Building a bridge to replace the level crossing at Woodgate is the focus of a new report for councillors.
Removing the railway site which splits the A29 in half has been described as the key to the regeneration of Bognor Regis.
Frustrated motorists in some of the road’s thousands of vehicles a day spend 34 minutes of each peak-time hour stuck in queues either side of the barriers as trains speed through.
The need to overcome those lengthy hold-ups has taken on added impetus with the hopes a local version of an enterprise zone could be set up in Bognor to create thousands of much-needed jobs.
Arun District Council’s local development framework subcommittee was told last week a study had started to see how a bridge could be funded. Its cost could be £15m.
Cllr Gillian Brown (Con, Aldwick East), the subcommittee’s vice-chairman, said: “This A29 feasibility study is quite crucial.
“It will show what opportunities we might have for funding the bridge. If we can do that, it opens up all sorts of opportunities for regeneration.
“I can’t think of any companies that are going to invest in a town when their vehicles are stuck for 34 minutes an hour at a level crossing. It doesn’t make any sense for them.
“Our main aim is to show how we can overcome that situation.”
She said the study’s aim was to show the sources of funding for the bridge. These could be through business rates or the community infrastructure levy which the government is allowing councils to raise to pay for services.
Their availability gives options to pay for a bridge apart from the traditional way of getting developers to pay for it through sanctioning a large housing development in the countryside.
“This is not about building homes at Woodgate; this is all about regenerating Bognor,” said Cllr Brown. “There are other opportunities now to get these improvements moving.”
The study should be finished by the summer to be considered in the preparation of Arun’s local plan land use policies.
Cllr Simon McDougall (Lib Dem, Bersted) said: “I welcome the new report. Taking away the crossing will remove one of the biggest barriers to the regeneration of Bognor.
“Clearly, the town’s north-south link from the A27 is absolutely vital to get into the town’s industrial areas.”
Cllr Roger Nash (Lab, Pevensey) said: “Solving the situation with the A29 is the key to Bognor’s future.
“If we can do that, other things will fall into place and we can get the investment we desperately need.
“There are companies that are investing, even in the general economic climate. But the question of good transport links is crucial to their decision.
“We know what decision they are likely to make if they are faced with having to wait for 34 minutes each hour at Woodgate or enjoying the better road access to places like Tangmere, Chichester or Havant.”
Independent Cllr Jim Brooks (Marine) also added his support to the study and backed work to end the delays at Woodgate.
Simon Meecham, the council’s head of planning policy and conservation, told the subcommittee: “The study will provide evidence to guide the preparation of local plan policies which seek to remove barriers to the regeneration of Bognor, to facilitate development in the area and to improve air quality and road safety.
“It is considered the delays caused by the level crossing have inhibited aims for regeneration in the district.
“The West Sussex local transport plan 2011-26 identifies that ‘traffic travelling between the A27 and A259 via the A284 and the A29 to access Littlehampton and Bognor and the coastal area is often delayed due to the level crossings at Wick and Woodgate, which also create congestion and poor air quality’.”
Building a bridge over the level crossing has been suggested as a major boost to Bognor’s economy for more than a decade.
But the prospect of building thousands of homes to fund it has always angered residents around Woodgate.
The delays at the level crossing also lead to congestion in the village and poor air quality. Queues of villages frequently stretch back hundreds of metres.