Comparisons to Cardiff have been made in an attempt to predict whether IKEA in Lancing will cause congestion chaos.
Transport experts adopted traffic flows for the Welsh capital’s store as it was deemed most comparable to Lancing – because of its location, accessibility and population within an hour’s drive.
Its calculations see peak-time traffic experienced in Cardiff added to the A27’s existing vehicle numbers to predict the store’s likely effect. Click here for more.
IKEA Cardiff opened in 2002, with more than 500,000 customers visiting in the first two months.
Press reports prior to opening highlighted residents’ shared similar concerns to those expressed in Lancing.
But Cardiff councillor Bob Derbyshire, a planning committee member when IKEA was approved, said road improvements had worked well.
He said: “I think the big issue was access but the highways people were doing a new road layout around it so it didn’t in the end turn out to be a big issue.”
Fellow Cardiff councillor Lynda Thorne, whose Grangetown ward became home to the Swedish firm, recalled ‘serious concerns’ over traffic congestion she and her ward colleagues shared.
She said: “In the first few months of the opening we did have a problem but it wasn’t as bad as we thought. At the time of the application the closest IKEA was Bristol and there was other there were always queues there. After the first few months the traffic problems were not what we thought they would be and it has never been a major problem.
“As part of the planning application we did ask for some highway improvements and road signs which directed people away from Grangetown.
“As I said the worries never turned into reality and I wonder if that’s because they have opened more outlets and people don’t have to travel so far to get there so that the trips are shorter and at different times of the day so the traffic is more spread out.”
Elsewhere, traffic gridlock has been a ‘regular feature’ at IKEA Reading, according to Newbury Weekly News.
The paper reported in February that shoppers were often stuck for hours at a time as they tried to exit the Swedish furniture store.
IKEA, which contributed £5million towards highways works, told the paper it was working to find a long-term solution.
Despite the problems, one objector’s fears had cooled.
Holybrook Parish Council chairman Mary Bedwell spoke against the plans before they were approved.
A year after the grand opening, she said: “It is not too bad actually. We did think it was going to be bad but they did spend a lot of money to have the road improved.”
Martin Perry, New Monks Farm Development director, said IKEA had identified signalling issues at a roundabout leading to the Reading store.
He said timings had been altered and there were currently ‘no issues’.
Asked about planning ahead for higher-than-expected traffic on opening day, he said: “Every IKEA opening in the UK causes excitement and attracts a large number of additional visitors. Plans are made working with the local authority and police on how to manage this initial peak.”
While settling on Cardiff traffic as the benchmark, experts also looked at Southampton.
Mr Perry said Southampton’s figures were ‘considerably lower’ than those used in the model for the Lancing store.