Arundel Bypass Update Summer 2021

Two member groups of SCATE, A27 Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee and Arundel SCATE recently held a demonstration against the route chosen by Highways England to bypass Arundel. This “Grey route” would severely affect the villages of Tortington and Binsted as well as ploughing through an internationally important area for bats. The increased capacity on the road would encourage more traffic – creating more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.  Residents from Arundel, and the three villages that will be seriously damaged if the 8 km Arundel Bypass goes ahead, gathered at the site of one of the proposed bridges. Their protest was surrounded by historic and wildlife-rich landscape.

Highways England has carried out two rounds of consultation to decide the preferred route but have gone against the overwhelming majority of locals. Only 7% of local respondents chose the grey option. There was however, majority support (61%) for “doing nothing” or to upgrads the current course of the road. These options would have less environmental impacts; both in terms of carbon emissions and ecological damage. . On-line upgrades are supported by Arundel SCATE and Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee. 

Arundel SCATE has proposed the A27 Alternative: a series of improvements to local transport to ease congestion whilst minimising road capacity increases. The alternative plans include upgrades to the current road, restored half hourly bus services to Southampton (currently hourly) and increased walking and cycling connectivity (particularly to Ford railway station, making Arundel a two station town).

The current situation is that Highways England has appointed a contractor to build the road despite the fact that the formal statutory consultation has not yet begun. Geological and Ecological surveys are happening, and are operating out of the compounds set up on the current A27. 

BUT THERE IS INCREASING HOPE… The statutory consultation for the bypass is yet to start, and the campaign effort is fighting hard for the scrapping of the scheme.

What can you do to help?

Post Election Update on SCATE’s Sustainable Transport Pledges

As you probably saw over the period of the council elections SCATE asked candidates to sign up to a series of sustainable transport pledges. Here’s a quick update on that work. 

We asked candidates across East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire to sign up to pledges that covered general commitments such as reducing transport related emissions, as well as specific ones such as opposing road expansions and campaigning for rail upgrades. You can see the full list here: scate.org.uk/council-elections-2021-the-scate-sustainable-transport-pledges/

We emailed all the Conservative, Green, Labour and Lib Dem party groups across the three counties and we had around 35 responses. Some were from individuals, some representing an entire group of candidates from a party. The vast majority of those who signed up, signed up to all of the pledges we proposed. Here’s the response rates for each of the political parties:

 

17 of the candidates that responded, were subsequently elected. We’ve now written to the newly elected councillors congratulating them on their election result and sharing our transport vision with them (scate.org.uk/transport-studies/a-new-transport-vision/). We’ve also proposed meetings to discuss local and strategic issues. 

If there are particular local transport issues or campaigns that would benefit from a local champion on the council it may be worth getting in touch with these councillors. Also keep your ears to the ground for news that we have arranged meetings with councillors as it would be good to have local representation as part of those.

Here is the full list of who signed up to what, and whether they were elected:

 

What does “supporting every village/town having a bus service every hour” look like?

So many rural communities are completely car dependent. Those that cannot or do not drive,  are cut off from nearby towns, family,  friends, and essential public services. Buses are the only feasible public transport in many small towns and villages as new services are quick to implement, and don’t require expensive infrastructure. 

The Government published “Bus Back Better” in March. This new focus on buses certainly makes a welcome change from Thatcher’s famous deriding of bus-goers, which seemed to outlive her in Westminster. What’s more, it recognises that “local bus fares have risen by 1.4% a year in real terms since 2010”. 

This new strategy, alongside the £3bn pledged in 2019, will provide opportunities for improvement to some bus services but it comes nowhere close to reversing decades of bus route axing, fare increases and neglect. The lack of funding is especially stark when compared to the government’s £27bn road building programme.

