Replacing the two level crossings near Chichester’s railway station with a single bridge is ‘not feasible’ and has been left out of final proposals for the city’s Southern Gateway.
A masterplan for the area, stretching from the law courts to Canal Wharf, and an implementation plan are both set to be agreed by Chichester District Council’s Cabinet next Tuesday (November 7).
Alongside providing new flats, the document proposes a number of other land uses including office and employment space, as well as leisure facilities, retail units, a hotel, and public realm enhancements.
The council’s preferred highways option would also see the Stockbridge Road level crossing closed to general traffic, limiting access to buses, emergency vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, with a new bus and taxi interchange north and south of the railway station.
Meanwhile Basin Road would be realigned with a new junction on Stockbridge Road, and modifications of Southgate gyratory to reduce the width and number of lanes to improve the pedestrian environment at a total estimated cost of £5.3m.
A six week public consultation on the draft Southern Gateway masterplan was held between June and August this year and changes have been made to take the representations into account.
But proposals to close both level crossings and build a single bridge over the railway line has been ruled out by the council as ‘neither technically feasible nor financially viable’.
According to officers: “The Freeflow proposal would generate a total negative financial impact easily in excess of £25 million. This would clearly challenge the overall deliverability of the proposal from a financial point of view.”
A large number of the consultation responses argued in favour of the ‘Freeflow’ idea for a bridge put forward by architects Richard Hutchinson and Martin Winch, but several others suggested this would make the route into the city more attractive to vehicles to the detriment of cyclists and pedestrians.
Others called on the council to be more ambitious, while others stressed the need for more affordable housing, a conference and exhibition centre, and an accessible meeting space.
A total of 350 responses were received, with 54.7 per cent supporting the masterplan in principle, while a petition containing 280 signatures was submitted in favour of the Freeflow alternative masterplan.
In response Mr Winch said: “Freeflow may or may not be viable but one thing it is not lacking is vision. When Chichester Vision was adopted by the council on 25th July, we were told by the council leader no less that it ‘looks at what untapped opportunities there are in the city’.
“Well the Southern Gateway is an untapped opportunity and deserves a lot more vision than shown to date. The crossings must be closed.”
Significant changes to the document include adding a new main objective to ‘conserve and enhance the historic environment’, and the need to improve access into and around the Southern Gateway for people with disabilities and mobility difficulties.
The timescale for the identification of relocation sites for Stagecoach’s depot and Royal Mail’s delivery office is listed as March 2018, with relocation of both set to take place by October 2019.
The acquisition of the law courts by the Homes and Communities Agency is expected to take place by February 2018.
The masterplan also includes land south of Kingsham Road next to the police station, Basin Road Car Park, a site to the west of the railway station, and the three-storey building on the corner of Southgate and Avenue de Chartres.
Tony Dignum, leader of the council, said: “We are very grateful to everyone who took the time to take part in the public consultation over the summer.
“If Cabinet decides to recommend the masterplan then we will also be asked to approve the implementation plan for the project. A final decision will be made by Full Council on 21 November.”