Aware that West Sussex County Council will be recommended this week to back controversial option 5A of Highways England’s proposals for a new Arundel bypass, the Society chairman has written to WSCC councillors and the media highlighting concerns about the potential impact on the national park, text of his letter below:
WSCC members are being invited to back an expensive new bypass option for Arundel which is sure to increase traffic levels, add to congestion on the A27 at Chichester and Worthing, cause huge environmental damage and contribute little if anything to local economic prospects.
Despite consistent evidence to the contrary from highway schemes across the country, County Council officers are recommending their elected representatives to believe the tired, discredited fiction that big roads which bring tiny short term savings in journey times will strengthen the area’s economy, reduce traffic levels on roads nearby and manage – somehow – not to contribute to greenhouse gases and climate change.
From Highways England’s own consultation documents it is clear that against almost all environmental criteria the option being commended by WSCC officers (the infamous 5A) scores badly.
The particular focus of the South Downs Society is the impact of the various schemes on the national park in the long and short term. Highways England, like the County Council and all government departments and agencies, has a legal duty to have regard to the park and the reasons it was designated. The “Special Qualities” identified for the South Downs National Park, against which all developments must be assessed, include inspirational landscapes and breathtaking views, the rich variety of wildlife and habitats, tranquil and unspoilt places, well conserved historical features and rich cultural heritage, and distinctive towns and villages with community pride. Let’s be clear – option 5A drives a coach and four, or a major dual carriageway, through those.
The remit of Highways England is confined to building and managing the trunk road network, which means the current consultation is fundamentally flawed. Arundel has transport and access issues but building a big new bypass to bypass the existing bypass will have little bearing on those. Transport requires proper planning and integrated solutions, improving public transport, facilities for walkers, cyclists and, yes, car drivers but option 5A doesn’t address any of this.
Option 3 faces similar problems. Option 1 looks like being the best of a bad bunch, scores best against the environmental checklist, is by far the cheapest and, as shown by Highways England, provides easily the highest benefit to cost ratio.
This Society and others have pressed consistently for a further option to be on the table, an improvement on Highways England’s option 1. Known locally as the “new purple” route, and devised by Arundel residents, it is explained on the website of the Arundel A27 Forum. It follows roughly the same alignment as option 1 and would ease traffic through the existing hold-ups. It’s a broad single carriageway road – even cheaper than option 1, less damaging environmentally and, unlike options 3 and 5A, doesn’t involve raised dual carriageways cutting across the beautiful Arun valley and carving through the national park, ancient woodland and the village of Binsted.
Arundel and the national park deserve better than the options now in front of them. WSCC should place their interests at the top of their deliberations.
Chairman, South Downs Society