Author Archives: SCATE

Fudging the figures

Those interested in the way that policy is made behind closed doors might want to read on….

The question of a new dual carriageway to replace the existing A27 between Lewes and Polegate has long been on the agenda of the road building lobby.

After the Department for Transport (DfT) turned down the plans (for probably the second or third time) on the grounds of very poor value for money and huge environmental damage, the local MPs (first Caroline Ansell and then after the election, Stephen Lloyd and Maria Caulfield) got together with East Sussex County Roads department and the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce to form the secret and shadowy “Reference Group”, with the sole aim of reviving the dead scheme.

In secret meetings between 2015 and 2018 this group lobbied the DfT minister to release £3m for a new economic study to “prove” the need for the road.  This was taken from the budget allocated to the modest on line junction and crossing improvements proposed to improve the existing road .

Working with (and influencing) officials at Highways England, they secured very strange and unusual instructions being issued to the consultants who were tasked with writing the study.

In the light of conventional Cost Benefit Analysis which shows the proposal to be a complete waste of money, it is worth quoting that the instructions state:

“k) The Consultant shall therefore refine the assessment of the identified corridor(s) using a spreadsheet-based approach that can apply different weights to achieving the scheme-specific objectives (and any other elements that may warrant a higher weighting).”

This is colloquially known as “fudging the figures”.

The fundamental basis of Cost Benefit Analysis is to give different impacts a standard monetised value so that one scheme can be compared on a like for like basis with another.

Choosing different weights for different effects in this scheme compared to others is in our opinion an invalid and dangerous way forward – if widely applied it would be impossible to compare and contrast different road schemes and to judge value for money. This could lead to expensive and highly damaging schemes being built , potentially wasting vast amounts of public money.

We wrote to the Secretary of State and local MPs to ask that when it is published, they would join with concerned locals in rejecting a study that is so clearly weighted against the outcome you have said you have argued for. We requested a meeting, but regrettably the DfT have yet to respond.

We remain hopeful that policy should be made on the basis of unbiased evidence.

Worthing residents reject poor transport plans

Highways England recently published the results of the public consultation on its proposals for the Worthing –Lancing section of the A27.  The consultation that ran for 8 weeks from 19 July through to 12 September 2017,only had one option for consideration, providing people with little real choice. 

This option entailed some modest online widening to create more dual carriageway and changes to junctions. Some incursion into the South Downs National Park would have taken place.  While new crossings were being proposed for pedestrians and cyclists, in general these were poorly thought out as so often seen from Highways England and West Sussex County Council.  For example, going from the south west to the north east of Offington Corner Junction would have required pedestrians (and cyclists not on the road) to use seven separate crossings.  Other junctions were also complex and time-consuming and would have discouraged walking and cycling, while no bus priority measures were included in the scheme either.

In total 1,722 responses were received, the vast majority from local residents.  86% supported ‘improvements’ to this stretch of the A27, with 10% disagreeing.  However, when it came to the actual option on offer, 76% opposed it, with only 15% supporting it.

Most concerns centred around the belief that the scheme would not do enough for congestion or pollution, although as we know all too well, whatever gets built is likely to become congested.

Given the results and that Highways England has sat on these results for 6 months, it is unlikely that anything fast is going to happen on this stretch of the A27.  That means that the capacity of the A27 is to all intents and purposes constrained.  Therefore, does it really make sense to be pressing ahead with a highly damaging Arundel dual carriageway bypass to cope with future demand, when that future demand is unlikely to be realised because of the constraints at Worthing?  Clearly not, but don’t suddenly expect an outbreak of common sense. 

The pressure for road expansion at Worthing or Lancing has not gone away, as local residents frustrated by traffic levels see a new road as the only solution.  However, Highways England, while also being promised billions for its next road investment strategy, is under pressure to deliver on a number of highly contentious and expensive schemes, so doesn’t necessarily have the bottomless pit of money some people think. More modest and sustainable solutions could in the end prevail.  With so little time to reduce carbon emissions and reverse wildlife loss, they need to.

Real choice is needed in new consultation

Highways England has announced that it intends to consult again on the Arundel bypass options in Spring 2019.  It says this: “will give local people a fresh look at all the viable options for upgrading the A27 using the latest available information.” 

It goes on to say that: “important new evidence is available which merits putting the plans to the public again. This new information includes a redesign of the western end of the scheme where it re-joins the existing A27, updated traffic modelling results and updated data on and enhancements of the alternative Options 1 and 3.”

To many this seems that Highways England is jumping before it is pushed.  It appears to be pre-empting criticism that is likely to arise at the forthcoming judicial review, scheduled for the end of November. Here it is being challenged over the quality and misleading nature of the information it presented in the last round of consultation that led to option 5A being selected as its preferred route: an option that scars the National Park, destroys ancient woodland and other high quality habitats, as well as bisecting Binsted village.

However, there is nothing in this revised approach to suggest that Highways England is doing anything but the minimum that it thinks necessary to force this unpopular and highly damaging road through. Even then it may not succeed as nothing in this announcement appears to address the National Park Authority’s concerns that Highways England has not looked properly at options that would cause no harm to the National Park itself (such as the single carriageway New Purple route).

It is not good enough for Highways England to keep pushing ahead with a slightly tweaked version of what it previously proposed, while ignoring the fundamental concerns with that approach.  It should be acting in the public interest and that includes considering the wider and damaging impacts of road building. Any new consultation needs to include a proper and impartial appraisal of all options, including options previously dismissed that do minimal or no harm to the National Park and avoid significant loss of ancient woodland and other important habitats.

Highways England cannot continue to exist in its own little bubble. After all we’ve just had the warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with transport’s carbon emissions seriously off-target (and new roads create new traffic which just add to the problem). This is on top of already well-documented concerns around air pollution and obesity, all linked to excessive car use and costing the NHS billions.  UK biodiversity is also under threat.

Never more so than now, Highways England needs to be taking A New Direction and to start coming up with 21st century solutions, rather than continuing with the failed and hugely expensive mistakes from the past. Unfortunately, while this new consultation offers an opportunity to reset its approach, it would appear from what it has said so far that it remains firmly off message.

Legal challenges clear first hurdle

The High Court has granted permission, this week, for two Judicial Reviews of Highways England’s plans for the A27 at Arundel.  The two cases will be heard together, probably in the next 3 – 6 months.

The South Downs National Park Authority originally sought leave to appeal the way that Highways England chose its preferred route and its failure to fully explore all options including those which would not impact on the National Park. 

Dr Emma Tristram

In addition, local resident and grandmother, Dr Emma Tristram, engaged lawyers Leigh Day who issued proceedings in the High Court claiming that the decision by Highways England was unlawful.  This was on the basis that following public consultation on the three options, there was a radical change to Highways England’s projected traffic flow on surrounding roads which meant that:

  • information in the consultation brochure was positively misleading;
  • expressions of support by the public for Highways England’s preferred route was based on out of date traffic figures;
  • the public were not given the opportunity to consider revised traffic figures.

She is also contesting that the consultation material contained numerous material errors and omissions which, cumulatively, gave a positively misleading impression of the impact of the preferred option on Binsted village, Binsted Woods and historic Binsted Park.

Dr Tristram has already raised £11,000 towards her legal costs from supporters, but needs to raise substantially more to see the case through. If anyone wants to help her cause they can do so via her crowd-funding website.

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

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

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?

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.