A large development is set to go ahead to the north of Horsham, on the other side of the town’s northern bypass. It will cover (approximately) the area shown in red.
There’s nothing intrinsically right or wrong with new development. Indeed, it can solve existing problems with previous poor design, and can ‘build in’ sensible patterns of land use and transport. Kloosterveen – a new town in a similar location outside the city of Assen’s ring road – has achieved this, with cycling and walking made the obvious mode of transport for short trips in Kloosterveen, and in and out of Assen. Some pictures of connections with Kloosterveen will feature later in this post.
The signs are not at all hopeful, however, that this new development is going to be beneficial in those terms. Existing patterns of travel, dominated by private motor traffic, will continue to be accommodated, while walking and cycling are almost entirely being ignored, with tokenistic attempts at provision.
Thanks to a previous planning disaster when the northern bypass was built in the late 1980s, there are currently no grade-separated crossings for people walking and cycling (and indeed for motor traffic) along the entire stretch of this 70mph dual carriageway – the A264 – that skirts the current northern edge of the town. Country lanes were severed, with no safe crossings.
The mind boggles at how this was pushed through so recently, with absolutely no thought for how people would cross this road on foot, or on bike.
Crossing from one side of the bypass to the other on the route of these two lanes shown above involves dashing across four lanes of 70mph+ traffic.
The other two crossing points are fast roundabouts – no help for pedestrians here either, and if you are cycling, you have to cycle on the roundabouts themselves. Again, the limit across both of these roundabouts is 70mph.
In effect, the land to the north of the bypass is a complete no-go area if you are on foot or bicycle, unless you want to make lengthy detours (and the same goes for accessing the town from this area). It is next to impossible to cross safely or comfortably.
This new development to the north of the town – in precisely the area that is currently severed from the town – should represent a golden opportunity to deal with these severance issues. However the plans released so far are desperately poor.
The developers boast of a ‘Sustainable Masterplan’ – but, tellingly, there is no mention of short-trip transport on the developers own page here. ‘Sustainability’ is framed entirely in terms of ‘natural space’, ‘green buffer zones’, ‘woodland’, ‘ponds’ and ‘allotments’, and not in terms of how people are actually travelling about – a typically British oversight.
Depressingly, the details of the plans reveal that the developers are almost entirely concerned with accommodating existing and projected motor traffic associated with the new development, while very little consideration has been given to how easy, safe and convenient it should be to cross the bypass that separates the town from the development, or indeed to travel around in the development on foot or by bike.
Let’s look at the proposed crossing points for people walking and cycling, one by one, starting with the one to the west.
This is one of the country lanes severed back in the 1980s, that is now going to be expanded into a very large (signalised) roundabout. (You can see the former country lane on the left of the plan below.)
The road to the south of the roundabout, connecting with an existing residential area in Horsham, will be a cycle- and bus-only road. It’s not clear, however, how many people will be willing to cycle on the road to get this connection – it will involve cycling in the middle of three lanes of motor traffic, accelerating to join the bypass, on the entry to the roundabout from the north, as shown in blue, below.
Given the scale and design speed of this roundabout, and the projected amounts of motor traffic using it, it seems far more likely that people will use the combined toucan crossings that are proposed, along with pedestrians. That, however, will involve FOUR separate toucan crossings.
The picture is much the same at the next crossing point. Here an existing at-grade roundabout is going to be enlarged considerably. Again, you can see the current roundabout, underneath the proposed new design.
This roundabout is going to be even busier, as it represents the main direct crossing point for motor traffic going into and out of the town (more on the potential problems this will represent later). Again, no grade-separation for walking and cycling is proposed; only a series of toucan crossings. In this case, FIVE of them.
It should be noted here that the developers and their associated transport planners are insistent that people would ‘prefer’ this kind of arrangement to a simple underpass, or bridge. The Transport, Infrastructure and Flood Risk Report carried out for the developers by Peter Brett claims
‘At grade’ crossings are generally more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists due to reduced distances and the avoidance of ramps or stairs, so are the preferred solution.
But this assertion that at grade crossings are ‘generally more attractive’ is not supported by any evidence. What it seems to trade on instead is the legacy of poor underpasses and bridges that have been constructed for pedestrians and cyclists in Britain. Underpasses that are dark and gloomy, with corners, multiple flights of steps, and poor drainage. Underpasses that are (rightly) avoided by most people because of their unattractiveness, which in turn makes them even more socially unsafe. Underpasses that are used in unsuitable locations, within dense urban areas, to allow inappropriate volumes of motor traffic to flow uninhibited.
