COUNCIL leaders have criticised an ‘extremely disappointing’ decision by Highways England to extend a key consultation on A27 improvements for Chichester by just one week.
West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council, along with this newspaper, have urged Highways bosses to extend the March consultation, amid widespread public interest in the issue.
Highways England has agreed to extend the six-week consultation by a week – but the decision has been heavily criticised.
County council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “People will continue to demand longer and I support that and there is still no definitive start date – this is extremely disappointing.
“I believe when these proposals are put out to the public for their views they will be complex and detailed and there could be up to seven different versions of them.
“We, and all the residents, businesses and communities that we represent, deserve to be given the time to study them all in detail before we make our official responses and I simply do not believe that seven weeks is long enough.”
Chichester District Council leader Tony Dignum said the extension was ‘just not good enough’.
He said: “Residents, businesses and communities across West Sussex must be given adequate time to share their views about improvements to the A27.
“Local views will be vital in helping the Transport Secretary come to a decision about the right route and we will continue to press Highways England to extend the consultation further.
“There will be no second chances for us to get this right. When the consultation launches this March I would urge everyone interested to take the time to study all the options and to make their voices heard.
“As a council we will discuss the options fully during the consultation period, before informing Highways England of our response.”
Chichester Deserves Better campaigner Jeremy Dry said the extra week was ‘derisory’.
“We have said all along that this consultation period needs to be at least 12 weeks, so we are disappointed but not surprised that Highways England has chosen to extend the period from six weeks to a derisory seven,” he said.
“What do they think can possibly be achieved in one extra week? However, we also believe that if a new build northern by-pass is among the options then we should be treated the same as Arundel and given 12 months.”
Highways announced the extension following a meeting with both council leaders at Chichester District Council’s offices yesterday.
But Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie had called for a minimum 12-week consultation and has written to the Secretary of State for Transport to make his views known.
A statement from Highways England read: “Following discussions with Chichester District Council and West Sussex County, Council Highways England has agreed to extend the public consultation on the A27 Chichester Bypass from six to seven weeks to take into account the Easter period. This is longer than other public consultations on similar projects and we are satisfied that it will enable key stakeholders and the public to share their thoughts regarding the options, before using this feedback to select a preferred option.
“The consultation documents will be published online and will be supported by a number of public information exhibitions, where visitors will be able to see our scheme options proposals in full and get more information about the relative benefits of each one. Members of our project team will be available at these events too.
“Scheme options maps and information about the different traffic and environment impacts will be available.”
Read more about the issue here.