In Switzerland, every village of two to three hundred people is guaranteed at least an hourly bus service from 6am to midnight, 7 days a week. Countryside charity CPRE is campaigning for a swiss standard bus service in the UK. Its report “Every Village, Every Hour”, published in March, shows that a year on year investment from the government is needed in order to meet the needs of everyone, especially those in rural areas. The petition by CPRE calling for reliable bus services for every community now has over 50,000 signatures.

As part of SCATE’s Sustainable Transport Pledges, we are asking council candidates to “Support every village/town having a bus service every hour.” But what would that commitment mean in real terms? There’s several ways councillors should fulfil this pledge: 

  • Engaging with the plans laid out in “Bus Back Better”; for enhanced partnerships and franchising of bus services.
  • Working across transport authority borders to provide better connected bus networks.
  • Lobbying government to provide year on year investment to buses and increase the ambition to provide real alternatives to car ownership for rural communities.

SCATE has asked candidates from the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties to sign up to our Sustainable Transport Pledges (the rest of which can be seen here). We’re also encouraging others to write to candidates we’ve already contacted as well as those from other parties and independents, encouraging them to respond to the google form. The deadline for submission is 26/4/21, at which point we’ll be collecting the results, and publicising them across the south coast.

Council Elections 2021: The SCATE Sustainable Transport Pledges

13/04/2021

With candidates for upcoming council elections announced a few days ago, political parties will be rolling out their campaigns to win seats at the ballot box on Thursday 6th May. Along the south coast elections are taking place in Hampshire, East Sussex, West Sussex and Kent, though not in Brighton and Hove. We hope that climate change and environmental protection will feature higher than ever on the list of priorities.

SCATE has asked candidates from the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties to sign up to our Sustainable Transport Pledges. We’re also encouraging others to write to candidates we’ve already contacted as well as those from other parties and independents, encouraging them to respond to the google form. The deadline for submission is 26/4/21, at which point we’ll be collecting the results, and publicising them across the south coast.

The SCATE Sustainable Transport Pledges are to:

  • Promote policies that significantly reduce carbon emissions associated with transport.
  • Support every village/town having a bus service every hour.
  • Lobby for cheaper rail services.
  • Campaign for safer roads for all to enable more active travel.
  • Prioritise digital infrastructure over road building.
  • Support the A27 Arundel Alternative and oppose Highways England’s Grey Route.
  • Campaign for an urgent upgrade of West Coastway rail services.
  • Oppose any new A27 dual carriageway east of Lewes.
  • Campaign for the reintroduction of the Uckfield-Lewes rail line.
  • Campaign for an urgent upgrade of Marshlink rail line.
  • Seek the scrapping of ‘Smart motorways’. 
  • Campaign for more frequent rail services in the Solent area.

We hope that by asking candidates to sign up to these pledges we’ll raise sustainable transit up the agenda. This campaign provides an opportunity for candidates to assure voters that they will take transport emissions seriously. It will also provide a benchmark to judge future councillors’ actions by.

The more people ask candidates to commit to the pledges the more likely they are to do so. Please write to your local candidates asking them to fill in the form. Below is a copy of what we sent out, you can use this as a template if you like, but it’s also great to personalise the letter. A list of candidates standing in your area can be found on the relevant council website.

Written by Pete Nolan (SCATE Campaign Support Officer)

 

Here is the letter that we sent out:

Dear political party group

I am writing on behalf of South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE); a coalition of over 45 member organisations across Hampshire, Sussex and Kent as well as many  individual members across the 4 counties. We are asking all council candidates to commit to sustainable transport pledges in the run up to the elections in May. We will collate all commitments and publicise these along the south coast. Continue reading

We’re hiring!

SCATE is looking for a highly motivated, creative and innovative person who cares passionately about sustainable transport and the environment to raise the profile of SCATE and our core values.  This person will be good at engaging, inspiring and influencing people along the south coast who can help drive forward our agenda.

If you think you have the necessary skills and passion, please get in touch. For more details, please see the job advert and job description, but hurry the deadline for applying is 10am, Monday, 7 December.

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.