Grey route will destroy both countryside and community

Highways England has announced the grey route as its preferred route for the A27 Arundel bypass. In doing so, it has ignored community proposals for an affordable, low impact solution. Instead it has opted for a climate-wrecking dual carriageway. This will cause serious destruction of landscape, wildlife and communities in the Arun Valley. It is also way beyond its budget of £250 million.

Highways England’s proposals for Arundel are the latest in a long line of attempts to dual this short stretch of A27 single carriageway over the past 40 years. Each has failed as the environmental impact was found to be unacceptable. The threatened area of the Arun Valley, Binsted, Tortington and Walberton is exceptional in its ecology. It contains rare bats, butterflies, dormice and chalk streams alongside badgers, larks, hedges, veteran trees, valuable and ancient woodland.

SCATE believes that this announcement flies in the face of all the evidence about the need to tackle climate change and loss of wildlife. Highways England seem to be on a different planet, ignoring the warnings of Sir David Attenborough and others that we need to do things differently. 

Building bigger roads just increases traffic and carbon emissions. In this case it will also destroy valuable wildlife habitats, local communities and the setting of the South Downs National Park.

The solution is not a new, highly expensive, dual carriageway. Yet Highways England as a road building company is the one tasked with solving our transport problems. Unsurprisingly, it only ever comes up with new roads as the solution. Instead the money would be better spent on a low impact solution and walking, cycling and public transport.

£1 billion to create more congestion

A new report produced by SCATE East Sussex: Starting from the wrong place, highlights how much the proposals for a new dual carriageway from Lewes to Polegate would cost and the damage it would cause. The report was launched on 22 June at a physically distanced demonstration along the likely route of the proposed road near Ripe.

With a likely price tag of £1 billion pounds, this road would cause significant harm to wildlife habitats and to the South Downs National Park, just to save a few minutes driving time.  Time that motorists can then waste in the extra congestion that would be created in Lewes and Eastbourne.  This would render the whole project pretty pointless and an expensive white elephant.

The report was produced using information gleaned from a series of Freedom of Information requests.  It comprehensively dismantles the case for the new road and the assumptions that have been used to develop the concept so far.

Tell Highways England to do it again!

We are calling on Highways England to re-run a full public consultation on the A27 Arundel Bypass with all errors and misleading images and statements removed. The additional consultation that it is currently running presents the list of corrections (where Highways England has admitted there were errors in the previous consultation run in 2019) in a confusing format. In addition, it has still failed to correct all errors and misleading statements.

Apart from the most forensically minded, it is difficult to fully understand what has changed in this latest consultation and therefore most people will struggle to engage. For many, inertia will probably mean they won’t change their mind. However, had the information been presented properly and accurately the first time around, they might have come to a different conclusion then. Highways England further deters people from responding by saying it doesn’t change anything in terms of their conclusions.

We are urging people to email Highways England: A27ArundelBypass@highwaysengland.co.uk
to call on them to rerun a proper consultation, not least because the current consultation is deeply flawed because:

  • Not everyone who responded previously has been notified about this consultation (we weren’t)
  • The way the errors are presented is confusing and difficult to follow and will deter people from responding in any meaningful way
  • Most people will not remember what information they used to come to their conclusions – many could have responded based on the initial documents which had even more errors, which are not highlighted here
  • Highways England are discouraging people from responding by saying that the errors do not change any of their conclusions. People will think why bother if it will make no difference?
  • Highways England has still failed to correct seriously misleading information in its consultation documents

Please email Highways England by 23:59, Sunday, 1st March, 2020. Thanks!

Please use the above bullets (in your own words) including any other concerns you have.  Don’t forget to include your name and postal address.

Email: A27ArundelBypass@highwaysengland.co.uk

More mistakes force another consultation!

Would you believe it, but Highways England has gone and launched another consultation on Arundel after it found yet more errors in the public consultation documentation held between 30 August and 24 October 2019.  This is the third set of errors identified in this last round of consultation.

What makes this worse is that Highways England is a government company (i.e. public) with substantial resources to hand, yet it consistently fails to get the basics right.  The 2019 consultation came about after the South Downs National Park Authority and a grandmother sought leave for judicial review about the way Highways England had carried out a previous consultation in 2017 and came to its preferred option, announced in May 2018.

Given the problems caused by rushing ahead without properly checking its facts, you would have thought Highways England would have learnt from its mistakes and ensured it had its house in order before pressing ahead with the 2019 consultation.  But no, within weeks of the start it had to announce two sets of corrections and now it has been pressed into announcing more and having to go out to the public again.

Are these really the people you would trust to look after what is a very special corner of England?  Their proposal will cause significant damage to the South Downs National Park and destroy ancient woodland.

Anyone wishing to comment has until 11:59pm, Sunday, 1 March 2020 when the latest consultation ends. You can also email any comments to: A27ArundelBypass@highwaysengland.co.uk

The waiting game

Since the end of Highways England’s consultation on its proposed options for an A27 Arundel Bypass, it has all gone rather quiet.  It is likely that Highways England is analysing the feedback and no doubt will ignore what it doesn’t want to hear and will press ahead regardless.  Another tactic it has employed elsewhere is to lump all responses together from specific actions and considered them as a single objection, even when people have personalised their responses.