But this area isn’t a town centre location – it’s a crossing of an existing major road, a bypass that also serves a through-route function, connecting major settlements like Guildford, Crawley and Worthing. Grade separation is exactly the kind of treatment that should be employed on this kind of road, and it can and should be done well. The first picture below shows the direct cycle route between Kloosterveen and the city of Assen, passing under the city’s ring road.
Would people honestly ‘prefer’ five toucan crossings to this kind of arrangement?
Here are some other examples of underpasses, in Assen and Utrecht. Convenient, easy to use, and safe – both in terms of actual and perceived danger.
Underpasses like the ones pictured above do not involve any delay, or any interaction with motor traffic whatsoever. They would make walking and cycling into and out of the new development an absolute breeze, compared to a series of 4 or 5 separate crossings in the middle of a large, busy and noisy roundabout.
By contrast, the current plans would make cycling and walking less attractive than driving, which is truly disastrous for an allegedly ‘sustainable’ development. Underpasses would redress that balance, making walking and cycling a more obvious option.
Now the developers are proposing a grade-separated crossing for walking and cycling between this large new roundabout and the eastern end of the development. However, they have chosen a bridge, which is a poor choice, because this section of the bypass is built on an embankment, high enough to take it over the railway line connecting Horsham to London (incidentally, this picture also shows another desperately unsafe at-grade crossing of the 70mph dual carriageway bypass).
That means that any bridge will have to gain not only sufficient height to clear the road itself, but also the height of this embankment. It turns out that this will amount to eleven metres of height gain.
… And that means a 240m long plod up a steep 5% slope.
By contrast, an underpass could slip easily under the bypass here on the flat, given that the bypass is already 3-5m higher than the surrounding land. It could look like this.
There are surely very few people who would choose to climb and descend for 250m on each side of an exposed bridge, instead of walking or cycling through a straightforward underpass like this. Or indeed, very few people who would prefer a series of 4-5 separate crossings on busy roundabouts to the other good underpasses pictured in this post.
Getting this right is vitally important, not just for people walking and cycling, but also for those people who want to drive. The more trips that can be made to and from this new development, with the town itself, on foot and by bike, the less congestion there will be on the existing (and new) road network.
The road that has been chosen to form the sole direct connection between the new development and the town centre is already desperately congested at peak times, even before several thousand extra houses are built, with planning that accommodates car trips by those new residents and funnel them onto existing, congested roads. The red arrow, below, marks the only crossing point for motor traffic along this stretch of road – the largest roundabout, already described.
Unfortunately the road into town south of this crossing is really not suitable for accommodating more motor traffic.
I hope the picture above gives a bit of a flavour of Rusper Road – it’s pretty narrow, narrowed even more by residents parking. To top it all off, in the background of the above picture (looking north towards the new development) is Littlehaven railway station, which not only has a large amount of on-street commuter parking associated with it…
… but also has a level crossing, across this road, which closes for eight trains every hour, for one to two minutes. Remember – this road is already congested at peak times. This bottleneck is going to be made even worse.
So it really doesn’t make a great deal of sense to funnel more motor traffic down this road, adding more danger, congestion and pollution to a route that already has too much motor traffic. Alternatives to travel by car are desperately needed.
The Transport Assessment for the development notes that
Horsham town centre is accessible within a 10-15 minute cycle ride of the centre of the site.
A short distance, in other words. The centre of the development is just two miles from Horsham town centre. But unfortunately very little is being done with these plans to make cycling a genuinely attractive mode of transport. I don’t want to sit and wait at five separate toucan crossings just to get across one road; nor will anyone else. That means people will plump for the car, clogging up local roads even more.
And that’s not all. The plans will erode the primary function of the bypass, to carry through traffic on a quick route, away from the town centre. If they go ahead, along with the plans for roundabouts on the bypass to the west of Horsham, there will be five separate sets of traffic lights for drivers to negotiate on the bypass.
With lower speed limits, and delay at these sets of lights, driving through the town itself will become an increasingly attractive option, clogging up the town with traffic that should properly be taking the bypass. Driving through the town is already nearly as attractive as using the bypass for many trips; adding multiple sets of traffic lights and lower limits may tip the balance.
So there is a strong case for grade separation at these junctions, not just for walking and cycling, but also for motor traffic – to ensure that through traffic is kept out of the town. This will cost more, but the cost in the long run will inevitably be higher if these junctions are not designed properly now.
The final connection under the bypass already exists – it’s a 2m wide footpath running alongside the aforementioned train line.
Unfortunately this path doesn’t actually connect up with anything on the northern side of the bypass, and the path to it from the town is in a disgraceful condition.
