances of the situation. For instance the costs - benefit picture is incomplete. The organiser’s benefits statement is present but the costs will only be calculated after the event has been run, and this seem reckless to me”

The event is being run by private organisation CSM Active, the business is set to make a revenue of around £2million from the event, charging riders between £75 and £150 for entry. Charity places are available, but are voluntary and sold in advance to charities, and in an own goal, a local charity has had to cancel its own triathlon because of the road closures.

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