Protest threatened at decision to divert traffic through Westbourne

Residents, business owners and councillors have expressed their dismay at plans to divert traffic through Westbourne due to works on Emsworth Common Road. Photo: Kate Shemilt
Residents, business owners and councillors have expressed their dismay at plans to divert traffic through Westbourne due to works on Emsworth Common Road. Photo: Kate Shemilt

Residents, business owners and councillors have expressed their dismay at plans to divert traffic through Westbourne due to works on Emsworth Common Road.

From Monday, September 23, Emsworth Common Road will be shut and traffic diverted through Foxbury Lane.

The works, which are set to last six weeks, have sparked outrage, with fears that it will increase the chance of accidents in the area and cause businesses to close down.

Contrary to reports of a restriction on parking in the area, Hampshire County Council, which is undertaking the works, said there will not be a suspension.

Councillor Rob Humby, deputy leader of Hampshire County Council and executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: “We are reconstructing a retaining wall to the culvert that spans the county boundary between West Sussex and Hampshire on Emsworth Common Road.

"The existing retaining walls have partially collapsed and must be repaired before the winter in order to avoid a lengthy road closure, which would be needed if the walls were to completely collapse.

"In order to carry out these works, an official diversion needs to be put in place, in this case through Westbourne, as all alternate routes are subject to railway level crossings with weight restrictions or low bridges, and unsuitable for diverted traffic. We understand there have been rumours of parking suspensions through the village but can confirm this is not the case.”

Westbourne Cafe's owner Jules Spencer said she will be protesting the decision by sitting in the road to prevent traffic from moving.

She said: "The diversion is going to be detrimental to Westbourne, because of the parking restriction and heavy goods vehicles coming through.

"I will sit in the road until the police move me. Hopefully they will reconsider this decision.

"I am trying to get as many people together as possible. I am hopeful there will be a good few of us.

"All the locals will have no parking here. It is going to be absolute chaos. My business is going to go bust if this goes ahead."

Fellow resident and business owner Janice Cox said: "I am concerned about the affect it is going to have on the village. The village is so tiny that this will cause gridlock at best or a serious casualty at worst.

"There will be big lorries coming through Foxbury Lane. They can't go under the railway bridge. I am very very concerned that they will be allowing juggernauts with trailers through the village.

"It could be lethal. We have one week to stop a tragedy.

"I have contacted the police about it as it is a massive issue for all residents of Westbourne. It is going to massively detrimental to the businesses, especially the ones that reply on footfall. They are really going to suffer. I cannot imagine what is possessing them to do this."

Nigel Ricketts, vice-chairman of Westbourne Parish Council, said there has been 'no consultation whatsoever'.

He added: "They are restricting parking and will be giving people tickets. We recently had four weeks of roadworks whilst the cottage was being worked on, so in less than a year, we are going to have two and a half months of disturbance. Villages cannot sustain it.

"We want it to be postponed or re-evaluated. They could have diverted the road through Hambrook which has wider roads.

"People are really concerned. This could possible put people out of business. There has got to be more consideration for these people. It is going to be a nightmare."

Chichester district councillor Roy Briscoe also condemned the 'ridiculous idea' to send all the traffic from Emsworth Common Road 'through our lovely little village'.

Westbourne Parish Council chairman Richard Hitchcock claimed residents were not previously informed of the decision, which will 'cause chaos in our village'.

Rachel Williams, from Westbourne Cafe, said she 'really worries about the children going to school in the morning'.

West Sussex County Council said, as the neighbouring highway authority, it has an 'obligation to facilitate these works' by making its network available for part of the diversion route.

A spokesperson added: "After looking at all available options, we therefore agreed for Foxbury Road to be used as the diversion because it is the nearest similar sized road to Emsworth Common Road. However we did state that temporary parking restrictions would need to be considered to facilitate the free flow of traffic through Westbourne.”