Category Archives: Arundel

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.

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.

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.

The A27 conundrum

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?