The opening of the new Horsham Football Club ground, together with the ongoing new housebuilding developments in Southwater, have led to renewed calls for the construction of a safe A24 crossing at Hop Oast.
A post on the Horsham Facebook page highlighted the fact that football fans living in Southwater are regularly crossing the A24 at Hop Oast to get to the Camping World Community Stadium, the home of Horsham Football Club.
The initial post and subsequent follow-ups (including one featuring the video posted below) received hundreds of interactions and almost universal support (a rare thing on social media) for a new crossing at Hop Oast.
One of the most 'Liked' posts was from Paul Ockenden who highlighted other vital improvements that are also required to facilitate safe pedestrian and cycle traffic between Southwater and Horsham:
"..A footbridge over the A24 is a must. Also street lighting the entire way between Hop Oast and the railway where the street lighting ends from Horsham, traffic lights and a crossing at the point where people have to cross on the Worthing Road, then the footpaths need to be widened and kept clear . This is one of the busiest arterial routes in and out of Horsham and is still left as a country lane from the 18th Century..."
A further comment from Paul pointed to a post he had previously made on the Horsham Facebook Page in March 2015 linking to a petition to "Improve pedestrian safety on the Worthing Road between Horsham and Southwater". It's fast approaching 5 years since this petition was raised and since that time the football ground and hundreds of new houses in Southwater have been constrcuted.
Jim Vallance, who regularly crosses the A24 at Hop Oast, pointed out the apparent inconsistencies in the allocation of funding for local cycle paths:
"...We run the gauntlet quite often trying to cross this section of the A24.. Quite incredible that WSCC have spent all that money on alterations to the old BBH bypass and are installing wide cycle paths there for the thousands of cyclist that exist only in the minds of the WSCC planning department.. Have to agree with others on here that the walk down from Hop Oast to town is extremely dangerous on the narrow footpaths..."
The most poignant comment pointed out a similar road crossing in Kent where similar calls for a safe crossing had been unacted upon until the tragic death of an eight year old girl and her 79 year old grandmother.
This tragedy eventually led to the installation of a new footbridge crossing the A249 at Detling Hill - the footbridge was named "Jade's Crossing".
As we write this, comments are still being added from members of the public who are keen, some even say 'desperate' to see a safe crossing of the A24 and the prevention of a similar tragedy between Horsham and Southwater.
The community discussion has already prompted promises from influential groups and people to take it further.
The Horsham District Cycling forum made several comments beginning with:
"..Yes, we definitely need a safe cycle and walking route between Southwater and Horsham. It's only 3 miles, so is within easy cycle distance. A safe crossing of Hop Oast is vital for this, as is a good route down the Worthing Road...."
Ruth Fletcher, HDC Councillor, Denne Ward said:
"..We need a safe crossing. A good underbridge would be more user-friendly than a bridge and the whole route between Southwater and Horsham needs to be safe for cycling and walking. HDC and WSCC are now working on an 'LCWIP' -this is a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan which can be used to bid for government funding and to 'unlock' money from developers. This should be one of the primary routes for our local network. As one of the local councillors for Denne Ward, I have been strongly supporting this. I will pass on a link to this discussion to the officer and consultants involved so they are aware how strongly local people feel about this..."
We at Visit Horsham think that with hundreds of new homes recently built in Southwater, and many more planned, many people would like to be able to safely walk from Southwater to Horsham with pushchairs, young children or even elderly relatives.
Our roads are crammed at peak times and we have a climate crisis. Enabling people to safely walk or cycle on a direct route between Horsham and Southwater would help relieve traffic and improve our environment in our opinion.
Most of all, we really hope that a safe crossing can be installed before we also have to add a plaque for our own equivalent of Jade Hobbs.