In my letter of December last year, I concluded that the decision on the scheme to relieve congestion on the A27 bypass of Chichester would be politically determined and it would be justified by a seemingly ‘objective’ cost-benefit analysis (CBA).
I appear to have been proved correct in respect of the first part of this conclusion by the decision to abandon the northern route options. I now do not expect any cost-benefit justification for this decision. The decision is less controversial without a cost-benefit justification than it would be with one.
There are some values in a CBA for a highways project that are easy to calculate because they can be precisely priced (eg the cost of land acquisition). There are some values that are less easy to calculate (eg the benefit of time saved by reduced congestion). There are some values that are realistically impossible to calculate. These values are always controversial but nevertheless must always be taken into account.
What is the value of the view southwards from the top of The Trundle? By how much would this value be reduced by the construction of a northern bypass? The political controversy raised by the calculation of this one value (among similar others) when included in any CBA justification for the choice of any option to relieve congestion on the A27 would probably be far greater than the evident controversy raised by the recent decision to abandon the northern bypass options.
It is politically expedient to have avoided this greater controversy by making a decision before consultation and without justification.