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.

New Direction briefing

Our New Direction briefing aims to start a conversation about a vision for a cleaner, greener and less congested south coast. We look at how society as a whole can benefit from a more sustainable approach to planning and transport.

This approach, free from the destructive building of new roads, would help preserve the South Downs National Park, protect precious habitats such as ancient woodland and avert an increase in air and noise pollution.

The briefing is based on our full report exploring the evidence behind our thinking, which was written by Independent Transport Planning in conjunction with the University of the West of England.

If you would like to get involved with developing a vision, please get in touch and sign up to SCATE.

Read our New Direction briefing now

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.

A27 East of Lewes Update

We concerned about the effect which a major new dual carriageway will have on the National Park, east of Lewes. These new proposals are being put forward, even before the agreed safety improvements to the existing A27 have been implemented.

Current situation: 

New road proposals have emerged from a group of MPs in East Sussex.  If this new motorway-style road was built (an ‘offline’ route from Beddingham roundabout to Polegate) it would destroy a swathe of countryside and massively increase air and noise pollution. The proposed road would be highly visible for many miles along the South Downs Way and from Mount Caburn in the National Park. With faster speeds and more traffic, air and noise pollution would also increase, which would negate the claimed benefits from moving traffic away from the National Park. Also it would be unlikely to improve overall travel time as no changes are proposed to the two roundabouts at either end of the Lewes by-pass. Here congestion is already a major issue and likely to be exacerbated by attracting more traffic onto the A27 which the major new dual carriageway would undoubtedly do.

We are now waiting to see what Highways England propose to the Department for Transport. We are told that proposals will be made this summer.

SCATE’s larger members including CPRE, Sussex Wildlife Trust and The Friends of the South Downs (South Downs Society) are working with other groups in Sussex to prepare for the next stage of engagement.

After recent confusion over proposed government plans a public meeting was held at Selmeston village hall on June 12th. This meeting was extremely well attended with some residents having to stand at the back of the hall and others having to listen in from outside the open doors.  Also a meeting (on 13th July) has been held with parish representatives to update them on what is known. This meeting is being followed up in September at which it is hoped that Maria Caulfield MP along with Wealden & Eastbourne MPs will be present to meet the representatives of the affected parishes. CPRE have been invited to attend as well. This meeting is being organised by SSALC.

On the 1st August, Derrick Coffee (Campaign for Better Transport East Sussex) and David Johnson (Chair, CPRE Sussex) presented the SCATE report ‘A New Transport Vision for the Sussex Coast’ to Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne. The MP said he was keen to see an ‘evidence led’ approach to traffic issues and to see politicians and community groups coming together at a wider, ‘round table’ event to build on the report’s recommendations later in the year.

SCATE believes that Highways England will make a recommendation to the Department of Transport during the summer. We would like to see this report published for all to see. We believe there has been too much secrecy surrounding the development of the proposed dual carriageway.

Background listening:

Many will have read the press reports of the packed residents meeting held back in June 2018. At the time BBC Radio Sussex interviewed with Oliver Harwood, a charter surveyor from RH & RW Clutton. The interview is about 5 minutes long but it will give you a good background to the A27 East of Lewes.

Background reading:

Click below for a summary of the current background information:

A27 East of Lewes Background info 2018-08-11

More information:

If you would like to know more about this development or believe you can help with our campaigns, please contact us

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook by clicking below:

https://twitter.com/SCATE_A27_A259 https://www.facebook.com/southcoastalliance/

 

Join the consultation on a new rail ticket system!

The Rail Delivery Group (made up of Train Operating Companies)  along with the rail passenger organisation, Transport Focus are asking for public comments on how to restructure and simplify train fares. The consultation is open and runs until 10 September 2018.

This is the first major review of how train fares are structured since the early 1990s. That’s before the Internet became widely used and before contactless payments were invented. The rail fare system is still based on a clunky magnetic ticketing system which is very difficult to modify and change.

Recommendations will be made to the government in the autumn following the consultation and SCATE hope that it will bring about a much fairer, more equitable and easier fare system. However the computer experts and ticket administrators sitting in their offices don’t necessarily have all the best ideas so this is our opportunity to tell them what we want. Please make your comments:

Click HERE to give your views

This consultation is not about the quality of service or lack of it, dealing with overcrowding or resolving the chaotic way in which the rail companies introduced timetable changes. Yes, all these things need to be dealt with but it is really important to take advantage of this consultation and make suggestions of how you would to improve the rail ticket system. Please do tell them what you think by clicking on the above link. Thanks!

