Tories ‘reckless to wave goodbye’ to £250m A27 Chichester funding

James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group at  West Sussex County Council
James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group at West Sussex County Council

‘Reckless’ Tories at County Hall have been criticised for ‘waving goodbye’ to £250m investment in the A27 at Chichester.

Both West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council have agreed not to accept Highways England’s preferred Option 2, which attracted vocal opposition during a public consultation last year.

Instead the two authorities are set to continue work with community-led workshops to develop a scheme which has the backing of residents, and would then to bid for investment in the 2020-25 funding window.

This was in part due to the fact that if Option 2 was taken forward, Highways England could not guarantee a full package of desired mitigation measures to make the scheme more acceptable.

But James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group at County Hall, criticised the Tories for ‘waving goodbye’ to the investment.

He added: “The cabinet member and leader of the council have just turned down £250m earmarked for Chichester by-pass in the current 3 year spending period up to 2020, and have preferred to gamble on two unknown outcomes.

“The first is that the community workshops will come up with a locally acceptable by-pass solution within the financial envelope, and secondly that any such scheme might successfully compete with all other parts of England for the necessary government funds in 2020-2025.

“Their recklessness at looking a £250m gift horse in the mouth is appalling.

“It means that the massive extra housing growth in the next few years from Littlehampton through to Havant and beyond will just continue to put extra strain on the already overloaded system, and continue to stifle economic growth in the Chichester and Bognor Regis areas.

“The most acceptable and best scheme, Option 2, should be modified with environmental mitigation and much tree planting.”

The ‘Build a Better A27’ community workshop discussed the options, and gave a steer not to accept any of the current Highways England options, but instead to pursue funding from a future round of road investment.

Bob Lanzer, the county council’s cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: “This has been a difficult process for everyone in the community. People are divided on what is best for the area and I have listened to the views of the community whilst weighing up what is best for Chichester and the surrounding area.

“Having listened very carefully over the past few months to all the views on this important issue I cannot see how we could pursue any of the current Highways England options which are on the table.”

Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, added: “Nobody can underestimate how much thought has gone into making this decision. We have known for some time that Highways England’s proposals did not meet the needs of our communities.

“Our question this week was - is that cost too much for Chichester to bear? The overwhelming answer was yes. We need what’s right for the area and for the community.

“We have drawn from the voices of our community who have been constant in their views and in their support to work with us to get the best solution. Work now has to start on where we go from here.”

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