Overwhelming support to resolve the Emperor Way cycle path crisis was heard at a public meeting.
More than 80 people turned out in full force to hear proposals from representatives of the Sussex Archaeological Society and Fishbourne Roman Palace staff about the future of the popular cycle path.
The meeting last Wednesday attracted a crowd of visitors, all keen to express their concerns about the potential closure of the cycle route and put forward suggestions to see it remain on Emperor Way.
The board of trustees at the Sussex Archaeological Society threaten to withdraw from the lease with Sustrans and close the cycle path, unless a feasible alternative strategy to relocate the path is put forward by December.
The six-month time-frame sparked outrage among residents, who want extra time to prepare a list of proposed solutions to put forward to the board of trustees.
“I hope they take away the feelings of the meeting and defer their decision to close the path for another year,” said Ruth Keeley, 56, from Fishbourne.
“There wasn’t a lot of time between finding out this was going to happen and the deadline of six months’ time. We would like a bit more time to work with them.”
Trustees of the historic venue say the path, which is not a public right of way, currently offers a security risk to the site and could hold back future investment needed for it to remain a sustainable heritage site.
Roman Palace staff believe the path must move to create opportunities to make improvements to the site and improve security.
The meeting reflected an overwhelming feeling of concern from the public, who want to see the path remain in its current location.
“Fishbourne Parish Council recognises the need for an increase in visitor numbers over the next few years if the Sussex Archaeological Society is to remain a sustainable charity,” said Geoff Hand, chairman of Fishbourne Parish Council.
“The council does not, however see the closure of Emperor Way as a means of bringing this about since this safe route between Chichester and Fishbourne is used by hundreds of people every day, among whom are many children and other vulnerable groups.”
“The impact of the closure of this path will have a huge effect on our village. Its closure will sever a main artery to the heart of Fishbourne.
“If this precious path is closed the only immediate alternative will be to walk/cycle along the A259 which is most dangerous, especially for young children and cyclists,” added Mrs Keeley.
A number of suggestions were put forward by the public, including closing the cycle route at night and installing CCTV to resolve any immediate security concerns.
The public also suggested installing security gates at each end of the path and moving the current car park to the north fields.
“I was very grateful that so many people came forward and want to help us. I just hope we can take this forward constructively,” said Jaane Rowehl, director of Fishbourne Roman Palace.
“We’re now waiting on the decisions from the trustees about whether they will allow more time. We’re happy that so many ideas were put forward, it generated some new ideas and suggestions which we have taken on board.”