Cycle Hayling update – March 2019

Since 2016, we’ve been publishing a monthly Cycle Hayling column in the Hayling Islander to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on (which we now publish on our website for anyone who doesn’t get the Islander).

However, as that’s aimed at the general public, we can’t always speak as freely as we’d like, and so we haven’t kept our supporters or our web site updated as much as we should have.

So here’s a summary of what’s been going on, to save you reading the whole website (which you’ll see we’re gradually updating). A lot has happened, so you can click any heading below to see it in bite-sized chunks ….

Going forward, we’ll be sending out more regular supporter updates, and we need your support more than ever if we’re to make Hayling Island the cycling paradise it should be.

We’ve come a long way since 2010, when we formed, since 2011 when we published our first Cycle Map of Hayling, and since 2013, when we published our first aspirations document, focusing on Safe Cycle Routes to Schools. And we’ve gone from 3 to over 300 supporters – click here to register more supporters – for free!

But we haven’t come anywhere near far enough in terms of cycle paths, largely because of lack of funds and landowner permissions.

We think Hayling deserves better, and it’s time to push harder.

The only money available to improve cycling is from levies on big developments (now called CIL – Community Infrastructure Levy).

Around 2014, the Halyards Bellway Estate was built, providing the council with getting on for half a million pounds. In Feb 2017, Havant Borough Council (HBC) produced an excellent Feasibility Report & plan to invest that money, taking on board our Safe Cycle Routes to Schools.

However, most of the money is now going on much more expensive road improvements, which really won’t make much difference to traffic or pedestrians. While of course we welcome these, they’re not going to help cycling one bit, and half a million pounds would have built good quality cycle paths all over the island. We think Hayling deserves better.

The three surviving cycle related projects are the green ones on the map (to see it bigger, right click on it, and open link in new tab) (Note: these numbers are different from the advertiser numbers on our paper maps) :

  • 1. A tarmac shared cycle path around the edge of the Legion Field from Legion Road to Mengham Junior School and Hawthorne Grove (delayed by landowner permission).
  • 2. Widened paths and signed cycle routes through Hayling Park, although cycling is already allowed in all Havant Borough parks, (delayed by tree protection issues, now resolved, we believe).
  • 3. A new East-West shared cycle path between St Mary’s church and Manor Road via the Parkdean holiday park and Higworth Lane, based on the existing the existing footpath 89 (still delayed by landowner permissions).

Unfortunately, SEVEN more projects have been put on hold or dropped, for various reasons, but mostly money (in red on the map) :

  • 4. Footpath 101 sealed surface from Legion Field to Herons Way (officially pedestrian only, but we know it is used by cyclists).
  • 5. Footpath 102 cycle path from Mengham Lane to Selsmore Road.
  • 6. Rails Lane shared cycle path.
  • 7. Shared cycle path from Herons Way to St Leonards Avenue, via St Margarets Rd.
  • 8. East-West cycle route from Manor Rd to West Lane via Brights Lane.
  • 9. Hayling Billy to Saltmarsh Lane link path (but see below).
  • 10. Rooks Farm (awaiting decision on development).

We’re told that Legion Field should be done in 2019 summer holidays, but the other two won’t be before 2020, 6 years on! Why? 3 very frustrating reasons:

  • While landowners have agreed in principle, the council has struggled to get them to sign the requisite legal agreements, and particularly with Parkdean, so if you have any contacts there, we’d love to hear from you.
  • Protecting tree roots! We love trees, but really …..?
  • And finally, Hampshire requires all projects to be contracted together, to get bulk savings. But since delays on any one project holds up all the others, any possible bulk savings are more than cancelled out.

Some good news! In 2017, hearing that the Hayling Billy to Saltmarsh Lane link path (number 9 on the map) had been dropped for lack of funds, Cycle Hayling agreed with HBC to bid for £16,000 of CIL money.

This was already in HBC’s Feasibility Report & plan, by upgrading to cycling the existing footpath 521, which links to the Billy Trail from West Lane via Saltmarsh Lane and Denhill Close. It’s currently a narrow, muddy and very uneven path over private land.

Having won the money we found that HBC’s cost estimate had only been very provisional, and they could no longer do it within that budget. So Cycle Hayling have taken it on – our biggest ever project, and our most important!

People continually tell us that all our existing cycle paths are too rough and too dirty – on the Billy Trail, the sea front, the cinder track and elsewhere. So we believe we need smooth, all weather sealed surfaces, not just for cycling, but for prams, pushchairs, scooters and wheelchair access.

However, current Hampshire County Council policies seemed to prevent that, so in January 2019, we started our ‘Smooth the Path‘ campaign (see below) to try and get those policies updated to meet the modern needs of cycling and the Equalities and Disabilities legislation.