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Clean Air Strategy Consultation – closes 14th Aug 2018

Following the latest legal challenge by the organisation ‘ClientEarth‘, the government has had to comply with a court order and publish an Air Quality Strategy Plan. The government is consulting on this plan NOW, – following which it will be finalised by October 2018. Click on the image to the right which will take you to the consultation and a questionnaire. The more people that comment the more the government will have to take this seriously.

Why not have a go and tell the government what you think should be done? Alternatively/or as well tell us of your views [Click Here] and we will include your comments in our submission to the consultation. Remember the  Clean Air Strategy Consultation – closes 14th Aug 2018

Sadly, the UK Government’s strategy contains very few new ideas as to how the government could get a grip on the problem but it does contain some very useful statistical information about the amount of air pollution and what types of chemicals are being pumped into the air.

This consultation is a golden opportunity for members of the public and campaigning organisations to suggest measures to reduce air pollution which could be included in the final draft. Obviously one measure which could be adopted by the Secretary of State for the Environment (Defra), Michael Gove,  could be the bringing forward of the banning of all petrol & diesel cars/vans before 2040.  Mayors of large cities in the UK have suggested perhaps 2030.

However there are other issues which the public will have the opportunity of raising with the government through this consultation. For instance reducing journey times for commuters by creating employment opportunities near new housing or making it much easier for motorists to transfer to rail services. Other measures could be, – building rail links instead of building motorway-style roads or investing in electric buses powered by solar energy (yes it is possible). Here is an example right here in Sussex where electric buses have been introduced:

The Big Lemon bus company in Brighton & Hove has fully electric, zero emissions vehicles powered by solar panels on the roof of the bus depot. See: https://thebiglemon.com/

 

Transport for the South East (TfSE) have published a draft strategy

A new sub-national transport body for the South East, Transport for the South East (TfSE), was launched in 2017. The chair is Cllr Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council. The vice-chair is Cllr Tony Page, the deputy leader of Reading Borough Council and representative of the Berkshire Local Transport Forum.

TfSE takes in Berkshire, Brighton and Hove, Kent, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Medway, Portsmouth, Southampton, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex.

TfSE together with the area’s 16 transport authorities and five local enterprise partnerships are to work directly with the Department for Transport and will involve other key stakeholders, including Highways England, Network Rail and transport operators and users.

They have been developing a Transport Strategy – click the image below to read the document.

 

TfSE said on their web site:

The South East in 2050: Our Strategy

At the heart of Transport for the South East is our evolving transport strategy for the region; a strategy to transform travel in ways which improve people’s lives and help the economy to grow.

Our strategy will take us to the year 2050. We know the South East, like the rest of the country, will be vastly different in 30 years’ time. The ways we travel, how we work, live, communicate, consume and spend our leisure time will all be radically different. The purpose of our strategy work is to anticipate and adapt to these changes. We can shape the future, with the right investment, technology and insight to guide us.

Our final strategy, the blueprint for transport in the South East, will be completed at the end of 2019. But work is already under way on its building blocks. The first of these is our Economic Connectivity Review. This is a study of how the South East’s economy works, how it connects to national and international markets and which are the key corridors of transport where investment will have the greatest effect.

The study is being conducted by consultants Steer Davies Gleave and has been published in draft for key partners and stakeholders to give us their views on this initial blueprint by 19 June 2018.

We’ll be consulting with partners, businesses and residents across the South East once we have drafted the final strategy for our region. This will guide the work of Transport for the South East from the moment it becomes a statutory body, expected to be by 2020.

 

A full house at Selmeston Village Hall as locals discuss concerns over plans for A27 dual carriageway road!

After recent confusion over proposed Government plans for the A27 extension between Lewes and Polegate, South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE), the Folkington Estate and RH & RW Clutton presented to a ‘full house’ at Selmeston Village Hall on June 12th, to determine the truth and what could be done to influence the outcome of Highways England’s proposals.

SCATE suggest that members of the public write to their MP and to their councillors at Wealden and East Sussex councils, expressing their views whether for or against a new road through the countryside. Anyone who wants to be kept informed was advised to join SCATE (membership is free).

Click here to see links to the report of the meeting & presentations (at bottom of page)

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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.