Work which will pave the way for a controversial new bypass has started.

The construction of a new enlarged roundabout on the A259 at Roundstone Lane, Angmering, began this week and will be completed by the middle of February.

Work on the bypass itself should start in the middle of next year and be completed by the end of 2002.

The road is earmarked for fields to the east of Angmering, passing close to the Spotted Cow pub.

Supporters say the bypass will take heavy traffic away from the village, but opponents argue it will not make any difference and will wreck the countryside near historic Highdown Hill, Worthing. As part of the scheme, 600 homes will be constructed on abandoned nurseries.

Former West Sussex County councillor Chris Hare warned that the first phase of development would be followed by hundreds of extra houses, ruining Angmering's semi-rural appeal.

He said: "The villagers of Angmering do not know what they have let themselves in for. They have been hoodwinked.

"The whole purpose of the bypass isn't to give relief to Angmering. It was to provide the means to build a massive new housing estate.

"It is West Durrington Mark II, which is a great shame. Angmering is a village with a close-knit community, but it won't be for much longer."

There is also concern that local schools will not be able to cope with a huge influx of new families to the area.

But Coun Harold Hall said: "I'm delighted that the first stage towards a bypass for Angmering is about to start.

"The roadworks on this busy section of the A259 will obviously have an impact on traffic flows and I would like to apologise for any delays the work causes."