Author Archives: SCATE

Life in the slow lane

It’s been several months now since an announcement on Worthing – Lancing was scheduled in May (2018). And we could be waiting for some time yet.

As the road builders are starting to realise, the reason why the A27 has not been expanded to date is because it faces so many issues which are not easy to deal with. However, rather than face up to this fact and look for different solutions, it would seem the dial on the machine is stuck on road building. Consequently we end up caught up in this seemingly never ending cycle of raising false hope before dashing it again, while traffic and congestion just get worse.

With the Worthing – Lancing section of the A27, a combination of budget restraints coupled with extremely expensive and damaging alternative road options have stymied any action in this area. Road options are limited to expanding the existing road through the two towns or building a brand new road through the South Downs National Park. Both are fiercely opposed, with there being much skepticism as to whether Highways England’s package of on-line measures was actually going to make any significant difference.

It will be interesting to see whether there will be an announcement anytime soon.

Arundel Bypass takes a battering

On Wednesday 23rd May, ten national environmental and conservation organisations wrote a joint letter to Michael Gove (Environment Secretary) and Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary) outlining their concerns about Highways England’s preferred route for the Arundel bypass (a slightly modified option 5A).  This would destroy around 6 hectares of ancient woodland and a swathe of the South Downs National Park.  It would also bisect the village of Binsted and destroy the tranquillity of the Arun Valley and the views along it.

They called for the Arundel bypass and other planned expansions of the A27 to be reviewed and more sustainable solutions to be found that would not jeopordise the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan.

A27-Arundel-bypass-national-joint-letter-23-May-2018-clean

Joint letter to Gove & Grayling

The next day, the plans took another battering when the South Downs National Park Authority agreed to seek leave for judicial review of Highways England’s decision to select a slightly modified option 5A and the process leading up to that decision.  This is the second scheme this year that Highways England’s consultation processes and decision making have been legally challenged.  It would suggest that something is seriously wrong with their approach.

Arundel launch for a New Transport Vision

launch-poster-V2 

After successful launches in Lewes and Chichester, Arundel will be launching A New Transport Vision for the Sussex Coast on Thursday, 17 May, 7:30pm at Arundel Town Hall.  Bridget Fox from Campaign for Better Transport will be the keynote speaker.  Refreshments will be available.

The event is free but numbers are limited so make sure you book your ticket early.  Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

New vision launches across Sussex

SCATE’s soon to be published New Transport Vision for the Sussex Coast is being launched at a series of local events along the Sussex coast.  The events are open to all and will outline some of the key principles and findings of the report.

Saturday, 21st April – Lewes Town Hall – doors open at 10am for 10:30am – 12:30pm (book a place on Eventbrite – event is free to attend)

Friday, 4th May – Bassil Shippam Centre, Tozer Way, Chichester, PO19 7LG – doors open at 1:30pm for 2pm–3:30pm (book a place on Eventbrite – event is free to attend)

Thursday, 17th May – Arundel Town Hall, from 7:30pm

Appetite for destruction – the Arundel options revealed

Arun Valley near where a new dual carriageway bypass is likely to go if approved

Well the day we all feared is upon us: the day that Highways England reveals its options for the A27 around Arundel.

Not unexpectedly, the South Downs National Park takes a huge hit whichever option is chosen, although option 1 is marginally better in that development within the National Park is along the existing alignment of the A27.  Ancient woodland is also for the chop, as though this and other important features matter little.

It would seem that there is no room for compromise when it comes to attempting to move more and more people by car and little consideration of the consequences of pursuing such a policy.  World Heritage Sites (Stonehenge), National Parks, AONBs, ancient woodland, important wildlife sites – none of them matter more than the requirement to shave a few seconds of someone’s journey.

It perhaps wouldn’t be so bad if there was real evidence of the benefits of such an approach, but there aren’t.  In fact all it is likely to lead to is more traffic, leading to congestion just moving somewhere else on the network.  Indeed as the A27 is expanded along its length, more long distance traffic will start using it, further clogging it up again.

The insanity of our current transport policies are clear to be seen by the solutions being proffered here.  If we have a valuable asset such as the National Park, why, if the road is so important, is it not being built in a tunnel for at least part of its length?  The reason being that the benefits of the road are not that great and with the warped logic applied by the Department for Transport that means that it is not cost effective to build a tunnel.

So were the road of massive economic importance we would get a tunnel, but because it isn’t we have to suffer the destruction of a swathe of ancient woodland and huge damage to the National Park.  It’s utter madness!  If we were in The Netherlands, while they like their roads they also build them much more sympathetically.  The A4 north of Rotterdam towards Delft has been placed in a tunnel in the urban area and then sunk below ground level through a wet landscape important for its recreational opportunities, significantly reducing its impact on the surrounding area.  Whereas we have to be grateful for a noise barrier and some tree planting.

We would urge people to reject all three options and support a low impact variant of option 1 as put forward by local people: the new ‘single purple’ route.  This bypasses the key bottlenecks but does so without the harm caused by option 1.  Make sure you have your say and vote for a solution that not only works for today but also for future generations.

A New Road to Devastation?

Arundel-insert

CPRE Sussex is supporting local residents in their fight to get a sane transport solution for Arundel and the surrounding communities.  It highlights recent research by CPRE nationally which shows that new roads often don’t bring the traffic, congestion and economic benefits claimed.  In fact in the longer term, they can actually make things worse.

CPRE Sussex is encouraging local people to have their say when the consultation on the A27 at Arundel begins sometime this summer, although with the General Election having been called, this may have slipped to the Autumn.  It produced this insert for its last newsletter – the picture on the front showing the view that potentially could be damaged by the type of road Highways England has indicated it wants to build.

