Bypass would help

A LETTER has been sent to residents of North Street, Petworth, by Mr David Hoad, a senior engineer in the County Council’s highways department, warning residents of the closing of North Street for resurfacing.

A second letter was sent after the dated diversion, signs had been erected, and then it was belatedly realised the gas engineers were scheduled to be digging up the road a few weeks later, involving a further closure and what would have been the partial destruction of the resurfacing.

A potential classic roadworks scenario, some might think!

So all credit to Mr Hoad for spotting this and revising the timing to suit.

But why was a velvety-smooth tarmac surface laid, similar to that used for motor racing circuits, encouraging speed and vehicle dominance, where textured or block paved surfaces would have generated a more pedestrian-friendly environment?

After a few days respite from the noise and fumes of speeding traffic, I once again am terrified to walk in North Street.

It is beyond reason that users of the only pedestrian route from the housing areas in the north to the town centre, used by schoolchildren, mothers with toddlers and babies in pushchairs, to say nothing of the elderly, many of whom live in North Street, are all forced to cower along a footpath only 800mm (32ins) wide in places with only a 50mm (2ins) kerb height above the road.

At one point the path dips below road level by up to a metre and is guarded by a flimsy wooden fence that was recently smashed, but replaced identically, although it is totally inadequate as a safety barrier.

Drivers accelerate from the roundabout at the north end of North Street, and because of the narrow pavement police tell me they are unable to set up ‘speed traps’.

This is also true of other equally busy streets in Petworth, including Pound Street, which takes the entire northbound traffic of both the A272 and A285, some have no footpath at all in places.

Few people dare walk in those streets!

When in the past a bypass for Petworth was proposed, a route through the park was ruled out, and an alternative route through the Shimming Valley also rightly met strong opposition and was dropped.

So a third route to enable primarily heavy vehicles to avoid the town centre, known as ‘the lorry route’, was finally agreed and formed by upgrading Kingspit Lane between the A272, and the A283.

This was planned to be extended further south and west in a broad ark to join the A285 south of the town.

These proposals are officially known as the Petworth Environment Relief Measures or (PERM).

However as the lorry route was deemed successful at the time it was opened ten years ago, it was felt that the construction of the PERM would be unlikely.

That was ten years ago and traffic flows have increased greatly since then.

However a more easily achievable improvement to the town centre might be found if, instead of a one-way system directing south- and westbound traffic through the heart of the town and north – and eastbound traffic along Pound Street and Church Street, a light-controlled alternating one-way section were to be introduced on the latter route.

This was arranged during roadworks in the town centre last year and appeared to work well, transforming the centre of the town to a pedestrian friendly hub.

Would there be a loss of trade through lighter through traffic, and if so would this be balanced or enhanced by increased trade brought about by Petworth becoming a more pleasant cultural and shopping destination?

It would be simple enough to find out by setting up an experimental traffic system, based on last year’s arrangement.

Petworth is a marvellous destination and could be doubly so if visitors and residents alike was not assaulted by through traffic.

Elizabeth Hodgkins,

North Street, Petworth