Arundel residents who organised a public meeting in their local church, on A27 Bypass proposals, are surprised at continuing reports of their MP’s anger at them exercising democracy. They feel that Nick Herbert MP appears to be misinformed and unaware about local people and bypass issues.
Residents’ group, Arundel SCATE, was accused by their MP of organising a ‘deliberate’ and ‘one-sided’ meeting and failing to invite him.
Group founder, Rita Godfrey said, “Nick Herbert and the A27 Action group have been putting one side of the A27 issue for months without opening up debate to anyone else to challenge – and all using public money. West Sussex has a paper, ‘Connections’, delivered to all homes in the county, with a front page devoted to the A27 Action campaign, and devotes staff time to the campaign, with no other views acknowledged. Nick has staff issuing regular one-sided press releases, paid for by the tax-payer. We’re trying to redress the balance with our public meetings open to everyone.”
Kay Wagland, the group’s Chair pointed out they she had invited Nick Herbert to speak at their first public meeting, giving three weeks notice and asking him to ask someone else from the A27 Action campaign if he couldn’t come. “No-one came back to us, even though we chased Nick up. No-one was interested” she said. “Since the second meeting on November 3rd was simply a repeat of the first – so many people turned up that they couldn’t fit in the town hall, so we said we’d run another – we simply invited him on the same basis as everyone else in the town and would have been delighted if he had been able to come. It was short notice, but the Department for Transport process is so rushed, we couldn’t hang about and the church had only one date free. Our priority is for residents to be informed and to express their views before decisions are made without us.”
“We are asking that all the options in the Department for Transport Feasibility Study on the A27 should be kept open at this late stage, for discussion rather than relying on our MP and County Council representatives to convey what they believe local views to be, as they have clearly been unaware of those views until now.” said Sue White, Arundel businesswoman and group member. She continued, “Nick was clearly unaware that, far from being supportive of a new bypass as he’s claimed, many local people had no idea about it.” Hundreds of people from Arundel and its environs have attended Arundel SCATE meetings and others have contacted them to find out about A27 proposals.
They also fear that Nick Herbert doesn’t understand the classification of Tortington Common, part of the Binsted Woods complex popular with local people, which his favoured route would destroy. They explain that it is ‘ancient replanted’ woodland as recorded in the Sussex Woodland Inventory, but that their MP appears to believe that this simply means conifer plantation rather than a particular ancient woodland type. They feel that if he was aware of its value and the presence of dormice and threatened species there, he would not be suggesting that its destruction can be ‘offset’, ie by planting other trees on a new site, as it is not possible to offset ancient woodland.
Philip Gadsby, Arundel resident, pointed out that there is little substantive data coming from their MP or A27 Action beyond pointing out obvious congestion problems. He wondered if they were aware that West Sussex traffic levels were in decline (1), HGV levels on the A27 are very low (1) but that building a continuous dual carriageway A27 would draw in HGVs from other motorways to the A27, that most congestion is down to car journeys of less than 15 miles and that Alistair Darling rejected the favoured pink-blue route in 2003 for financial and environmental reasons rather than inaction.
He added that Arundel SCATE members were concerned that misinformation and lack of awareness meant that trunk road expansion was being pursued by authorities with little understanding of the real consequences, in the name of local people.
Arundel SCATE can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook at Arundel SCATE.