Like Brexit, building a better A27 was always going to prove potentially divisive.
People living to the north of Chichester understandably do not want a massive bypass built through their exceptionally precious rural environment on the fringes of the national park. In the south of the district, however, residents are vigorously opposed to any streamlining of the existing route that would remove entrances and exits leaving them effectively abandoned and isolated.
An original consultation by Highways England proved so controversial that more people backed ‘none of the above’ than any of the options identified to improve the existing route. As a result Transport Secretary Chris Grayling pulled all the funding until the community could reach a consensus.
To the credit of the county and district councils as well as our MP and many stakeholder groups there has since been a determined effort to achieve just that.
Two options were finally put forward – an environmentally sensitive enhanced route to the north and a more practical and inclusive approach to the existing southern route. Neither option is perfect nor could hope to win unanimous approval. Surveys run by this paper suggested improving the existing line would be the favoured way forward.
This newspaper has refused to endorse any option, preserving its neutrality but we have been keen to encourage a community solution because the status quo is not sustainable.
So Highways England’s decision to reject both will rightly bring howls of protest.
Strong central Government is required to match the courageous lead of local politicians.
We trust Mr Grayling will respond positively. Otherwise, we really must stop building all those extra houses Government wants as a result of its failure to meet its own aspiration of keeping net migration to the tens of thousands.