No extra time to decide on A27
Chichester MP Gillian Keegan has confirmed the Government will not extend the funding deadline for the district's A27 upgrade beyond the end of September.
The announcement means Chichester must now urgently decide whether to back a variation on an existing upgrade option under the current round of funding from Highways England, or persue a community discussion based solution and forfeit funding until at least 2020.
A special meeting of Chichester District Council has been scheduled for September 27 to decide how to proceed.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling intially withdrew funding for the Chichester A27 upgrade after a public consultation showed the majority of respondants did not back any of the options from Highways England to upgrade the existing southern bypass route.
Mr Grayling later said the £250million in funding was still available provided there was consensus and workshops were set up with the aim of creating a community based solution.
But after it was revealed the deadline to secure that funding was this September, Mrs Keegan agreed to ask the government for more time for the community to work together.
Jesse Norman MP, parliamentary under-secretary for transport and Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, have since confirmed no extra time can be granted due to the restrictions and regulations around the Roads Investment strategy (RIS) investment programme.
The community will now be asked to agree on one of two directions.
One option would be to draw on the work the community has done together on the requirements for the A27 and to explore what improvements would need to be put in place to make one of those options acceptable to the community as a whole.
The second option is to offer to submit a proposal for improvement to the A27 at Chichester in a future spending period for a future Road Investment Scheme (RIS) programme; RIS2.
Highways England has said that would mean any new scheme for Chichester would be scheduled for start in 2023 as opposed to the current date of 2020. While this investment is not guaranteed Highways England will work to support it.
Gillian Keegan said: “This is disappointing news as we hoped, with more time, that we could agree a way forward for the A27 at Chichester that better reflected the view of our community.
“We will now be asking the community to consider the two options put forward by Highways England and agree the next steps. The need for the community to unite is still key to securing funding.”
Both West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council have agreed to listen to the community to help them agree a way forward.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “This is such disappointing news.
“As Leader of the county council I have done everything in my power to work with our community to see if we could develop a scheme which would reflect the views of our community following the decision to cancel the scheme earlier this year.
“My view has always been that I will not come down on one side or another but wanted to keep engaging with the community to help them reach an agreement that was right for them; not one foisted upon them.
“We had made real progress in this work. Now our focus has to be where we take this work now and how do we respond to Highways England.”
Tony Dignum, leader of Chichester District Council, said: “The district council will be considering this matter at a special meeting of council on 27 September when members will take into account the views of the community before reaching a decision on the best way forward to achieve the much needed improvements to the A27 at Chichester.”
Cllr Dignum has previously said he believes the majority of councillors would back a variation on one of the upgrade options previously consulted on.
The special meeting has been scheduled for 2pm at East Pallant House. As with all council meetings, members of the public may attend and pose questions ahead of the debate, provided they are submitted by 12noon the previous day.