LETTER: Denied chance on A27 route

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“The real solution to the A27 problems, a northern route, has been dismissed. We are not told by whom and the reasons for this dismissal.”

These words were written, not now, but in a June, 2007, letter to the Observer, under the editorial headline ‘Improvements to the A27? Not a chance’.

Today there is a clue: the Under Secretary of State for Transport, in his March 4 letter to a neighbouring MP, wrote “...to be clear, this will not include alternative routes which have been previously considered, such as a northern route which could impact on the Goodwood Estate.”

At a very recent ‘Talks at six’ debate at the New Park Centre around the developments and events concerning the city’s bypass, views critical of the Estate, coupled with a strong plea for objectivity, came from the floor.

The business model of the Estate is to deliver a luxury leisure experience. However, the ordinary tens of thousands of folk who live in the area or who pass through can only wonder what benefit this brings them and their families in their daily lives.

The very opaque and unexplained 11th hour intervention dropping the northern bypass options came over the heads of these same longsuffering tens of thousands who, having been told to wait for a promised full public consultation, are disappointed but not surprised to be denied the opportunity to inform themselves in an orderly manner and to have their views on all options heard.

As reported in the Observer the local interest group from the north of the city unsuccessfully petitioned county councillors to oppose northern options and to support a ‘forum’, said to be aimed at establishing what would be a better A27 deal for everyone! This group professes to be concerned we will now only be presented with ‘a scaled down easy option’. It promoted precisely that.

The Highways England April newsletter does seem to indicate only a limited set of options of questionable effectiveness will be presented, as occurred in 2004/5. Time will go by and history looks likely to repeat itself.

This shameful situation – the subject of long standing and widespread cynicism – has to be resolved. This cannot be left to Highways England and the Department of Transport alone. It can only be achieved by letting daylight in through a transparent and independent public inquiry where fact can be separated from hyperbole and emotion. Only then can the evidence on all options and the views of everyone be calmly presented and objectively judged.

This concerns a section of the Strategic Route Network. It is a piece of major national infrastructure of overwhelming public interest. This should therefore be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government through its Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in Bristol. The tens of thousands who over so many years have put up daily with inconvenience and dashed expectations, and our economy, warrant and deserve nothing less.

Cllr Pieter Montyn

West Sussex County council,

Witterings Division, Cowdry Farm, Birdham