Reg. Charity No.286899
President: Philip A. Snow, O.B.E., J.P.,M.A.,F.R.S.A.,F.R.A.I.
Vice-President: D.Robert Elleray, A.L.A.,F.R.S.A.,F.L.S.
Chairman: David Sumner
THE FIGHT FOR TITNORE LANE
West Sussex County Council has long wished to turn Titnore Lane into a main road that would provide a route from the A27 to the western side of Worthing. Plans were revived in the 1990s when the Patching interchange provided a better junction with the A27. WSCC prepared plans to raise the lane to A road standards and applied to have it reclassified as the A2700. This change was approved, though the alterations would have to be made before it could be implemented. Lack of money, however, prevented WSCC from implementing its plans.
The first round
The West Durrington development gave WSCC the opportunity to get Titnore Lane modified at someone else’s expense. One of the entrances to the development is planned to be on Titnore Lane; and WSCC said that the safety record of Titnore Lane meant that alterations were needed if the lane was to carry the extra traffic generated by the development. The changes it agreed with the developers by-passed the bend at South Lodge by constructing 300 metres of new road through the woods, which entailed felling 210 mature trees. WSCC also required that a roundabout should be constructed at the entrance to the development, and that the lane should be widened at the junction with Titnore Way to provide a lane for traffic turning right.
The Society opposed the alterations near South Lodge because of their destructive impact on the woods, and argued that a 40 mph speed limit would be a more appropriate means of improving safety. The planning application came to the Development Control Committee in June 2005. WSCC’s representative argued strongly that a 40 limit could not be imposed on Titnore Lane because WSCC only imposed 40 limits on A roads if part of the frontage was developed. The Committee approved the application with only one dissentient.
The second round
We discovered soon after the meeting that WSCC had imposed a 40 limit on a rural stretch of the A259 at Climping. We also extracted an admission from the WSCC representative at the meeting that he was aware that Titnore Lane was not really an A road , despite his statements at the meeting. Worthing therefore decided to put the issue to the Development Control Committee again, because the decision could be open to a legal challenge.
The Society continued to argue that a 40 limit was the appropriate means of improving safety on the lane, and also argued that a T junction would be more appropriate than a roundabout at the entrance to the development. WSCC continued to argue that the proposed alterations were the only changes it would accept, and the Development Control Committee voted by 6 to 4 to approve these alterations last March. Planning permission would then have been granted once the Section 106 agreement had been signed. The Society sought legal advice on the feasibility of seeking a judicial review of this decision, because it believed that WSCC had again misled the Development Control Committee in presenting the case for the alterations to the lane.
The Society was able to get the services of a barrister “pro bono”, who advised that there was a case to be made for a judicial review of the decision. We drafted a letter, with his help and that of our solicitors, which set out the ways in which we believed that the Committee had been misled, and which threatened to seek a judicial review if Worthing signed the Section 106 agreement and so granted planning permission for the alterations to Titnore Lane. Our solicitors sent this letter to Worthing Borough Council at the end of July.
At this time the Department for Transport published a circular recommending the wider use of speed limits on rural roads. Worthing responded to the threat of judicial review by asking WSCC to review its plans for Titnore Lane in light of this circular. WSCC responded by announcing in September that it was withdrawing its requirement that the lane should be straightened and a roundabout built at the entrance before the development could be approved. It stated that this change in policy followed the publication of the Manual for Streets by DfT, which altered the criteria for road design. As Titnore Lane is not a street, the manual is a draft, and has existed for a year or so, we suspect that the threat of judicial review may have influenced the decision.
The developers are now preparing revised plans, with a T junction instead of a roundabout at the entrance to the development. WSCC has not yet approved this new design, although we can see no reason why it should not do so. We cannot be sure that the fight has been won until an acceptable planning application has been approved, and the threat of judicial review will not be withdrawn until this happens.
David Sawers (Committee Member)