The leader of West Sussex County Council Louise Goldsmith has made clear that ‘nothing has changed’ in the campaign for a better community-led A27 for Chichester - despite a public meeting on Monday which descended into acrimony.
At the meeting it was revealed that Highways England, which had set a September deadline for any new proposals, was ruling out any options that did not follow the line of the existing route, and that Chichester District Council was already developing its own ideas on those lines.
Attendees were furious to hear of a plan put to the group by one individual without any reference to them – giving the impression that once again they were being done unto all over again and their months of hard work had been totally disregarded.
But today Mrs Goldsmith said: “We haven’t come this far to be forced by Highways England into accepting what was previously on the table and which residents had rejected in a formal consultation.”
“People said then that no scheme would be better than one that isolated the southern half of the district and seriously damaged the surrounding environment.
“I am so proud of the way in which residents and local groups have worked together to progress ideas that we can all sign up to.
“I have been heartened by the emails of support since the meeting and the community’s desire to continue and get the right solution for them and this lovely city.
“So nothing has changed, but what is required is more time.
“Of course we desperately need to get a solution for traffic to flow more easily along the A27 and that should not be put into jeopardy.
“But we will absolutely push back on the September deadline to give the workshops the space they need to come up with a plan around which everyone can unite.”
When questioned by the Observer on a Northern Bypass option Mrs Goldsmith said: “We all know there are very strong feelings on both sides regarding this option, this remains a very fraught matter and we know it is unlikely a northern bypass would win unanimous support.
“However the online options offered by Highways England have equally been rejected by the majority of residents in the south which is why the BuildaBetterA27 Workshops have been so important in finding a way forward to find the art of the possible.
“The minister will want to be assured that our communities are united behind whatever scheme before any monies are reconfirmed.
“For the community to unite they need more time to work through the many suggestions put forward by them at the workshops.
“But let’s not prejudge the matter.
“We have empowered the community to work together with a blank sheet of paper and it is vital they have the opportunity to explore every innovative idea to deal with the bottlenecks on this vital stretch of road.”
She praised Chichester MP Gillian Keegan’s support for the workshops and for offering to negotiate a later deadline so that the working groups could fulfil their brief.
Mrs Goldsmith concluded: “Like many other people I am passionate about our beautiful city, surrounding areas and the communities.
“What is important is to do all we can to make sure that whatever improvements proposed now and in the future are the right ones for the residents, community, the area, and environment.
“We have this opportunity, we need to do all we can together to leave the right legacy for future generations.”
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