Arundel bypass campaigners marched to Chichester’s County Hall to demonstrate their opposition

Tuesday, 1 March 2022 08:36

By Karen Dunn - Local Democracy Reporter

The 60-strong group gathered in the rain on Thursday (February 24) before handing over a letter to West Sussex County Council laying out their concerns about the proposed ‘grey’ route.

Earlier this year, National Highways unveiled its updated proposals for 8km (4.9 miles) of new dual carriageway south of the existing A27, from Crossbush in the east to Fontwell roundabout in the west.

But, while most recognise the need for something to be done to ease congestion – and many support the building of a bypass – the plans on the table have not been embraced by all.

Sally Ward, from Walberton Friends and Neighbours, said: “We share a deep anxiety that National Highways are not listening to our very real concerns. “We want to express our strong opposition to National Highways’ plans.”

Their concerns range from safety (they fear there will be a marked increase in traffic on minor roads), to capacity (they don’t think the proposals take into account the housing developments planned for the area), to the environmental impact of the entire project. Then there’s the amount of information available about the actual ins and outs of the plans.

A spokesman said requests for information had been ‘very slow in coming forth, if at all’.

It was a point raised over and over during a meeting of the council’s communities, highways & environment scrutiny committee that morning. The committee was asked to scrutinise the council’s draft response to National Highways’ eight-week consultation into the proposals.

But, while they discussed the matter for almost two hours, there was frustration that a string of questions had not been answered in the consultation documents.

Among the issues highlighted in the council’s response to the consultation were:

  • There was insufficient information about the impacts of the scheme on the transport network
  • It was unclear how the scheme would perform as part of the wider highway network which is already congested in places
  • Evidence was needed to justify the use of share footpath/cycleway when the latest guidance recognises the need for segregation between different users
  • A design audit was expected setting out the standards used in the design of the Tortington Lane, which appeared to include a steep gradient
  • More information was needed about the proposed Crossbush junction, which looks quite small. There were concerns about the possibility of significant queuing on the A284 and existing A27
  • The need for more consultation on surfacing the entire route with ‘very low noise’ surfacing, rather than just the section near the Church of St Mary’s.

The committee’s thoughts and recommendations will be submitted to the cabinet before the consultation response is submitted to National Highways.

Their message was essentially that they supported the idea of a bypass but had serious misgivings – and a number of significant questions – about the scheme on the table.

While the report from officers concluded that the council would give ‘in principle’ support to the scheme, it was not a view shared by the committee.

Chris Oxlade (Lab, Bewbush & Ifield West) said: “[We’ve got] a report which basically says we don’t have any information, we don’t have enough detail to go on but we’re asked to support it in principle.

“It just seems absolutely bizarre that we’re being put in this position.”

Carson Albury (Con, Sompting & North Lancing) added: “We’re supposed to be scrutinising this – but all the information we should be scrutinising, we don’t have.

“That is the major problem.”

Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook) said: “We agree that improvements are needed because the present road provides us with insufficient capacity.
“But then on the other hand, I’m concerned that this wasn’t our preferred route when it was considered a few years ago. “We don’t have the full evidence and we don’t know the likely impact of the scheme – and there are some real concerns that are left unanswered by this consultation.”

Mention was made of the Arundel Alternative – an uninterrupted wide single carriageway between the Ford Road roundabout and Crossbush junction – which has been trumpeted by campaigners as a cheaper, less damaging, way of dealing with the grinding congestion issues in the area.
But the only option on the table now is the grey route – though opinions were voiced that having no new road would be a better choice.
Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment & climate change, told the meeting that the ‘in principle’ support was proposed ‘because it is this county council’s policy to support a bypass’.

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