Loxwood protesters aim to sink canal trust plan

Digital StillCamera
Digital StillCamera

The Loxwood-based Wey and Arun Canal Trust has faced another run-in with residents, this time over its plans for a visitor centre in the village.

As the Observer went to press yesterday, members of Chichester District Council’s north area development control committee were due to consider the trust’s bid to win planning consent for the centre, dubbed ‘modern-style bus shelter’ by opponents, who claim it would be out of character with its surroundings.

Councillors deferred a decision last month to give themselves time to visit the site.

Yesterday they were due to make up their minds and were being advised by officers to grant permission.

One protester, Mary Harvey, warned: “If they get it, there will be an almighty row. On busy days at the canal, the car park and overflow car park are all overflowing and there are 20-30 cars parked on the road.

“It is dangerous enough now without putting a visitor centre there.”

The trust has told the council the centre, which would be built on land next to the Grade II listed Onslow Arms pub, is needed to replace the inadequate existing ‘stall’ attached to the pub from where the public buy tickets for boat trips on the waterway.

“Visitor numbers have increased significantly and better facilities are required to meet their needs,” the trust said.

“There is parking nearby and enough space in the existing car park for coaches to turn and come out. It is a safe area for pedestrians.”

A modern design for the building has been chosen ‘to inspire visitors’.

But objector Annette Gardner told the Observer: “A visitor centre is not needed. It will only be used in the summer and will therefore be empty half the year.

“WACT have two mobile centres they are currently using.

“The towpath in front of the proposed site is a public bridleway used by horse-riders, numerous walkers and cyclists and there is no space for queuing visitors for the canal boats.”

The planned centre was causing as much unhappiness in Loxwood as the ‘disastrous’ bridge built by the canal trust in 2008, she declared.