Highways England recently published the results of the public consultation on its proposals for the Worthing –Lancing section of the A27. The consultation that ran for 8 weeks from 19 July through to 12 September 2017,only had one option for consideration, providing people with little real choice.
This option entailed some modest online widening to create more dual carriageway and changes to junctions. Some incursion into the South Downs National Park would have taken place. While new crossings were being proposed for pedestrians and cyclists, in general these were poorly thought out as so often seen from Highways England and West Sussex County Council. For example, going from the south west to the north east of Offington Corner Junction would have required pedestrians (and cyclists not on the road) to use seven separate crossings. Other junctions were also complex and time-consuming and would have discouraged walking and cycling, while no bus priority measures were included in the scheme either.
In total 1,722 responses were received, the vast majority from local residents. 86% supported ‘improvements’ to this stretch of the A27, with 10% disagreeing. However, when it came to the actual option on offer, 76% opposed it, with only 15% supporting it.
Most concerns centred around the belief that the scheme would not do enough for congestion or pollution, although as we know all too well, whatever gets built is likely to become congested.
Given the results and that Highways England has sat on these results for 6 months, it is unlikely that anything fast is going to happen on this stretch of the A27. That means that the capacity of the A27 is to all intents and purposes constrained. Therefore, does it really make sense to be pressing ahead with a highly damaging Arundel dual carriageway bypass to cope with future demand, when that future demand is unlikely to be realised because of the constraints at Worthing? Clearly not, but don’t suddenly expect an outbreak of common sense.
The pressure for road expansion at Worthing or Lancing has not gone away, as local residents frustrated by traffic levels see a new road as the only solution. However, Highways England, while also being promised billions for its next road investment strategy, is under pressure to deliver on a number of highly contentious and expensive schemes, so doesn’t necessarily have the bottomless pit of money some people think. More modest and sustainable solutions could in the end prevail. With so little time to reduce carbon emissions and reverse wildlife loss, they need to.