Residents and visitors have spoken of the ‘total chaos’ surrounding West Wittering beach on Sunday (June 18) as more than 5,000 vehicles travelled down on the hottest day of the year so far.
Manager of West Wittering Beach Estate James Crespi said approximately 5,100 vehicles arrived at the popular beach on Saturday with a further 200 attending on Sunday.
Bognor resident Di Dowling, 49, who visited the beach for Chichester Rugby Club’s annual beach rugby day, said getting in and out of the car park was a ‘total nightmare’.
The traffic had already began queuing by the time she dropped her daughter and husband off at 8am.
She said: “We left early because we knew it was going to be busy.
“The rugby got relegated from West Wittering beach to East Head by the Estate so they could make space for more people.
“I have multiple sclerosis so I went home and came back at about 4.30pm to pick up my husband, daughter and her friend.
“We eventually went to leave just before 8.30pm – when the car park was due to close – and it took us about an hour to leave.
“Friends of ours had tried to leave the car park at 7.15pm and were still there at 9.15pm.
“In fairness, most people were fairly calm in the queue letting people out. We were all in the same situation. “People were going to the toilet and returning to their cars without the traffic moving in that time.”
It was not just those visiting the beach who were affected by the queuing traffic.
West Wittering resident Phil Bell was left ‘bewildered’ by how the traffic was allowed to develop into a ‘such a chaotic state’. He said: “I live in Elms Lane and by 10am on Sunday morning Elms Lane and Rookwood Road were already log jammed with vehicles.
“The traffic continued to build throughout the day and cars were still queuing all the way up Elms Lane, Rookwood Road and Cakeham Road until after 5pm with people still trying to get to the beach.
“Through shear frustration people were abandoning their cars on Elms lane, Royce way and any other side road they could.
“Some visitors were abusive to locals whose houses they had dumped their cars outside. Visitors were walking through residents gardens as if they were public areas and leaving their rubbish behind.
“Unbelievably some visitors had been on the road for five to six hours with young children, sadly some of them never got near the beach, some local residents have been trapped in their homes or unable to get back to their homes due to the jams.
“The fire brigade were on duty trying their best to put some order into the chaos but this should never have been allowed to develop into such mess.”
Fellow resident Stephen Holcroft was confused why people would choose to travel down from places like London to ‘queue for 90 minutes’ at Wittering car park.
He said: “The result though for locals is pretty awful; anyone wanting to use a vehicle to get anywhere has no chance.
“Emergency services and public transport struggle.
“Visitors think nothing of parking over footpaths (and) people’s driveways. I would like to know the air pollution figures for the weekend.
“The Witterings Estate seem to be happy to collect tens of thousands of pounds in parking charges in a single day but are doing little to help the chaos they cause.
“Their solution this weekend consisted of leaving some poor guy at the end of Stockbridge Road on Sunday holding a sign telling people the car park was full one in one out.
“I do not know the solution; I am not a highways engineer or a traffic planner but something has to change, perhaps we need an expert working group set up to address the problems. The cost of which should be funded in part by the Wittering Estate.”
West Wittering Beach Estate said the parking problems had been created due to an ‘unprecedented number of people attending on both days’.
Manager James Crespi said: “We had a discussion with local authorities about this issue last year and we decided to put signs in place warning of the full car park.
“We had parking marshals working over the weekend but they were often distracted by missing children and other issues.
“We need to check the figures but we think this may have been a record number of people coming to the beach. “We just want to warn people who come down to the beach that we just don’t have the roads to cope. There is one road in and one road out.
“There were extra exits put in at the car park but this makes little difference when we have just one road for all these vehicles.
“We did put signs out but these were ignored by people who wanted to visit the beach.
“We will have to liaise with the local authorities again about dealing with this situation in the future. We cannot stop people from visiting the beach here.”