Well, well, so the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has decided to pull the plug on funding for A27 improvements.
What a consummate politician he is; by taking this easy option, rather than rerunning the consultation, he has relieved himself of having to admit that his department and its in-house company, Highways England, got the consultation so badly wrong.
What courage it would take to own up to the incompetence of Highways England in using out-of-date traffic forecasts and producing schemes simply by drawing lines on out of date Ordnance Survey maps without checking the routes on foot.
By this they failed to spot a new housing development and a 17th-century listed house that was in the way of Option 2.
Furthermore, based on such sketchy schemes how could faith possibly have been placed in the estimates upon which such critical decisions were being made, especially as that for Option 2 was so close to the magical £250m ceiling? The consultation was a farce and a wicked waste of public money.
In his letter to Highways England cancelling the project Grayling puts the blame on local councils for not supporting it – what a cop out. He does, however, instruct that the report on the findings of the consultation be published ‘for transparency’.
This has happened and what interesting reading it makes. It shows that 47 per cent of the 4,869 respondents plumped for none of the options being suitable. This was the majority vote cast so no wonder Grayling initially did not want it published.
This vote, and the fact that local councils called for a rerun of the consultation to include northern options, (albeit Chichester District Council only did so after a surprise U-turn) and the obvious lack of public confidence in the process should have triggered a rerun without question, but sadly not.
As was to be expected the report is singularly lacking in convincing detail as to why the two northern options were dropped with such celerity before the consultation, so transparency has not given way to opacity after all.
Grayling’s pulling the plug has at least stopped public money being poured into the destructive Option 2 which would only have been a sticking plaster solution anyway.
For this element those of us living in the beleaguered south are eternally grateful but the A27 problem will not go away.
Secretary of State Grayling should do the honourable thing; admit his department got it wrong, apologise for wasting public money and rerun the consultation (but competently this time) with northern options.