Another reason for the silence is that Highways England is probably waiting to see what he new Government will prioritise in terms of infrastructure and where it will focus its energy and resources.  This could affect whether there is sufficient funding to continue with the proposed bypass, given that only two of the proposed options came anywhere near the available budget, i.e. being affordable.

In the meantime, member groups continue to be active and keeping a watchful eye on any developments.

Transport strategy too slow

We submitted our response to Transport for the South East’s (TfSE) consultation on its draft regional transport strategy on 10 January along with many other organisations and over 3,000 people who used Friends of the Earth’s template letter.  While we were supportive of much of the vision and high level objectives, we were less supportive with much of the detail.

In summary, SCATE welcome the following:

  • The 2050 net-zero carbon target
  • The move to planning for people rather than for vehicles
  • That net biodiversity gain is mentioned
  • Acknowledgement that EVs won’t solve the congestion problem

But had the following concerns:

  • The lack of urgency in tackling car dependency / culture to achieve modal shift and traffic reduction – can’t carry on building roads and put off change for 5 – 10 years
  • A pathway to net-zero carbon before 2050 with intermediate targets is missing.
  • All proposals should be assessed to show how they contribute to meeting the carbon targets
  • The preferred scenario fails to prioritise traffic reduction and instead shows an 8% increase in traffic and a 13% decrease in active travel over today’s levels
  • Local (sustainable) connectivity, particularly active travel, should be treated as a strategic priority
  • There is no mechanism proposed to ‘lock in’ modal shift with increased bus and rail (or active travel) provision so that the resultant road traffic reduction isn’t lost over time
  • The strategy has a list of major road building that will destroy biodiversity despite wanting to promote biodiversity net gain
  • A greater focus on seamless integration between sustainable modes is needed
  • New developments should be based on high quality mass transit and active travel networks, combined with good local service provision, not new roads
  • The Integrated Sustainability Appraisal while containing some good background information is undermined by a number of unsubstantiated and incorrect assertions around health and equality. It also misses some important impacts regarding roadbuilding.

A copy of our full response is available here.

Take Action Now!

We are urging all our members to respond to the consultation on the A27 Arundel Bypass and to encourage friends, family and colleagues to do likewise. As Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth found out when he visited Arundel, all of Highways England’s options increase traffic and carbon emissions. A crazy situation at a time of climate emergency and that’s before considering all the other damage a new dual carriageway would cause.

Please fill in Highways England’s online questionnaire where we would recommend selecting ‘do nothing’ but then add in the comment box that you support a 40mph wide single carriageway between Crossbush and Ford roundabout (the Arundel Alternative) instead.

Or select the ‘beige’ or ‘cyan’ routes but then add in the comment box that while you support the alignment, you don’t support a 70mph dual carriageway and would rather see a 40mph wide single carriageway between Crossbush and Ford roundabout (the Arundel Alternative) instead.

If you don’t have time to fill in the questionnaire but would like to object to Highways England’s proposals and support the Arundel Alternative instead along with better sustainable transport links please take our action.

You can also find more info on Arundel SCATE’s leaflet.

Many thanks, and don’t forget to tell others about this too!

 

There is a solution

Highways England doesn’t seem to have learnt any lessons from the two judicial reviews it was threatened with last year over its proposals for the A27 at Arundel.  It is still publishing inaccurate information and it is still insisting that 70mph, highly damaging dual carriageways are appropriate.  This is hardly having regard to the special purposes of the South Downs National Park, for apart from a tokenistic option that skirts the Park (that’s unrealistic as it is so expensive and still very damaging), it has changed little in its approach.

Fortunately, there is a solution, the Arundel Alternative, that local people have come up with that would resolve the hold ups at Arundel at peak times.  This would involve a small length of 40mph wide single carriageway from Crossbush to the Ford Roundabout.  It would be far cheaper to build and cause far less damage and would be unlikely to impact on the South Downs National Park.

However, for it to have a chance of going forward we need your help.  Please respond to Highways England’s consultation that runs until 11:59 pm, 24th October, 2019.

Please fill in the online questionnaire where we would recommend selecting ‘do nothing’ but then add in the comment box that you support a 40mph wide single carriageway between Crossbush and Ford roundabout (the Arundel Alternative) instead.

Or select the ‘beige’ or ‘cyan’ routes but then add in the comment box that while you support the alignment, you don’t support a 70mph dual carriageway and would rather see a 40mph wide single carriageway between Crossbush and Ford roundabout (the Arundel Alternative) instead.

To find out more information and to get more guidance on how to respond to Highways England’s consultation please see the new Arundel Alternative website.  Or you can find more info on Arundel SCATE’s leaflet.

