Specialist consultant sought to help solve Chichester’s A27 conundrum

Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council
Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council

“It is a big ask. This is a unique case, we need to find unique answers.”

The words of Louise Goldsmith this week as she announced that a specialist consultant was being sought to help guide the community towards a long-term solution to the so far insoluble A27 saga.

After councillors last week agreed to reject up to £250m of garunteed government funding to implement Highways England’s unpopular Option 2, community leaders now have until Easter to launch a bid for the next pot of funding, Road Investment Strategy (RIS) 2.

West Sussex County Council is spearheading the community effort, and this week leader Mrs Goldsmith said she was working hard to find a consultant to ‘get this work moving forward in the best way for all of us’.

Mrs Goldsmith has previously promised £100,000 of council funds to the Build a Better A27 (BABA27) project.

In her blog she said alongside a long-term solution, ‘some short term mitigations are needed to the A27 over the next few years to help cope with the planned housebuilding for the area’.

She said the first priority was arranging a meeting with the government transport company to discuss the bid for RIS2, adding that she was in the process of fixing a date for the next BABA27 workshop.

Reflecting on last week’s key decision, Mrs Goldsmith said: “This was not an easy decision for any of us involved.

“It is a leap of faith to turn down cash on the table in the bid for something else in the future.

“I do know, however, it was the right thing to do.

“This road will be in place for a long time to come, long after you and I are not here to see it. That’s why it’s so important to get this right.

“Not to sit back and let ourselves be pressured into making a rushed decision that really doesn’t work for the area but get the right road for the people who use it and those who will live with it every day.”

Mrs Goldsmith warned that whatever is proposed, it will not be popular with everyone, adding that ‘it is truth universally acknowledged that all road building schemes will not please everyone’.

Reflecting on the ‘big ask’ of producing a scheme that a previously fractured community can unite behind within a similar £250m budget, Mrs Goldsmith said ‘we need to be aspirational, we need to challenge and we need to work together’.

Louise Goldsmith’s blog in full:

“Last Friday we published our decision on improvements to the Chichester stretch of the A27.

That decision was not to take the money on the table now but to work towards investment from the Government’s future road investment programme known as RIS2.

This followed the same formal decision earlier from CDC and the opinion of the MP – so there is a united voice for Chichester, but what now.

This was not an easy decision for any of us involved. It is a leap of faith to turn down cash on the table in the bid for something else in the future.

I do know however it was the right thing to do. This road will be in place for a long time to come, long after you and I are not here to see it.

That’s why it’s so important to get this right. Not to sit back and let ourselves be pressured into making a rushed decision that really doesn’t work for the area but get the right road for the people who use it and those who will live with it every day.

Now that decision has been made one thing is certain, we do not sit still and we cannot sit back. We move on.

Firstly we need to meet with Highways England as soon as possible to discuss our bid for RIS2 to make sure it is in the best position.

They have already indicated they would work and help us, what we need to do now is discuss what that means and more importantly how they will engage with our Build a Better A27 group; a group of people from businesses and the community who will help us push this project forward.

We are now working hard to find a specialist consultant to support this work and make sure what we have everything we need to make sure we are in the best possible position to get this work moving forward in the best way for all of us.

Alongside this work we are also in the process of arranging the next meeting of the Build a Better A27 Workshop and will advertise this as soon as we have a date and a venue.

Our plans now are to move forward to make sure we are working closely with all of our partners and the community and businesses to make sure we get the scheme we need for Chichester.

“As part of this work there is also some short term mitigations needed to the A27 over the next few years to help cope with the planned housebuilding for the area.

“This includes looking at the flow of traffic and signage; particularly in the summer months. This is something I have raised already to Highways England and will continue to do that.

We are in what I think is a unique situation having rejected a scheme which was just too damaging and short term for this unique part of England.

This is not nimbyism – but the voice of the community who felt and feel that the cost of the Highways England’s proposal was just too high a cost to pay.

As political leaders we now must work collaboratively to find a solution that is right. I do not expect everyone to agree, it is truth universally acknowledged that all road building schemes will not please everyone.

What we must work hard for is a scheme where the community is engaged which offers long term solutions, that takes account of the environment and the communities.

Yes of course it is a big ask and of course there are budgetary issues, but we need to be aspirational, we need to challenge and we need to work together.

We have come a long way together and we have still much further to go but we should do that in the knowledge that if you never try you will never know.

This is a unique case, we need to find unique answers.”