Author Archives: SCATE

Body seeks transport powers

Transport for the South East (TfSE) is bidding to become a statutory body and is asking for views on its proposal.  It was set up in 2017 and involves local authorities, business groups and other organisations across Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and Berkshire.

Some SCATE members have attended stakeholder workshops run by TfSE about a new regional transport strategy that they are developing and which will be out for consultation this autumn.

TfSE says:  Statutory status would give us the ability to directly influence the government’s decisions on transport issues and give us the tools we need to deliver our transport strategy

SCATE believes that there is a case for a regional transport body with the relevant powers to enable positive and sustainable transport solutions to happen. However there are worrying signs in the consultation proposal that the over-riding aim is really to invest in transport that delivers economic growth.  Whilst TfSE talks about investment in rail and bus networks there seems to be a focus on the expansion of aviation and damaging new roads.

The paper does acknowledge the high quality environmental and historic “assets” that we have in the region, but it does not really talk about how a new statutory body can ensure that these are protected and enhanced whilst investing in new transport infrastructure.  Neither does it concern itself with health and well-being, air pollution and most importantly of all, climate change.

The government recently adopted the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a number of Local Authorities in the South East (who are members of TfSE) have passed climate emergency motions in the past few months.

Transport is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK – accounting for 27% of emissions.[i] Transport is the only sector where emissions have increased since 1990. It is the key area which is undermining efforts to tackle climate change.

At a time of climate crisis it would be a huge oversight to set up a new statutory body which has no remit or power to deliver change through policies and actions that ensure modal shift and an overall decrease in emissions from road traffic and aviation.  Part of the problem is the lack of engagement with the public or other key stakeholders in the region such as from the community and voluntary sectors.  We believe that there needs to be strong conditions on the approval of any new statutory body for the South East and that it needs to be inclusive and broaden the range of stakeholders it engages with.

If you have views please get them in soon. The deadline is July 31st. SCATE and some of its member groups will be putting in responses, however if our concerns are to be taken seriously we need others to amplify them.  You can email responses to tfse@eastsussex.gov.uk

SCATE believes the new body should:

  • Support sustainable economic prosperity, rather than growth per se which often comes with severe social and environmental impacts
  • Have a duty to protect and enhance environmental and historical assets, improve health and well-being and reduce air and noise pollution.
  • Demonstrate best practice in the delivery of net biodiversity gain in all infrastructure delivery
  • Have a duty to invest in systems and schemes to reduce carbon emissions, in line with UK national budgets and targets and to appraise all infrastructure schemes against these
  • Be fully open and transparent with regards to both the board and any sub-groups or advisory fora, all of which should be open to the public to attend, with agendas, papers and meeting minutes published as per the standards operated by local authorities
  • Engage with a wider number of stakeholders, especially the community and voluntary sector who have largely been excluded to date

[i] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (2018a) Final UK greenhouse gas emissions national statistics 1990-2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/final-uk-greenhouse-gas-emissions-national-statistics 

Nominate good housing developments for an award

Have you moved recently to a new housing development area? Do you know someone that has? Were you involved in the creation of one of these areas? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, and you are proud of where you now live or what you have helped create, then keep on reading.

Transport for New Homes are looking for examples of new housing developments that promote sustainable transport options. If your new housing area promotes walking, cycling and public transport then submit your nomination for the Transport for New Homes award before 26 August.

What’s the criteria?

  • Developments must be in the UK
  • The development must not be over 5 years old
  • A minimum of 500 homes that are mostly occupied
  • Attractive public transport and good walking and cycling routes

There is a growing movement which recognises that over reliance on car use is increasing carbon emissions. Research has shown that creating new roads and expanding existing ones only serves to increase traffic. We need to move away from this method of development and travel in order to combat climate change. Through developing sustainable transport solutions we can do this.

We need new housing developments to lead the way. If developments are designed taking into consideration 21st century issues like global warming, then they will be able to play an active role in preventing it. Through promoting cycling, walking and public transport in these developments, we can move away from an over-reliance on car use. This will help reduce carbon emissions and also foster a healthier and cleaner way of life.

If you don’t know of something good happening maybe a colleague or friend does?  Please do let us see any nomination you send.

If you live in a new development where the transport options are affecting you in a negative way we’d be interested to hear your experiences too.  Contact us and let us know.

The Time is Now

It was great to see so many concerned people at the Time is Now mass lobby of MP’s in parliament last week. Transport is a key issue that many people were quizzing their MP’s about.

Research shows that transport is the largest source of greenhouse gases and is the only sector where emissions have increased since 1990. This highlights why a modal shift away from cars is necessary to reduce the carbon footprint of transport. If we can focus on alternatives such as improving cycling infrastructure, promoting public transport and developing more efficient bus and train services, then we can move towards tackling climate change.

We need to ensure MPs and other decision makers stop supporting plans to increase the size of roads which will generate further car use. -taking us in the wrong direction on carbon emissions.

We know some SCATE supporters made it to the Time is Now mass lobby. Were you there? We would love to hear about how you found the occasion and what kind of responses you got from your MP. Get in contact on Facebook or twitter to let us know, we would love to see any photos you took.

Some MPs did not come and meet their constituents. If yours didn’t please do write to them and see if you can get any commitments in writing saying they will support funding for active travel and public transport and that they will oppose new road building in their area.

Be part of the solution

On 15 June, we held our first proper networking event in Brighton – it was a really positive afternoon with people from across East and West Sussex attending –  including a number of new councillors from Brighton & Hove, Chichester, Arun, Mid-Sussex and Horsham District.

People appreciated being able to get together and to make connections.  We had interesting talks from Transport for New Homes, a new organisation looking at how bad new transport infrastructure is for big new housing developments and what we can do about it.  We had an inspiring talk from John Stewart about the value of working in alliances and other tips for campaigning to stop damaging new roads.  Finally we had a presentation on SCATE’s New Transport Vision from Kia Trainor one of our Committee members.

There were some very productive workshops in the afternoon looking at what we could do, both individually and together, to make a difference and bring about positive change.  At the end of the day a number of us retired to the pub to carry on the conversations.  If you haven’t signed up to SCATE why not do so now?

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.