The Toddington Lane level crossing is set to close, it was announced at a fiery meeting on Wednesday.
Network Rail announced its intention to shut the controversial crossing at a public meeting where residents in North Littlehampton were given the chance to grill developers of the new housing project and Lyminster Bypass.
Level crossing manager Clive Robey said they proposed to do this after the Lyminster Bypass was completed, which will link the A259 in Littlehampton to the A27 in Crossbush and was hoped to be complete in 2020.
Mr Robey said on a scale of A1 for the imminently dangerous and M13 as the least dangerous, Network Rail judged the Toddington Crossing, in Toddington Lane, as D2, due to almost 1,900 cars using it a day as a rat run to the tip and the fact it has half-barriers. The process will have to go through public consultation before being confirmed.
Many of the 150 residents who attended the meeting at The Loft in the Body Shop Headquarters were angry about the traffic in Toddington Lane and Mill Lane, which has increased after some of the 1,260 new houses planned were finished and sold.
Izzie Burton from Holmes Way in Wick told developers and the county council they were 'fobbing off' residents by not sorting out Toddington Lane's problems first before building more homes and the bypass. After the meeting, she described Toddington Lane as 'appalling' and said she had to walk in the road with her 18-month-old daughter Layla-Mai to get her to nursery due to parking. She said: "I feel like they palmed me off completely. I feel like they didn't have the answers to the questions we were asking, and that is why everyone was getting so irate with them."
The Fitzalan link road, which would link Fitzalan Road in Littlehampton with the A259, already has planning permission. Persimmon Homes said it would submit an application for the southern section of the Lyminster Bypass in April, with hopes it would get planning permission in September. West Sussex County Council will be building the northern section of the bypass.
The county council came under fire for delays to building the northern section of bypass, caused by the Environment Agency reassessing their planned sewage systems and pushing back planning permission. To an angry resident asking why they did not build the bypass before the housing development, county council project manager Sara McKnight explained it was because the southern section was funded by Persimmon. She said: "We didn't build the northern section first because it would have been a road to nowhere, to the middle of a field - that would not have been acceptable."
Rob Clarke from Persimmon Homes outlined their development plans, which included the homes, a primary school, a community hub, a green space with boardwalks and fitness trails, changing room facilities, allotments and 3,000 square metres of retail space.
But he said their 'absolute focus' in the next couple of years was getting roads built, including the bypass and the main road which loops through the development. He came under fire about the use of the Black Ditch river and wetland area for drainage, with one resident quipping: "If you sell any houses to people, I suggest you put a canoe in their back gardens." Mr Clarke responded by saying the plans were approved by the Environment Agency.
Another resident, who lives in one of the new homes, said her house and the road outside it were unfinished. Mr Clarke promised to refer her problems and those similar to hers to their customer care team.
The scheme was granted outline planning permission in 2011, when the Greencore Group sold the land to Persimmon Homes for their project, but retaining an interest in the retail space. It was currently assessing interest for who could move into the site.
Deputy mayor of Littlehampton James Walsh chaired the meeting. Speaking afterwards, he said: "It was a very important meeting, in that it brought in more residents to voice their concerns, all of which have been heard loud and clear by the town, district and county council and developers, to press for the sort of joined-up thinking that residents were concerned about."
Speaking after the meeting, Arun District Councillor Mike Northeast, ward member for Toddington and Courtwick, said: “It was good for my constituents to be able to put their concerns directly to the developers and the county council: concerns I hear on a daily basis.
"The delay in delivering the promised section of the new by-pass by the county council is not acceptable and they desperately need to get their act together. There is often traffic chaos in Toddington and Mill Lane with the tip closure contributing to this. Pedestrian safety is also a major factor especially at the railway crossing that is due to close.
"With the increased volume of traffic and pedestrians especially kids on the way to school using the the crossing, I’m meeting again with Network Rail to try and quickly bring in some temporary extra safety measures."