A27 Arundel Bypass protest - Campaigners fight back against ‘plans to carve out the historic countryside’
“All of the work we are doing is entirely reversible.”
That was the response of the A27 Arundel Bypass project manager, after campaigners claimed that diggers have scarred the fields alongside a 12th century church.
Arundel Bypass Local Campaign Groups said National Highways ‘plans to carve out the historic countryside’ for its eight-kilometre dual carriageway scheme’.
They say the archaeological trench works for the agreed ‘grey route’ would cross the wildlife-rich Binsted Rife Valley, on a viaduct, ‘destroying the church’s setting, the much-loved view and important ecology’.
Groups of Walberton residents walked to the church on Saturday to ‘express their solidarity’ with Binsted and ‘protest about the destruction of the Rife valley’.
Sally Ward, from community group Walberton Friends and Neighbours, said: “Residents are deeply concerned about the 300 children at Walberton and Binsted Primary School, Walberton Play Centre, Walberton Pre-School and Walberton Toddler playgroup. These spaces for children are less than 200m from the proposed dual carriageway.
“The pollution will affect all of them, staff and others nearby with poor health or with respiratory issues.”
In response, National Highways said that, since the preferred route announcement last year, it has been working closely with delivery partners to ‘understand the impact of the scheme’ on local communities and the wider environment.
Andrew Jackson, National Highways Senior Project Manager, added: “We have been working with local groups and communities to take their views into account to ensure our plans have as minimal impact as possible on the special environment and local communities around Arundel, and we deliver a bypass to meet everyone’s needs.
“Over the last few months we have been reviewing the entire route through in-depth surveys. All of the work we are doing is entirely reversible.”
The project was delayed from this autumn to early January 2022. National Highways said it was so that it could 'make sure we can present to the public an appropriate proposal for consideration'.
The 'growing protest groups in the area' have pointed to the fact that the scheme is yet to receive government approval.
They say that it 'makes no sense at all' for the A27 Arundel grey route to go ahead 'in the face' of climate change, carbon emissions targets, government budget pressures and 'uncertainty about the way people will be travelling in the future'.
"UK government should follow the lead of the Welsh and Scottish governments and take the impact of roads on climate more seriously," said Binsted resident Emma Tristram.
"They should freeze all major road building while they consider every scheme in the light of the Climate Emergency.
"A27 proposals would not just devastate the Arun Valley area, but set back crucial plans to reduce carbon emissions across the country.
"National Highways clearly has no interest in helping to cut transport emissions which are now the biggest UK contributor to the climate crisis and still increasing."
The campaigners encouraged residents to participate in National Highways’ consultations on the road plans, which are due to start on January 11.