‘Important new information’ about options to improve the A27 at Arundel has led Highways England to hold another public consultation next spring.
Back in May the agency revealed a tweaked version of 5a was the option it had chosen after months of consultation.
The scheme has divided opinion. Many have welcomed the £250m investment but others have opposed the environmental impact of the proposed scheme.
Both campaigners and the South Downs National Park Authority have called for a judicial review of the Highways England decision.
NEW PUBLIC CONSULTATION IN SPRING 2019
Today Highways England announced it will hold a new public consultation as since May important new evidence has become available including a redesign of the western end of the Option 5a scheme where it rejoins the existing A27, updated traffic modelling results and updated data on and enhancements of the alternative Options 1 and 3.
Following the further consultation, due to be held in the spring, Highways England will consider the responses, alongside all other relevant evidence to determine the next steps for the project, including an examination of the information gained against the preferred route and the alternative options.
When asked if all options were back on the table because of the judicial review, a Highways England spokesman said: “While it may be interpreted as this, we would say that isn’t the case.
“New evidence has come to light, and we feel it is the right thing to do to go back out to consultation on all three options.”
‘NEW IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT EACH OF THE OPTIONS’
Alan Feist, Highways England programme lead, said: “It is clear that improving the A27 at Arundel is a priority for local people, and we at Highways England have been working hard to develop our proposals.
“Since the original consultation, our continued work has established important new information about each of the options and we have decided that we will run a further consultation next year to seek people’s views on the proposals in light of that new information.
“The Arundel bypass scheme remains a much-needed scheme with strong popular support which would improve journeys along the whole of the Sussex coast. Drivers on the A27 suffer daily delays and the congestion there holds back the whole region and pushes traffic into small, less suitable roads through the South Downs National Park. Highways England remains committed to finding a solution to this problem, which has blighted Sussex and communities across the south coast for decades.
“The preferred route announcement we made last year remains in place, and we are defending the legal challenges that have been brought against it.”
This further round of consultation will give people an opportunity to comment on all matters presented at the previous consultation in 2017 and the new information available.
It will allow consultees to comment on all three route options previously consulted upon: Option 1, Option 3 and Option 5a.
‘NO BAD THING TO GIVE COMMMUNITY EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND’
Reacting to the announcement, Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, said: “While I’d rather not see any delay, it’s no bad thing to give the local community every opportunity to respond when there’s new information. In fact, I suspect that further consultation will only strengthen the case for a proper bypass which relieves traffic in the historic town of Arundel and the South Downs.
“I note that Option 5a is still the preferred route, and that the £250 million of funding specifically allocated for the Arundel scheme remains in place. We always knew that the bypass would face challenges along the way, but it commands strong and widespread local support, and I remain confident that this much-needed road improvement will go ahead.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for OneArundel said: “While news of the delay that will be caused by this new consultation is disappointing, the vast majority of Arundel’s residents support OneArundel in recognising that a full and proper offline bypass is the only practical solution to the problems caused in the town and surrounding area by the current A27.
“Highways England have said they need to consult on new developments and ideas in order to progress with their plan of building Option 5a and therefore we will continue to support their actions. We remain confident that Option 5a will be built and that it will provide the solutions that are so desperately needed.”
But Keith Taylor, a Green MEP for the South East, described the consultation as an ‘empty gesture’.
He called on Highways England to ‘stop flogging a dead horse’ and look at sustainable mobility solutions and the resident-designed ‘new purple route’.
He added: “It’s true that congestion on the A27 is a problem, but these plans will only exacerbate the issue by encouraging more cars onto the road while nudging the congestion down the path to Chichester and Worthing. Decades of empirical studies and official reports have shown that increasing road capacity induces, not reduces, traffic.”
A post on South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment’s website said: “It is not good enough for Highways England to keep pushing ahead with a slightly tweaked version of what it previously proposed, while ignoring the fundamental concerns with that approach.
“It should be acting in the public interest and that includes considering the wider and damaging impacts of road building. Any new consultation needs to include a proper and impartial appraisal of all options, including options previously dismissed that do minimal or no harm to the National Park and avoid significant loss of ancient woodland and other important habitats.”
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