Anyone wanting to find out more is encouraged to come on the guided walk along the lone of the old ‘pink-blue’ route on Sunday, 18 June.  Meet 10:30am at Dalloway Road, Arundel or contact arundelscate@gmail.com for more information.

The A27 conundrum

Graffiti on a bridge over Twyford Down

The shock announcement by Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, abandoning the A27 upgrade at Chichester shows the A27 isn’t nationally important.  If it was, the Government would have gone ahead anyway, regardless of local opinion.  However, it also highlights an even bigger issue: while people want a bigger road, in the belief that it will make it easier to get around, they aren’t always prepared to accept the huge social and environmental costs that often come with new roads.

That is why improvements mooted at Worthing do not include a bypass through or under the South Downs National Park as such a road would cause massive damage and huge opposition. Yet like at Chichester, Worthing residents don’t necessarily want the traffic to stay where it is, let alone want more of it.

So where does that leave Arundel?  In between Chichester and Worthing, it nestles on the banks of the River Arun at the foot of the South Downs.  Hardly anyone disagrees that some form of road improvement is required here, but at what cost?

Highways England’s favoured solution of a dual carriageway bypass would rip up ancient woodland on Tortington Common and scar the National Park.  It would increase noise pollution and sever Arundel from Binsted Woods.  The tranquillity of the Arun Valley would be lost forever.

If Highways England pursues this option there will be a lot of opposition.  Instead they need to work with local people who want to improve the A27, but not at the expense of destroying what they value most about the area.

Locals have identified a wide single carriageway solution that bypasses the station and the other bottlenecks.  It doesn’t cause the severance or damage that a high speed dual carriageway would and is receiving widespread backing.  Highways England needs to seriously consider this option or it could find itself with a revolt at Arundel, as it did at Chichester.

Ultimately though, until the Department of Transport start pursuing transport solutions based on evidence, rather than ideology, we are going to continue to be stuck in traffic on the Sussex Coast with few alternatives.  Even an expanded A27 will only bring short-term relief before it rapidly fills up again, clogging our towns and villages up with even more traffic.

There is a reason why the A27 hasn’t been expanded previously and that is because of the problems in doing so. All that has happened is that we’ve wasted the last 15-20 years while local authorities and MPs have largely ignored safer, cleaner, less damaging and often cheaper solutions, while pressing for a bigger A27.

Do we want to waste the next 20 years arguing over the A27 or is it time for a different, less damaging approach?

No Direction

This could be outcome of the recent Highways England consultation on making changes to the A27 around Chichester.  With many people opting to vote for none of the above, Highways England could be left in a difficult situation.  If none of its 5 options receive much support and indeed most people vote against any option, where does it go from here?

We suspect that it will just plough ahead doing what it wants to do, as it usually does.  However, if the outcome is that most people are unhappy with the choice before them it would make sense to halt the process and take stock.  Particularly as the proposals are so divisive.

The problem is that Highways England and many politicians look at issues in a one-dimension way, in complete isolation to other factors.  Yet we have some serious issues to face up to such as:

  • climate change and the need for transport to cut its carbon emissions
  • high levels of air pollution in our towns and cities
  • an obesity epidemic, which costs the NHS in Sussex nearly £500 million a year
  • and in 2035, 10% of the population in Sussex are likely to suffer from diabetes

New roads generally, add to all the above problems, while at the same time consuming vast amounts of public resource.  It seems crazy that we are not investing our money into reducing these impacts and the huge cost to the NHS.  Invest to save, not spend to waste should be the aim and should be the guiding principles for future investment in our transport network.

 

Summer consultation looms

After much rancour and debate, Highways England will be finally consulting on its options for increasing traffic flow along the A27 around Chichester.  These options will not include an A27 northern bypass after Highways England was firmly put in its place by the Department for Transport and told to get on and deliver what it had been tasked with doing.

Highways England has increased the consultation from the 6 weeks previously offered in the spring (and then extended to 7 weeks after much political pressure), to 10 weeks this time round.  However, given that the consultation is taking place over the summer months, when many people are away, this is no great concession.  It should be giving the public at least 12 weeks to respond.

Exactly what is in the consultation we shall have to wait and see, but most likely they will be the same or similar southerly options that were previously leaked to the press. For SCATE members, these plans represent both a threat and an opportunity.  Removing the bottlenecks at the junctions will improve traffic flow and that in itself will encourage more people to drive. So quite how long before congestion creeps back again is anyone’s guess, but it may not take long unless Brexit leads to an economic slowdown. Increased traffic levels also risk adding to pressure at Arundel and Worthing for bigger and faster roads.

Finally, HIghways England needs to grasp this opportunity to address the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders and remove the barrier that the A27 has become for people wanting to cross the bypass.  It has an opportunity to show how it is placing cycling and other environmental issues at the heart of its decision making and construction processes. These cannot be dealt with as bolt on afterthoughts but need to be central to the new design.

 

Air pollution hearing fast-tracked

ClientEarth action

ClientEarth, the group of environmental lawyers who have successfully challenged the Government to date about its sloth like action on tackling air pollution, are set to be back in court on 18 and 19th of October.  A High Court Judge recently approved their request for the process to be speeded up.

Last year they were successful in getting the Supreme Court to order the Government to produce an Air Quality Action Plan by the end of 2015.  The Government met this target but as expected produced an action plan that was underwhelming it is ambition and would fail to improve air quality “as quickly as possible”.  The plan was also based in some instances on dodgy data as it claimed air pollution in Brighton was already under legal limits when in reality it is still well above them, if improving.

Nevertheless, even though the process has been speeded up, it is likely that waiting for 4 months before holding the hearing will result in a further 13,000 premature deaths occurring in that period due to air pollution.  So even this speeded up process is costing lives and proceeding far too slowly.