LETTER: Putting process back for years

Further to recent articles published in your paper regarding the proposed upgrade of the A27, I would like to make it quite clear that I do not support the recent initiatives to try to persuade the Minister to abandon the present consultation process.

I do not believe that abandoning the current process, in the belief that a northern option might be included in any new consultation, can do anything other than to put back the whole process for many years, blighting our city to years more traffic chaos and stifling our local economy.

WSCC and CDC have been campaigning for many years to get the current Chichester bypass upgraded and now, when we are actually getting somewhere with money on the table, it appears we are asking the Minister to pull the plug on this consultation and start again.

This will delay the project for many years and, although the Minister suggested at a recent private function that any delay won’t mean we go to the back of the queue, I am extremely concerned that once this scheme is effectively ‘on the back burner’ it could be lost for good.

They say a week is a long time in politics, so although we have fine words today, any delay could mean that for some ‘inexplicable’ reason the funding might suddenly be withdrawn.

I do appreciate the concerns expressed over a number of aspects of the options that were put forward in the recent consultation.

I, like many others no doubt, qualified our preference for an option by making it quite clear that there was a lot more work needed on many aspects of the plans put forward before we could give it our unqualified support.

I also believe that many people suggested a combination of options, which again need further investigation.

I believe that we should wait and see what plans Highways England bring forward in January or February for further consultation.

Then is the time for us all to work together to try to perfect a scheme that, while I appreciate will not be liked by everyone, will at least mitigate many of the concerns expressed by residents, both north and south.

Sadly, the choice of a northern option was only floated very early in the work being undertaken by Highways England, on the basis that it was a route that had been rejected on previous occasions.

As I understand it, part of their very early work was to review the decisions taken previously to reject this option and to see if these reasons were still valid.

I am led to believe that the reasons for removing the northern options from the present consultation were that, as in the previous proposals, the route still raised a number of significant environmental, heritage and social issues, and not least on this occasion, was clearly well above the allocated budget.

The error was that Highways England should never have included the northern routes in their early stakeholder meetings. The remit, as laid out very clearly in the Government’s Road Investment Strategy, was for a series of junction upgrades along the existing bypass – and the budget available was to support those upgrades. Clearly there never was, nor currently is, any funding to support a completely new trunk road.

Any delay now will put this project back ten, 15, maybe 20 years. Do you want the misery of the existing bypass to continue for that long?

Besides which, if we start the process all over again, it is far from certain that a northern option will actually be viable anyway. Then we will have wasted years for nothing.

No, let’s all work together with Highways England to ensure that we get the best solution to upgrading the current A27 without any further delay.

Jeremy Hunt

WSCC member for Chichester North

Brandy Hole Lane

Chichester