Reading the local press or the output from local politicians and you would have thought that everyone in Arundel wants a second A27 bypass. Well after the last couple of days, that myth has been well and truly exploded. It is now clear that a significant number of people don’t support that option.
Not only that, but people want access to the facts and to be involved in the debate, rather than be told by politicians or the Department for Transport what’s good for them. Few, if any, question the need for some form of road improvements, but they want the opportunity to shape what happens to their local community and to arrive at solutions that won’t cost the earth and that most people can support.
All of this started with a few local residents getting together to question whether people in Arundel really wanted a second bypass, particularly a highly damaging offline bypass. They were concerned that many people did not know about the proposals and that there had been very little discussion within the town about them.
To address this they organised a fact-finding walk on Sunday, open to all residents, close to the preferred route of many local politicians, including Nick Herbert MP. This route goes through Tortington Common and other ancient woodland and as Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust said, if it went ahead would represent one of the biggest losses of ancient woodland in Sussex in recent years. It follows the line of the previously proposed ‘pink/blue’ route and is option A in the current process.
Contrary to all expectations, nearly 100 people (mostly local) turned out to walk around the area. They saw the work of local landowners in Tortington Common managing the woodland and heard about the wildlife living there and saw what potentially what could be lost with a second offline bypass.
Then yesterday, a public meeting, open to all, was organised to allow local people to find out more about what was being proposed. However, the organisers, Arundel SCATE, didn’t bank on so many people wanting to get involved. Arundel Town Hall which has a fire capacity of nearly 100 upstairs was quickly full and nearly 200 people had to be excluded downstairs and outside.
Inside the meeting, there was a range of discussion including some pro-bypass viewpoints, but the overwhelming feeling of the meeting was against a second offline bypass because of the damage it would wreak whichever line it took. Surprisingly, the vast majority wanted online or near online improvements focussed on tackling the blockages, such as at Crossbush or the traffic lights near the station, along with other improvements to reduce the severance the A27 currently causes. This is surprising because of the stance taken by local politicians keen to rule out online improvements and who have been pushing strongly for a second offline bypass.
Given this wake-up call, where once again politicians have been shown to be out of touch with local people, poiticians now need to make sure that the options going forward for consideration, include the options that local people want to see progressed. At present there is a danger that these have already been ruled out by the powers that be. That, for so many reasons, would be wrong and needs to be addressed before it is too late.