In March 2022 the Committee agreed the undertaking of a consultation and survey regarding the future of Pier Road in Littlehampton following the positive response to the two Covid19 emergency/temporary road closures.
The consultation survey gave respondents the option to indicate their preference and comment on how they would like to see Pier Road developed in the future. This report asks the Committee to review the consultation results and to agree the next steps now that we are in receipt of the consultation and survey outcomes.
(Councillor Walsh declared a Personal interest in this item as a West Sussex County Councillor.)
The Group Head of Business and Economy advised members that the report before them was to advise them of the results from the survey that had been conducted over August and September 2022. She confirmed that the consultation was undertaken due to the closure of Pier Road had been done using emergency measures (now no longer available to be used) implemented during the pandemic to help with social distancing. Officers felt it was a good opportunity to undertake a survey to gage feedback from the community of their feelings on the previous road closures and future options to be considered. She confirmed that 864 people had completed the survey which was a really good response rate. She advised members that the recommendations are asking them to consider their support for a permanent closure as this had been the preferred outcome from the survey. She explained that the next steps should members support the recommendation would be that Officers would make contact with West Sussex County Council who are the responsible authority, she explained that it would be a complex process which was likely to take time.
The Chair thanked the Group Head of Business and Economy for her detailed report and invited the Vice-Chair to speak. The Vice-Chair also expressed his thanks to the Group Head of Business and Economy and her team for the work they had undertaken. He stated the permanent closure had been the most popular choice and that should the route be taken then there was an opportunity for a complete redesign of the road, from lighting through to seating. It was an opportunity to bring a transformative change for the community. He confirmed he was “enthusiastically” in favour of the permanent closure.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats was then invited to make comment, where he stated that he was in favour for a seasonal closure, he explained his reasons for this in detail covering his review of the road closure during the pandemic and some of the issues he felt would require improvement (signage and lighting) should a seasonal closure be pursued. He also stated that transformation of the space could still be achieved with a seasonal closure from changing the road colour, seating and lighting as well as accommodating car users.
Other comments and questions asked have been summarised below;
It was asked why West Sussex County Council (WSCC) did not support a permanent closure and what were the expected costings for this project. It was explained that WSCC did not support permanent closures as it was not something that they normally consider. It was also confirmed that should a permanent closure be pursued the majority of the costs for this would be covered by WSCC, however once the council reaches the stage of financial costings these would be brought back to Committee for their review.
It was commented that it was important to consider storage solutions for any furniture should a seasonal closure be chosen. Additionally parking solutions for disabled car users and those working for delivery and emergency services should also be given consideration.
The Director of Growth confirmed that a temporary closure which would be the option for a seasonal closure has a limit of 3 days. The Chair advised members that the businesses in Pier Road changed their business model in order to adapt to the constraints the pandemic imposed, and they could and would be able to adapt to a full road closure. It was also highlighted by members that from the survey results 77% of businesses opted to ‘do nothing’.
The Group Head of Business and Economy then reminded members of the recommendations that were before them in the report. She explained that direction for the next step was needed in order for officers to move forward with discussions. She reminded members that there would be significant legislation to work through and this was merely the beginning of a very long process.
The recommendations were then proposed by Councillor Gunner and seconded by Councillor Pendleton at which point Councillor Walsh proposed an amendment which was seconded by Councillor Dixon (deletions highlighted with strikethrough and additions in bold);
2.1.1. Supports the
permanently permanent or seasonal
closing Pier Road to through-traffic.
officers to engage with West Sussex County Council as Highway
Authority in order to appraise the
feasibility, process, legal requirements, costs (both capital and
revenue), timescales, and necessary agreements to deliver the
preferred option of a
permanent permanent or seasonal closure.
Upon debate on the amendment proposed it was clear that there were differing opinions across the committee and on putting the amendment to the vote it was declared LOST on the Chair’s casting vote.
Returning to the substantive recommendations;
RESOLVED that it
2.1.1. Supports the principle of permanently closing Pier Road to through-traffic.
2.1.2. Authorises officers to engage with West Sussex County Council as Highway Authority in order to appraise the feasibility, process, legal requirements, costs (both capital and revenue), timescales, and necessary agreements to deliver the preferred option of a permanent closure.
2.1.3. Authorises officers to explore the opportunity of increasing the length of the proposed closure area to include the area of highway as far north as the Gravy Boat restaurant;
2.1.4. Requests that officers provide a report to a future meeting of the Committee setting out officers’ findings and conclusions in respect of recommendation 2.1.2 and 2.1.3.