If you don’t have time to fill in the questionnaire but would like to support the Arundel Alternative, please email Highways England at: A27ArundelBypass@highwaysengland.co.uk opposing all six of their options on the suggested following grounds (please use your own words):

  • All options will increase carbon emissions and make it harder to meet legal target of net-zero carbon by 2050
  • Don’t believe there is a need for the capacity on the A27 – future traffic projections have nearly always overestimated demand (and we actually need to see traffic reduction)
  • Want the money invested in sustainable transport instead and a cheaper, less damaging road (the Arundel Alternative) avoiding the current bottlenecks
  • Will destroy ancient woodland and harm the South Downs National Park

Many thanks!

 

A new regional vision on the horizon

Transport for the South East (TfSE) is a new regional transport body, whose board is made up of local highways authorities and some of the region’s local enterprise partnerships. It is looking to co-ordinate strategic transport planning and could allow for collaboration and innovation across the South East. However, if done badly, it could just mean more of the same, outdated road building mentality that has served us so poorly to date.

TfSE is in the process of drafting a regional transport strategy. The strategy will influence how public money is spent in the region. That is why it is important to get involved with the forthcoming consultation. We need to make sure that sustainability is given a high priority and that the final strategy demonstrates how it will play its part in reducing carbon emissions. (Transport emissions are currently out of control in the UK and are being exacerbated by all the road building that is taking place and by the freeze on fuel duty).

The launch event for consultation on the draft strategy is on the 10th October in Farnborough. There will then be a series of afternoon and early evening events across the south east.  The afternoon events (held between 1.30pm-4pm) are invitation only, but these can be requested from TfSE via tfse@eastsussex.gov.uk

These are then followed by an informal drop-in session from 4.30pm-6pm where you can have a one-to-one conversation about the draft strategy. If you are interested in going to one of these you will need to register to go through clicking the relevant event link below.

Afternoon invitation event 1.30pm-4pm.

Reading Town Hall, Weds 16th Oct 2019 1.30pm – 4pm

Woking, WWF Living Centre, Thurs 17th Oct 1.30pm – 4pm

Canterbury, Christ Church University, Tues 22nd Oct 2019 1.30pm – 4pm

Brighton, Jury’s Inn, Weds 23rd Oct 2019 1.30pm – 4pm

Southampton, Central Hall, Thurs 24th Oct 1.30pm – 4pm

 

Early evening informal drop-in session 4.30pm-6.00pm.

 

Reading Town Hall, Weds 16th Oct 2019 4.30pm – 6pm

Woking, WWF Living Centre, Thurs 17th Oct 4.30pm – 6pm

Canterbury, Christ Church University, Tues 22nd Oct 2019 4.30pm – 6pm

Brighton, Jury’s Inn, Weds 23rd Oct 2019 4.30pm – 6pm

Southampton, Central Hall, Thurs 24th Oct 4.30pm – 6pm

 

SCATE will be publishing its response to the draft Strategy and guidance on how to respond to the consultation as soon as possible after the 10th October.

Bypass proposals already out of date

We’ve heavily criticised Highways England’s proposals for the A27 at Arundel, announced today at the start of an 8 week consultation which ends on 24 October.  Highways England is consulting on six options, only two of which it can afford to build (p28, consultation document).  All of the schemes are highly damaging to the South Downs National Park or surrounding landscapes and all would increase traffic and carbon emissions.

We’re calling for the public money set aside for an Arundel bypass to be reallocated for improved public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure and on a cheaper on-line single carriageway mini-bypass which would avoid the key bottlenecks.

Henri Brocklebank, chair of SCATE (Director of Conservation at Sussex Wildlife Trust) said: “We would question having a consultation on options, most of which are unaffordable.  Only two of the six options are within Highways England’s budget and all are highly damaging.  We need them to go back to the drawing board and come back with something sensible.”

Brenda Pollack, vice-chair of SCATE (Friends of the Earth South East campaigner) said: “Highways England appear to live in a parallel universe.  We have a climate emergency and new challenging carbon reduction targets, yet they are proposing to increase traffic and carbon emissions with these proposals.  We need schemes that reduce traffic to meet our climate targets whilst protecting nature.”

Kia Trainor, vice-chair of SCATE (director of CPRE Sussex) said: “We are appalled at the dismissive way Highways England treats the alternatives to road building.  They completely fail to consider the improvements that could be achieved in bus and rail if the budget for the road was spent on these forms of transport instead.  Investing the money in a different way would safeguard the countryside and allow people a better quality of life.”

SCATE is advocating that people respond to the consultation opposing all six options on the suggested following grounds:

  • All options will increase carbon emissions and make it harder to meet legal target of net-zero carbon by 2050
  • Don’t believe there is a need for the capacity on the A27 – future traffic projections have nearly always overestimated demand (and we actually need to see traffic reduction)
  • Want the money invested in sustainable transport instead and a cheaper, less damaging road (the Arundel Alternative) avoiding the current bottlenecks
  • Will destroy ancient woodland and harm the South Downs National Park

Email your objection to Highways England at: A27ArundelBypass@highwaysengland.co.uk

Or you can fill in the online questionnaire where we would recommend selecting ‘do nothing’ and then adding in the comment box that you support a 40mph wide single carriageway between Crossbush and Ford roundabout (the Arundel Alternative) instead.