Chichester district councillors have called for the Government to explain why it dropped proposals for a northern bypass of the A27.
But despite the call today (September 20), the council gave its support to option two – the costliest proposal of the five options under consultation by Highways England.
A counter proposal, led by southern ward councillors, to express no preference and call to look again at the northern option, was defeated by 26 votes to 16.
District council leader Tony Dignum, proposing support for option two, said: “Not making a choice from among the only options on offer is not going to persuade the Government to resurrect a northern bypass option which they only recently rejected.
“The none of the above option risks putting any improvement back many years.”
The full council meeting followed this morning’s cabinet debate, which saw option two endorsed.
This was subject to caveats, with a long list of suggested amendments to the £280million option, which includes a Stockbridge link road.
But this afternoon’s debate got off to a shaky start, with four residents posing public questions challenging the endorsement.
Numerous councillors then spoke against the cabinet’s proposal.
North Mundham councillor Paul Jarvis said: “This is probably the most significant decision that we have made in the last 20 years. It is actually an historic moment in time and the choice of officers and the cabinet, who are, dare I say, a few, is going to be without doubt the worst in its history.”
Concerns included the effect of works on the Chichester Harbour area of outstanding natural beauty, demolition of 20 homes and effect of 41 months’ construction on the local economy.
Chichester West Liberal Democrat councillor Clare Apel spoke on behalf of Fishbourne residents, whose representative was absent.
She said residents believed the five options were ‘sticking plasters on a gaping wound, not fit for purpose’. A tunnel-based northern route, she said, should be explored.
Simon Oakley, member for Tangmere, said option two came with the greatest cost and risk.
He said the council’s suggested tweaks were an ‘uncosted shopping list’, adding to a scheme already above the allocated funding.
He proposed an amendment, calling for a commentary to be sent to Highways England, rather than a specific preference.
He also recommended looking again at the northern route – but his amendment fell.
Councillors supporting option two recognised there were no perfect options – but feared Chichester would lose out altogether if they did not select a preference.
“The northern options were removed for sound policy reasons,” Lavant councillor Mike Hall said.
The Tory member claimed the Goodwood estate would be due £30million of compensation if a northern route was built – far in excess of the budget for such requirements.
Chichester West councillor Richard Plowman said he had seen friends ‘arguing in the street’ over the divisive issue.
The Lib Dem was among 25 councillors backing option two – together with the suggested changes. A total of 14 councillors were against and one – Selsey’s John Connor – abstained.
The same vote saw councillor Josef Ransley’s call for greater transparency on the northern bypass decision from the Secretary of State for Transport.
“The whole process has been very untransparent,” said Mrs Apel.