Category Archives: Chichester

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?

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.


All out in the open

The cat is well and truly out of the bag since Spirit FMChichester Observer and the Worthing Herald went ahead and published maps showing the 7 possible options for expanding the capacity of the A27 around Chichester.  These can also be seen on the A27 Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee’s website and show that a northern bypass would indeed intrude on the South Downs National Park.

The publication of these maps at last allows the public to see for themselves, what Highways England is considering around Chichester.  While Highways England has apparently branded the publication of these maps irresponsible, it has been showing various people and organisations these maps for quite some time.  In that situation it can hardly claim they were secret or that the public shouldn’t see them.

People are perfectly capable of understanding that these are only indicative options and that the details may well change.  However, to treat the public with such disdain is unacceptable and undermines democracy.  At least with the maps out in the open, this will allow a full and frank debate of all the various options even before the start of the official six week consultation some time in the Spring.

In the meantime local campaign group Chichester Deserves Better has already attracted well over 3,000 signatures to its petition opposing a northern bypass.

Chichester’s future on the line

The last few weeks has seen a flurry of activity in Chichester as it becomes increasingly clear that Highways England has ambitions for a Chichester northern bypass.  This has come as rather a shock to many as it has long been thought of as accepted and agreed that the way forward to tackling the congestion (although that’s a bit like chasing the holy grail) was to upgrade the existing junctions with flyovers.

Quite where this has come from remains to be seen, but it would appear to be driven by a number of factors:

  1. Cost – apparently it would be cheaper (financially) than upgrading the existing road although that does not include the true cost of the damage it would cause.
  2. Ease of construction – it would be less disruptive to the existing A27 to build a new road offline.
  3. Local politics – perhaps the deciding factor here in encouraging Highways England towards this path. It would seem that somewhere within Chichester District and West Sussex County Councils there has been a strong push for a northern bypass.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people are unhappy, particularly those in the north of Chichester and Lavant and other local communities who will be impacted by the road.  It would bring a lot of fast moving traffic very close to and at one point into the South Downs National Park, causing significant harm, as well as cutting off the city from its countryside setting.  It could also have serious implications for the future of the Rolls Royce factory and the Goodwood Estate.

Another effect is that it could lead to infill development between the city and the new road. However, a bigger impact is that with the removal of traffic from the existing road there is likely to be a rash of new out of town car based developments around the south of the city. This would further undermine the city centre and lead to the existing A27, which would be de-trunked and renamed, rapidly filling up with traffic again.

However, the good burghers of Chichester are not taking this lying down and already there has been a local group established to oppose this madness. Chichester Deserves Better which says it all really, already has a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts and is urging people to sign its petition calling on Andrew Tyrie MP and local councillors to oppose a northern bypass.