This is the only safe crossing of the northern bypass, and the condition of paths to and from this underpass (or, rather, the lack of paths) is a decades-old issue, unresolved by West Sussex County Council. Local campaigners are putting pressure on the council and the developers to sort this issue out.
This is an absolute no-brainer – it just requires surfacing of the existing boggy path, and a tarmac link running alongside the existing railway line. But the developers publicity material only states, weakly, that
There is currently an underpass which we could improve to provide better access for pedestrians and cyclists and we are also assessing the feasibility of providing a foot / cycle bridge across the A264. [my emphasis]
‘Could’ improve. By contrast, the large new junctions for motor traffic – without ambiguity – ‘will be provided’.
This difference in language is symptomatic of the lack of consideration of walking and cycling in this new development, and the failure of West Sussex County Council to force the developers into providing safe, attractive and obvious connections for these genuinely sustainable modes, along the length of the northern bypass.
A planning disaster in the making.
Quite aside from everything else, a 70 mph (!?) ring road with loads of (signalised) roundabouts in it? What madness is that? You’ll be accelerating and decelerating the entire way.
Looking at this, it does strike me how much different the Netherlands would have done this. Not only would there be multiple underpasses (or overpasses) for cyclists and pedestrians, but the new development would undoubtedly have been considered a good excuse for an ‘overdue’ change of the existing roundabout into a grade separated junction for cars, rather than to put in another such monster.
Excellent write up. A couple of points:
I disagree with your initial comment that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the development. In fact there are some other major drawbacks of this site compared with the other options. For example:
It breaches the longstanding town limit, opening up further sprawl all the way to Crawley and there is also now no real barrier to creeping and visually intrusive development up the hill. Nor is there anything to stop the further development of Southwater/Christ’s hospital/Broadbridge Heath which was the reason the council promoted this development rather than alternatives.
This development is too far for people to walk to the town, yet it is not being designed as a self-contained community -for example the plans have talked about ‘a convenience store’ (by which they mean a 6000+ sq m supermarket), but even this is not guaranteed. A supermarket does not make a community. In practice, people who live here will tend to have and rely on cars and will find it as easy to travel to Crawley -taking their trade there rather than to the town centre.
There are other technical issues: limited sewerage, so as the development grows, major costs to link to the distant sewage works; poor east-west links due to a strip of existing dwellings which bisect the site; problems preventing rural rat-running to Gatwick; dubious business case for the proposed business park, uncertainly over whether the railway station can be delivered (and, if it is, a reduction in the service to the existing built up area leading to more people driving rather than walking to catch the train); patchy information on the flood risk (part of the site is a zone 3 flood area and the developer has included a large area of attenuation ponds). If the Gatwick expansion goes ahead, the development will suffer from more southerly flight paths. This will be an inefficient and costly place to locate the new secondary school: we already spend £1/4m pa bussing Southwater children this site will not help that and a secondary school here will depend on children being driven in from outside, possibly from as far away as Crawley. Large developments such as this have historically been an unreliable way to deliver steady house building -the council risks failing to meet its 5 year land supply targets and becoming vulnerable to uncontrolled development.
The transport assessments so far have been very patchy with flawed assumptions so the predictions of traffic levels and congestion are unreliable.
All this is before considering the Norman motte and bailey which butts against a widened access road, the listed buildings, ancient woodland and the effects on wildlife.
The finances are very worrying: there will be no CIL contributions so that, as the development fills, there will be less developer money for infrastructure; costs continue to escalate but the likely section 106 contributions don’t -meaning the funding gap has already leapt to £18m. Corners will be cut on infrastructure provision and affordable housing provision is threatened. The council has all its eggs in one basket so the bargaining chips all lie with the developer.
A last point -there will also be traffic lights at Farthings Hill -making six sets in total. Current plans show a minimum of 13 sets of lights travelling westbound (only 11 eastbound!)
I meant new development *in general*, not this particular development! (Longer reply to come!)
That’s a long list of problems but as it happens, the comparison with Kloosterveen also can be seen as a reply to most of the points which childbacktandem makes. The same potential objections have been answered in advance by the developers of Kloosterveen.
Kloosterveen is situated further from the centre of Assen than this new development will be from the centre of Horsham. It won’t feel like this is the case because the link in Horsham will not be so direct. Note that there are no traffic lights at all on the cycling route between Kloosterveen and the centre of Assen even though cyclists must cross both the motorway and the ring-road to make this journey. The ring road crossing is the ‘tunnel’ which is actually a bridge featured in one of the photos above. The motorway crossing can be seen at 5:30 in this video. Note that the route into Assen was once a country lane which could have been severed by both the motorway and ring-road, but instead it has become a very efficient bicycle route.
