The Committee are keen for interested residents to attend the “Friends of Centurion Way” Exhibition which is taking place this Saturday 27th January from 11.00 am – 3 pm at The Scout Hut on Sherborne Road, Chichester PO19 3AA. The Friends will be displaying material from their dossier of research about the path including information on:

  1. History and Legal Status
  2. Current Status and Threat
  3. Formation of the “Friends of Centurion Way” Community Group and Objectives
  4. Executive Overview
  5. Details and Analysis of Specific Community Issues – Access especially for people with disabilities, Cycling Safety, Bishop Luffa Road Safety and Safeguarding, Loss of a key Wildlife Corridor, Access to the South Downs National Park, Lack of Expert Design Input
  6. More Extensive Proposals to Preserve and Enhance the full route of Centurion Way
  7. How you can get involved?

They will also be displaying some of their Competition Entries and comments gathered from members of the public over the last 3 months.

If you know and love the path, do go along and share in this celebration of Centurion Way. If any of your neighbours are new to the area, please do invite them along too to find out about this wonderful asset on our doorstep in Chichester that the “Friends of Centurion Way” has been set up to preserve and enhance.

The Background to the Campaign

John Grimshaw, former CEO of Sustrans, who designed and negotiated the Centurion Way (CW) back in the 1990s, is keen to see the path enhanced and not diverted all around the pitches which would involve extra length – not a good idea if you are frail and have to walk to the shops. The re-routing of the path has been left unchallenged for many years and the community will find it extremely hard to get their ideas accepted without a campaign at this stage.

His colleague Mark Strong, former Project Manager for the site, also gave Paula Chatfield of Parklands, Julia Smith of WGRA and City Councillor Sarah Sharp, a lot of professional advice and time to support making a challenge to the councils and developers. John and Mark are two of the leading experts in the field and they definitely know more than Vectos about designing the interaction of people on foot or bikes with vehicles. 

John Grimshaw’s re-design includes extension of the greenway along Westgate. It gives back and doesn’t take away from this greenway. It envisages a wide path following the route of the new road which is separated from the road by some greenery and also is more than 2m wide to avoid the shared space problems that one experiences all over Chichester with cyclists on pavements. The Friends appreciate that they are working in the dark in that no one has been told where the new road will go, which is why John Grimshaw’s rough design does not as yet take into account the WGRA’s wished-for outcome that the new Southern Access Road should feed straight into Cathedral Way and not the Westgate/Sherborne Road roundabout.

In the meantime, the Friends will be putting together a fuller dossier to back up their own re-design. The short summary does not include many important subjects, wildlife in particular. Pushing forward this plan is a decision that the newly formed group want to investigate along with the other ideas for saving the path eg nomination as a community asset. On Saturday the CWCG will run a mini pop-up exhibition with John’s ideas since they have been properly worked up. 

The route along Westgate is part of a huge network John helped to set up. He is a visionary – someone who makes things happen and it was a privilege to have met him.

I hope he will come to Chichester again and we will be successful in safeguarding the route and improving CW for everyone. If we can also bring some better solutions for Westgate to the table, that would be good too.

If any of you have any questions please do not hesitate to let the Committee know and they will put you in touch with John Grimshaw if they can’t answer directly. You can find out more about his organisation here.

Walk and Cycle

The Friends also aim to put together a timeline of events to continue to raise the profile of the path and the ramifications of the diversion for people who walk and cycle. This is because both walking and cycling are key strategies to keep the population healthier. They are modes we cannot neglect with the 30% increase in population CDC are giving us. We will grind to a halt as a city if we don’t sort our transport network out. If we however continue to give residents a broken and disjointed cycle network we will not increase cycling to Dutch style levels which we could easily achieve here as the area is flat.

The Friends know that residents from all over the County use the path for commuting and leisure. They know that they will get a lot of support from users of the path to preserve and enhance it and trust they will be able to have a useful and productive dialogue with our residents and committee too. They know that the mixing of cyclists and pedestrians is a key problem in this city and want to make sure that everything possible is done to make this co-existence more positive.

It always come back to that. The priority has to be the people who walk and cycle, and the extreme importance this path holds for us all. It is most probably the best walking/cycling off-road and safe path in the County and the Friends do not want to sacrifice the beginning part of it  even if the road that is needed is extremely important for air pollution reasons. We would then all lose out to increased obesity, pollution-causing illnesses, death and congestion.

The safe beginning of this path for families unloading their bikes from the car to take their children possibly for the first time out on a “real” cycle ride in the countryside is a heritage and an experience they do not want to lose for, if we do, there is no hope for walking/cycling in the County. All the strategies and road safety documents that are pouring out of the County every year stand for nothing if this road ruins the beginning of the path and the area is not handled very sensitively.

Colin Hicks

Site Admin - Westgate Residents' Association Chichester

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