Arundel bypass plans backed ‘in principle’

Thursday, 24 March 2022 07:30

By Karen Dunn - Local Democracy Reporter

Image: Arundel Bypass Petition Handover

The latest plans for an Arundel Bypass for the A27 have been backed ‘in principle’ by leaders of West Sussex County Council.

National Highways, formerly Highways England, has been consulting on the ‘grey route’, which features new bridges spanning the River Arun, over the Arun Valley Railway and over Binsted Rife, as well as a new junction at Crossbush. Under the plans, around 8km (4.9 miles) of new dual carriageway will be created to the south of the existing A27, from the Crossbush to Fontwell roundabouts.

WSCC’s cabinet backed the grey route in principle last Tuesday (March 15), but the authority’s consultation response also raised a number of concerns that it says needs to be addressed in advance of a Development Consent Order being submitted.

Beforehand, representatives of local groups opposing the Arundel bypass grey route handed over a petition containing more than 6,000 signatures.
And campaigners warned that WSCC was ‘in danger of being seen as out of kilter with the emerging thinking on key issues in transport that many other authorities are now embracing’.

Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for the environment and climate change, argued the case for a bypass had been made ‘over and over again’, but they did have concerns about a lack of data and evidence for WSCC to comment on.

There were also concerns in the community they shared and were pushing for these to be addressed, but she described how the grey route was ‘the only one on offer’, adding: “It’s vital we continue to work with stakeholders, communities and our MPs to ensure we get increased mitigation for our residents.”

Opposition leaders were more forceful in their criticism of National Highway’s current proposals. Lib Dem group leader Kirsty Lord described the proposed route as ‘devastating’ for communities like Binsted and Walberton.

She said: “National Highways have ignored local sentiment and are now saying: ‘It’s either the grey route or nothing’.”

She questioned if the council really had enough information to even back the proposal in principle and felt they should be demanding that central government fully fund  proper mitigation and a detrunking strategy should the bypass go ahead.

She concluded: “National Highways is currently planning to dump a lot of concrete into our countryside and then run away, leaving this council to pick up the pieces and I do not think it’s good enough.”

Caroline Baxter, Labour group leader, asked: “Can we not say although we support a bypass solution for the A27, we object to the proposal in its current form and send National Highways back to do the work that we require, a lot of which is detailed here [in the council’s consultation response]?”

Donna Johnson, leader of the Green and Independent Alliance group, said the current route would divide villages in two and split communities up.
She asked if they should be asking for a reappraisal of the entire scheme given the data and assumptions behind it might be out of date.

But these arguments did not sway cabinet members.

Bob Lanzer said: “It’s far better for us to be engaged to the maximum extent possible in this process and to give National Highways a nudge, to put it mildly, and the space in which to try and address the concerns that are apparent on the grey route rather than kick the grey route out of the window altogether and risk potentially as history already shows a wait of up to 30 years of no investment in this part of the A27.”

Joy Dennis described how many of the concerns raised were detailed in their consultation response, while Steve Waight suggested they would have an ‘awful lot of influence’ to suggest changes as the process continued.

Paul Marshall, leader of the council, added: “Why would we want to undermine a huge investment that’s going to take place in our county by opposing it?

“We need to work with them [National Highways] to find the solutions and working on the mitigations, because this is about providing space for businesses to grow and it’s about providing jobs for our residents and higher paying jobs.”

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