That video starts in the shopping centre of Kloosterveen, which is more than just a supermarket. This also provides restaurants, shops other than the supermarket, and it’s a place for events. The new suburb also has several primary schools.
Secondary school students all cycle to schools in the existing city. Indeed, many children who live further out than Kloosterveen (up to 20 km away from their school) now cycle through the new suburb to reach Assen. There are no school buses required so no need for a budget for these.
By the look of it, the housing in Horsham is already much closer to the A264 than housing would be built next to a similar road in the Netherlands. Where dual carriageways impose within towns in the Netherlands the maximum speed limit is 70 km/h (42 mph) and noise barriers prevent local people from being disturbed by traffic. The motorway produces a lot less noise than it would in the UK due to quiet road surfaces.
Developers here have to put aside money to maintain new suburbs for up to 20 years after they walk away so there isn’t the problem of bargaining which you have in the UK.
Oh, and I don’t expect any flooding problem here either…
There’s no magic to any of those. Just sensible planning requirements.
I could only just about make it to the end of this post as I was facepalming so much….How the hell do they get it SO consistently wrong in so many different areas?!?! Are the developers living on a different planet or taking some mind altering drugs? It really is beyond belief but then again this is the UK with it’s “excellent” attitude towards anything on the roads that isn’t a bloody car!
The scandal that AsEasy hasn’t mentioned is that the council has been so effective in preventing genuine public consultation. Even at this late stage, huge numbers of locals are totally unaware of what is about to hit them
A bypass severs country lanes – and now suburban access roads too. Exactly what I was complaining about in my comment to the previous post!
But to turn to the crossings and junctions: although my general preference, as a cyclist or pedestrian, is for road-level crossings (for all the obvious reasons, plus considerations such as “what if I was in a wheelchair?”) I also prefer straightforward crossings. I think almost everyone does. Don’t they? In these cases, as in many others, I agree that one underpass or bridge would be far preferable to several push-the-button-and-wait crossings (especially if, as is so often the case, they don’t actually change until there’s a gap in the traffic you could have crossed in without any lights).
It’s not all about quality of design though – quality and quantity of maintenance is important too, especially to keep underpasses clean and safe-feeling. Frequent use tends to be its own reward, in this regard.
I prefer underpasses. They avoid ALL interaction with motor vehicles which means user behaviour (mine, traffic, everyone’s) is irrelevant, which in turn makes them ALWAYS safe. If cars are speeding and jumping lights, I’m safe. If I’m on the phone and not looking where I’m going, I’m safe. If I fall over in the middle of the crossing-point I’m still safe. They also reduce waiting time and prevent the stop-start hassle that cycling in the UK very often is.
Underpasses for people need less headroom than bridges over traffic so involve less “climbing” as well.
It would be good to know the crossing time for the multiple toucan crossings. I assume they aren’t going to give people green all the way across as that would impact the flow of traffic so would be unacceptable to the designers who come up with this type of scheme.
I wonder what people’s opinion would be if presented with the choice between 2 minutes using multiple toucans vs 10 seconds using an underpass?
I did ask Peter Brett representatives at an exhibition for the development, at the weekend. They couldn’t tell me.
Ideally it would be one toucan across the whole width of the road – because, after all, no one’s intended destination is the central reservation – changing the instant you press the button. Or at least very quickly.
We can dream.
Surely it’s useful to make the distinction (as David Hembrow has) between an underpass (which puts me in mind of the grim urban mugger-magnets mentioned) and a road bridge over a lane or cycleway.
Certainly it can be a subtle distinction, but I’m thinking of the Fallowfield Loop cycleway in South Manchester. As a converted railway there is grade separation at every junction (except one), but with little or no slope for the cyclist – certainly never any steps. In every case the road is on a bridge over the cycleway. Some of the bridges are wide to accommodate multiple lanes of traffic, but the sight lines are clear and I personally never feel at risk unless it’s dark or there’s a particularly dodgy looking group of lads lurking around. Usually I don’t even notice the bridges as I pass under them.
You are right – but it is so clunky trying to fit the explanation into a sentence. One reason we don’t have precise wording available to use is probably, as you say, that we more or less fail to notice the bridges above us!
This looks so similar to two major edge-of-city developments that were proposed as part of the County Durham Plan, currently undergoing its Examination in Public. The difference in the Durham case is that the land allocated for development is currently green belt, and the proposals included CIL and Section 106 payments to pay for two new relief roads through the green belt. The Council proposed improving road crossings to link the areas by walking and cycling to the existing built-up area, and tied it in with new cycle super routes and secondary routes. Unfortunately there was little detail in the Plan on these aspects, especially compared to the level of detail for the road plans and housing proposals. In particular, plans for a coherent cycle network of sufficient quality to attract ordinary people are absent. Durham does not have a good record on cycle modal share, as you know.
