Notorious Woodgate crossing ‘will be’ replaced

Planning supremo Ricky Bower has vowed the Woodgate level crossing will be replaced.

Cllr Bower, who is in charge of Arun District Council’s planning service, said the notorious site for traffic delays would be a bad memory for motorists within 16 years.

“It will be gone by 2028,” he said. “The bottom line is that, as far as this council is concerned, the Woodgate crossing has to be bridged.

“How it’s to be bridged I’m happy, and I believe the council is happy, to leave the decision to the residents of that area which is most likely to be affected by it. But the Woodgate crossing must go.”

Cllr Bower was speaking at the launch of the first round of consultation on the council’s emerging local plan.

This is the important document which sets out how land across the district should be used between 2014 and 2028.

The consultation begins today and lasts until September 10. Its first public event will be at Yapton Village Hall from 11am-3pm this Saturday.

The plan contains a proposal for a major housing scheme in the Aldingbourne/Westergate/Eastergate area.

This could be up to 2,000 dwellings if an annual house-building figure of 565 homes a year is finally adopted by councillors.

£20m cost

That size of development will have to pay the estimated £20m cost of a Woodgate railway bridge and the link roads to connect it to the A29 to the north and south.

“We have had consultants looking at options in respect of replacing the level crossing,” said Cllr Bower. “They came forward with four options.

“The option that is shown on the proposals maps (in the draft local plan) is possibly the one that would cost the least to produce and gives us the option of being able to connect the A29 more directly to the centre of Barnham.

“But there are quite a number of negatives with regard to that particular road.

“The more possible option we’ve called Option A which goes to the western side of the crossing but that is likely to cost more.”

Cllr Bower said he would like to see the southern approach to the bridge start south of the ‘Lidsey Bends’ which add to the A29’s unsuitability as the main approach road to Bognor Regis.

It was also important the new road layout to connect the A29 with the A27 to the north removed the need to travel along the current route.

“The existing road from the crossing to Eastergate War Memorial is a significant pinch-point on the A29. It’s quite a hazardous route at the present time with the articulated lorries using it,” he said.

Proposals for a bridge to replace the railway crossing have been around for the past two decades.

Essential

The move is seen as essential to boost Bognor’s economic prospects. The crossing is closed for more than 30 mnutes each hour at peak times.

This is seen as damaging the case for businesses to invest in the town to hold back the chances of new jobs.

But the idea of any bridge over the busy west coastway railway line which connects Barnham, and Bognor, to Southampton and Brighton angers residents in the area.

They fear their mainly rural area will become an urban settlement and destroy the attractive countryside which surrounds them.