Residents battling to save the Oving lights have scored a local victory – but face a war with the Government to succeed in their campaign.
A recommendation that would have seen the staged closure of the lights and A27 junction was overturned by Chichester District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday.
An application lodged by Oving Parish Council, which wants the junction retained, will now be determined by the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.
The parish council sought to remove two conditions agreed as part of plans for the 585-home Shopwhyke Lakes development in 2013, which will eventually close the junction to all traffic except buses.
Motorists would instead join the A27 using a new access road through the development.
“Residents of our parish fear being cut off from Chichester where they work, shop or go to hospital,” parish council chairman Sjoerd Schuyleman told councillor.
Mr Schuyleman was one of the founding members of the Leave Oving Lights Open (LOLA), a long-running campaign group.
Supporters addressing the committee endorsed the spirit of the campaign, describing the junction as a safe crossing point across the A27 and a ‘significant pressure release valve on the A27 when traffic is appalling’.
Highways England, joined by West Sussex County Council highways officers, argued keeping the lights open would have a ‘detrimental impact on the safety and capacity’ of the A27.
Paul Harwood, representing Highways England, said the issue was not with the lights but ‘various conflicting movements and vehicles’ at the junction and delays that would occur.
Councillors were warned approving the plans could have a major impact on the district’s local plan, with traffic modelling assuming the lights would close.
But the committee was unconvinced the application would have a ‘severe’ effect on highways safety.
Councillor Simon Oakley said: “We have to ask the question: ‘If you retained the lights as they are today, would that have a severe impact? I would have to say it doesn’t.”
The committee voted to defer the decision to the Government by 11 votes to two.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Schuyleman said he was pleased to have taken a step forward but was concerned the decision would rest with the Secretary of State.
The parish council had been called to submit detailed traffic modelling to demonstrate its application would not have a severe impact.
But Mr Schuyleman said meeting the demand, by Highways England and council planners, was ‘unrealistic’ and unaffordable.