As things stand, these aspects of the County Plan have been rejected as unsound by the Inspector, which is a truly gratifying vindication of development which is truly sustainable. Get to know the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework). It is actually far more green than you might expect.
One comment the Inspector made about the Durham proposals was that the revised green belt boundary was not “defensible”. That ties in with some of the comments made above.
The most sustainable location to build is close to the existing town centre, by using brownfield sites and increasing the density of the existing development. This avoids having to build additional transport infrastructure, such as a parkway station that will just increase journey times for existing rail travellers. We already have remarkably low density housing in England, compared with Scottish and European cities, and England is more densely populated than most European countries! Lower density development on the outskirts just encourages more car travel. And incorporating plenty of green space that used to be farm land into a residential area just locks up even more countryside than is necessary: it’s less sustainable, not more.
Sorry: that reads a bit harsh:
“In particular, plans for a coherent cycle network of sufficient quality to attract ordinary people are absent.”
There are proposals in the plan for a network of cycle routes, which if implemented to a high enough standard would be very welcome indeed. However:
* there are significant gaps in the routes (not coherent);
* we have been given no indicative plans for how severance issues will be tackled, by contrast with the road plans which were practically shovel-ready;
* the quality is likely to fall short of what is needed.
The County were reluctant to commit to measurable quality standards for cycle infrastructure, and as the existing provision we have tends to be poorly-designed shared-use pavements and paths, with cycle facilities giving up when it comes to junctions. Essentially typical UK provision of the mid-80s onwards, and a long way behind Dutch standards.
Your comments show many similarities to our local situation -this kind of ‘local’ problem is occurring across the country.
I understand your point about NPPF. Despite its flaws, if people took it seriously, it would really help as it has a lot to say about prioritising cycling and walking and rebalancing the transport system. The problem is that it is quoted in the fuzzy warm words at the start of proposals, but, in practice, is ignored.
I’d like to go back to (what I see as ) square one on this.
In the current General Election campaign, it appears that only the Greens are talking about increases in the price of petrol (correct me if I’m wrong)and suggesting that car use should be reduced. For everybody else, car use is the default. Anything else is taboo. Cycling and walking are hinted at as desirable (along with references to obesity etc.), but not in a way where the possibility of less motor vehicle use could or should actually happen.
That is the elephant in the room, bull in the china shop, whatever you want to call it.
My point is, as long as you have the basic assumption that people are going to be car dependent, then this kind of thing is going to happen again and again. Of course, there are all sorts of environmental and other problems , as childbacktandem (looks like a savvy local campaigner to me) points out, as well as the fact that cycling and walking appear to be deliberately obstructed by the plan. But that’s it: if you are going ahead with more car dependency, then that is what you are going to get: loads of problems, of which being hostile to cycling is just one.
In other words a continuation of what has been going on since, well car use was accommodated in the first place, particularly in rural and suburban areas. I can’t offer any words of cheer. Just to expect that unless society is seriously trying to reduce car dependence, you will get this sort of garbage.
And also good luck with campaigning against it. My suggestion is to throw in all the problems that have been highlighted, such as funding shortfall, lack of consultation, flight path etc. as well as the anti-cycling/walking stuff.
Today I cycled across the A264 at Old Holbrook, which bisects this new development. Not for the feint hearted even at mid-day. Nearly as much fun as crossing Upper Brighton Road at Church Lane, Sompting.
Something rotten about West Sussex County Council.
really worrying that development on this scale is going ahead with no CIL and no proper planned bike network (i.e. one that does not send peds and cycles through the car junctions). Ambitious housing targets and poor planning do not make for good development.
Sorry to lower the tone of a great discussion but that 5-toucan crossing… Going either NE-SW or SW to NE the last toucan puts a rider on the right hand side of the carriageway. Will there be a bidirectional cycle path at each end?
The transport consultant at the public exhibition said that details of cycling in the development had not yet been worked out (suggesting shared-use paths as a good option for the busier roads). The latest indicative drawings came out last week and show paths on either side of the road: http://landnorthofhorsham.co.uk/connectivity/highways-improvements/
They look to me very much like standard pedestrian provision which permits (possibly) cyclists to ride there. Of course, encouraging people to cycle out into fast multilane highways where the pedestrian waiting times are long and the traffic is heavy is likely to cause collisions between motorists who are chancing the lights and cyclists who appear suddenly aiming for a gap in the traffic.
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