And, with the help of Lance Quantrill, our Hampshire County Councillor, it looks as if we may have found a compromise solution, and hopefully one that can eventually be applied to the other cycle paths on Hayling.

And we’ve made good progress towards the extra funding we’ll need. We won’t be able to do anything until after the bird nesting season, but we’re aiming to have a new path by Autumn.

The aim of the ‘Smooth the Path‘ campaign is to ensure all cycle paths are suitable for all wheeled users, including prams, pushchairs, scooters, wheel chairs, disabled buggies and road bikes, and in all weathers.

Different parts of Hampshire County Council have conflicting requirements for path surfaces. It was looking like we’d be pushed to use the same natural materials which have failed us on the Billy Trail, footpath 88 (AKA the cinder track) and the original surface for the seafront accessibility path. 

They quickly break up under use, and deteriorate into loose stones, puddles and mud, an unpleasant surface for all users and a skid risk for cyclists.

The sacrificial ‘self-binding’ surface used at the north end of the Billy Trail is weathering moderately well, but a similar section across Hilsea Lines demonstrates much faster deterioration

Our research is that a proper sealed surface (as used already by many cycling and walking paths in Hampshire – including the Langstone section of the Billy Trail) is only about 15% more expensive than ‘self-binding’ gravel and should last several times longer, with almost no maintenance. We’re hopeful we’ve now found one.

In 2018, we launched our ‘Haylink‘ campaign for a Hayling North-South cycle link. We applied for CIL money to fund a feasibility study to look at all possible options for the route and make recommendations.

However Havant Borough Council have since announced their intention to produce an LCWIP, a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, pronounced ‘Elsie-Whip’. This is the local authority part of the government’s CWIS, Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Strategy, and is produced by each local authority, and becomes part of the Local Plan. We’ve been campaigning for an LCWIP ever since the government announced them, so we have agreed to withdraw our bid on the condition that they would incorporate the principle into the new LCWIP. But we are still committed to Haylink.

Work to repair the section of the Billy Trail that fell into the sea resulted in a lot of damage to the trail itself. The contractor made an attempt to repair the damage by laying loose scalpings.

Unfortunately – as we know all too well – scalpings only work at all when properly compressed and topped with a finer surface, and these quickly deteriorated into a collection of loose stones. Unpleasant for all users and positively dangerous for bikes.

We made representations to Havant Borough Council and Hampshire County Council, and the issue was eventually corrected.

The general state of the Billy Trail (apart from the north end, laid as part of the HB50 project) is very poor, with some areas prone to flooding and muddy puddles or rough stones in other parts. When first laid, it was possible to cycle commute off the island, but very few do now, if any.

This is a clear example of why inappropriate surfaces are a waste of money and can make paths worse for all users. We have made representations many times to Havant Borough Council and Hampshire County Council to provide a better all-weather surface, and we think the message is getting through.

We hope and expect that the HBC 2036 Local Plan and/or the LCWIP will lead to a properly constructed sealed surface for the Billy Trail, and for all cycle paths, as part of our ‘smooth the path‘ campaign.

However, the big issue with the Billy Trail is that it is being eroded by the sea and officially, not being defended, so will eventually be washed away. The councils are now starting a project to look at that issue, and until that is resolved, there is little prospect of investment to improve the surface.

We would like to erect signage at each end of the Billy Trail to encourage all users to be considerate of each other. We raised a formal proposal to Hampshire County Council and Havant Borough Council (the owners of the north and south ends of the trail respectively, we:

  • Suggested where the signs could be placed
  • Presented possible wording (the same as used on other shared paths in Hampshire and West Sussex)
  • Offered to pay for the signage and to erect it ourselves

That was nearly two years ago. Our proposal was put on hold because Hampshire was about to undergo a rebranding exercise that would have seen existing Billy Trail signs replaced. That hasn’t happened.

A seafront path has been established, but the surface is variable, and people tell us that some parts are still too dangerous for many people and children to cycle.

Havant Borough Council has improved the section of the path as it joins the pavement immediately before reaching the entrance to Beachlands. It’s not great to feed the path onto a road in order to get access to the western section of the path, but it is better than feeding onto a non-shared footway and the main road.

Over the bridge we’ve been able to cycle traffic-free to East Havant for quite a while. But now you can cycle traffic-free to the west end of Havant (e.g. Tesco) or to Portsmouth as well. The footpath from Mill Lane to the Langbrook Restaurant is now officially a shared path, avoiding the main road or a mile diversion along the Billy Trail to the Spring Theatre. Some railings have been erected to make crossing an exit safer.

We were consulted about the plan and asked to get feedback from our supporters. Unfortunately, the delays on the A3023 forced non-essential work be carried-out at night, doubling some of the costs, so the work has had to be done piecemeal and slower.

