A27 consultants: northern bypass offers ‘best long-term solution’

Systra A27 consultants draft report map showing the new northern route (long dashes) and the 'full south' exisiting route for Chichester
Systra A27 consultants draft report map showing the new northern route (long dashes) and the 'full south' exisiting route for Chichester

An independent study into the options to improve the A27 at Chichester has revealed two potential ways forward – a new northern route or a south concept involving major works at all existing junctions.

Consultant Systra has just published its draft summary report for the Build a Better A27 scheme, which was shared exclusively with the Observer this week.

It suggests there are two potential ways forward but the report said: “A new mitigated northern bypass offers the best long-term transport solution to problems of the A27. It adds capacity and resilience to maintain long-term economic vitality and provides opportunities to maximise wider urban benefit delivery.”

The two concepts presented in the report are:

‘Mitigated North’ Concept, a new strategic route north of the city with free-flow junctions with the existing A27, with or without a new junction with the A286, or

‘Full South’ Concept, major works at all junctions between Fishbourne and Portfield, including underpasses and flyovers with some carriageway realignment.

The report states: “We believe both concepts are deliverable but with different cost, benefit and risk profiles, and reliance on strong mitigations to address community concerns.”

Referring to the northern route, the consultants said: “We consider this concept to offer the best long-term solution for the A27 in best fitting with the Success Criteria and wider considerations.

“We are also of the view that the environmental and business impacts can be largely mitigated but with a risk of compliance with planning and policy fit.

“We recommend West Sussex County Council/Chichester District Council/MP consider whether the ‘mitigated north’ concept offers enough to build community consensus for the promoters and Highways England to invest ‘capital’ in taking this concept forward now and to later development phases.”

Referring to the ‘full south’ concept, the report said: “We consider this concept provides a medium-to-long-term solution addressing all key concerns raised with earlier ‘south’ RIS1 options and many of the Success Criteria and wider considerations but not fully.

“We belive this concept is deliverable but with some difficult and costly engineering challenges to overcome.

“We recommend WSCC/CDC/MP consider whether the ‘full south’ concept is now sufficiently different from RIS1 to build community consensus and for HE to take forward now and to later development phases.”

The findings and recommendations were being presented to the West Sussex County Council Local Committee for Chichester South this week and then to the the BABA27 tomorrow (Friday).

A county council spokesman said: “The discussion at those groups will be used to inform both Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council in their submission for the government’s next road investment scheme, known as RIS 2.”

The spokesman confirmed the meeting tomorrow (Friday) would be the last BABA27 meeting ‘before the formal governance process of both councils; select committee of WSCC on June 4 and full council for CDC on June 8.”

Highways England will make a decision on whether a scheme will be taken forward.

The Systra report said Highways England had identified a number of key considerations for progressing with any improvements, which included timescales and community consensus.

The report said: “RIS2 timescales have not been finalised by government but are likely to be ‘imminent’ and therefore the compressed timetable for this commission need to be maintained.

“Community consensus has been identified as the most important element of the development process that needs to change.

“There remains no guarantee of a scheme for Chichester but it is clear Highways England want to make an improvement but can only do so if ‘consensus risk’ can be mitigated.”

The Systra report stressed the importance of timescales and said: “There is a limited window of opportunity to get an A27 scheme into the RIS2 programme for Highways England Funding. Community consensus will be a crucial element in securing a place in the RIS2 programme.”

Both the report and the county council confirmed there is still a lot of work to be done.

The map above shows the new northern route concept but a council spokesman said: “That is the route – although this is clearly very much a high level concept map and obviously needs a huge amount of further work to establish the detail, which would be done by Highways England if taken forward.”

The Systra report added: “In taking forward one/both concepts and a supporting package, significant further work will be required beyond this commission, both in terms of scope and timescales.

“But the rewards, if they can be achieved, will be significant for the local communitites.”

When it comes to funding, the report said with the new northern route concept ‘mitigations are likely to increase costs compared to the RIS1 schemes to around £350-400m, with additional uncertainties over land and business impact costs’.

With the ‘full south’ concept, the report states: “Challenging engineering and mitigations are likely to increase costs compared to the RIS1 schemes to around £300-350m, with additional uncertainties over land and business impact costs.”

The previous long-list of A27 suggestions were assessed by Systra against ‘Critical Success Factors’, described as ‘locally derived key requirements’, developed and confirmed through the BABA27 meetings and workshops. Key feedback themes from BABA27 are detailed in the report and included:

A package of junction improvements could have some merit in conjunction with a ‘smart A road’ concept of using technology and signage to improve traffic flows and reliability.

Any on-line improvements should avoid flyovers and turning restrictions, but should still offer separation of local / through traffic

Considerable concerns over the impacts of disruption during construction for on-line improvements.

Southern off-line routes seen as challenging because of land availability and environmental impacts, particularly on Chichester Harbour.

Split views on Northern off-line routes.

A local route seen as being particularly challenging given conflict with proposed housing developments and impact on Portfield junction and local villages.

Strategic northern routes are acknowledged to provide capacity and separation of through/local traffic but would require significant mitigation of environmental and business impacts.