Emperor Way in Fishbourne forms part of the National Cycle Network, Route 2. It connects the village of Fishbourne with Chichester, allowing cyclists to get to the underpass under the A27 without having to cycle on the A259 through Fishbourne itself.
It’s a pleasant, quiet and safe route.
Unfortunately all is not well.
The path runs across private land owned by the Sussex Archaelogical Society, who have decided that they need to expand their site at Fishbourne. The path, as they see it, does not fit in with their expansion plans. They have voiced security concerns, particularly in the light of vandalism, which has been tied to the presence of the path around their site.
Those security concerns are probably somewhat overblown. If there is a problem with intruders, it is equally valid for other parts of the site not flanked by the path, which have the same fencing. The real issue, I suspect, is that the path bisects the land, and that keeping it would present a problem for future development, particularly securing the site at night.
I don’t think the Sussex Archaeological Society can necessarily be blamed here. They own the land, and it is up to them to see fit as to how they use it. From their press release [pdf] –
In 1995 the Sussex Archaeological Society agreed to lease a strip of land to Sustrans at Fishbourne Roman Palace, one of its historical sites, for the purpose of enabling a cycle path to be built. The Society made this generous offer on the basis that this was not a permanent arrangement and that its effectiveness in supporting visitors to the site would be reviewed over time. The lease for the usage of the land is established on a permissive basis. This has never been, and is not, a public right of way.
The real issue is that it has been left up to a charity, Sustrans, to build a national cycle network, all by themselves, and to do it in places by making arrangements to lease land from private bodies. This is simply an unacceptable way to built a cycling network. It is obviously going to go wrong when these private bodies – who generously leased the land – then need to use their own land for different purposes.
If the Emperor Way route is lost, then it would be an absolute disaster, because anyone wishing to cycle from Fishbourne to Chichester, or vice versa, would have to cycle on the A259 through the village. This is not a pleasant road.
Those children who currently use Emperor Way to cycle west to Fishbourne Primary School, or to cycle east to Bishop Luffa school in the outskirts of Chichester, would have to cycle on this road, as would anyone who wishes to cycle into Chichester from Fishbourne.
An open meeting is being held on Thursday evening at the Fishbourne Centre. It is to be hoped that the trustees from the Sussex Archaeological Society, and residents and users of the path, can come to some form of agreement about a route for cyclists (and walkers) across the site. You can send your views to the trustees in advance of that meeting, using the CTC form here.