There is a tree partly blocking the pavement, south of Langbrook Close. The original plan was to borrow some un-needed road to bypass the tree, however this is expensive, and the health of the tree may make this unnecessary.

The final stage of the plan is to link it directly to the underpass beneath the A27 to Tesco, and HBC is actively working with Hampshire Highways and Highways England to achieve this.

Wilf Forrow has done an excellent job of relationship building with councillors and officers of our local authorities, who are all very supportive of the need to improve health, cycling and walking.

We face two major obstacles, however, which we are actively working on:

  • A shortage – or absence – of funds to support cycling initiatives
  • Disjoins which generate conflicting, and sometimes mutually exclusive policies, most obviously between Havant and Hampshire, and between the Active Travel and the ecological policies.

We continue to run stalls at local fairs and fêtes, jointly funded by Cycle Hayling and Portsmouth CTC. We use it to gain new supporters and to encourage people to get on our turbo trainers for fun, and also provide general cycling information. Look out for our 2019 events and come and see our stall!

We’ve organised several social rides around the Island to discuss problems and opportunities with supporters, and it was great to have several councillors join us – thank you!

We’ve found the rides to be more effective, better supported and more fun than formal meetings. We expect to do more when the weather improves – keep an eye on our events and come along!

We’ve also taken our MP’s around the island to gain their support, and both Alan Mak and his predecessor, David Willetts, are keen cyclists.

The Council erected cycle route signs along most of our ‘green route‘ that links Copse Lane, St Peter’s Road and Northney Road.

There was some initial opposition from Northney residents but the signage used is the small blue sign (intended as a guide for cyclists) rather than the large ‘warning cyclists’ triangle (the signs fulfil – to some extent – both functions) so the visual impact is minimised.

Natural England is working with local authorities to plan and construct (where necessary) a coast path around the entire country.

The path will be a footpath and – unless already a shared path – won’t be available for cyclists. We are monitoring progress and lobbying for cycle access because:

  • The section planned for west Hayling will – unsurprisingly – make use of the Billy Trail and might support our campaign to restore it.
  • It might create opportunities for establishing new, shared cycle paths.

The section planned for east Hayling seems to have stalled for the time being – partly because of legal action by landowners.

Separately, North East Hayling Resident’s Association has been working with HBC to provide a safe footpath along Northney Road, from the Langstone Hotel to the bridge. We lobbied hard to have this made a shared cycle path, but were told it could never be made wide enough because of constraints from Natural England. But Natural England seem to be blocking it at present anyway.

Remember, we can only do this with your support. Click here to register more supporters – for free!

You know your locality better than we do – send in your ideas or thoughts, or tell us if you’d like to get involved.

Best regards, Wilf, Joy, Robert, Andy, Sue, Dave, Dave & Heather from the Cycle Hayling committee.

4 Replies to “Cycle Hayling update – March 2019”

  1. There are half a dozen or so year round commuters using the Billy Trail, braving the flooded path through the winter (myself included). It is noticable how over the last two winters the pond just before the start of the Oyster beds (South) floods to such an extent that it is often 6-8 inches doep for a 100 metres for prolonged periods; have the ditches been filled in on the fields to the right? Can anything be done?
    This area is particularily fragile, around five years ago the sea washed away a large part of the path (we now have a narrow passage to avoid the pebbles), now we are facing flooding from the island side too that will inevitably mean what is left of the path is washed away.

  2. Wow! Well done John. I thought commuting down the Billy Trail was all but dead, but good to see you hardy souls persevering.

    Most of the flooding would be resolved by a properly cambered surface, but the fact is that no-one will talk about repairing the surface until the sea defence issue is resolved.

    Havant/Hampshire have been monitoring the sea defences, and they they won’t last forever. But it’s survived for 150 years, and it’s not as if it’s exposed to Atlantic breakers or anything, so it’s absolutely fixable – IF the will is there, and for not much money, in sea defence terms, AND IF we can find a solution that is acceptable for bird and English Nature.

    East Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP), which is a consortium of all the councils along the solent, are only now getting round to Hayling, so it’s finally getting some attention. We understand they’re planning to set up a specific working group just for the Billy Trail, and we’ve asked to be on it.

    It would be an absolute tragedy and a scandal if we lost the Billy Trail, and I can’t see that happening. We’ll be fighting hard for it to be defended and given a proper ‘Smooth the Path’ surface that anyone can ride on.

    Are the other commuters Cycle Hayling supporters, do you know? We need the maximum pressure if we’re going to succeed!

  3. I know a couple who commute to Portsmouth (they join up with me), but won’t travel on the Billy Trail due due damaging their bikes, they either come up the main drag or through Northney.

    1. Great update, thanks for all the hard work. I gave up commuting on the Billy trail a couple of years ago. The scalpings and continually arriving at work covered in mud did it for me.

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