New A27 consultation could delay whole Chichester scheme, Highways England says
Holding a fresh A27 consultation including options for a northern bypass would risk '˜delaying the improvements' promised for Chichester, Highways England said.
But ‘this does not rule out’ further A27 work in the future, a Highways spokesman added.
It comes after both West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith, and now Chichester District Council leader Tony Dignum, called for the public consultation on the Chichester scheme to be torn up and started again, with other route options included.
In response a Highways England spokesperson said: “The options for improving the A27 though Chichester that we put forward in our consultation earlier this year are all viable, buildable improvements and would bring real benefits to drivers on the A27 and people living and working in and around Chichester.
“Thousands of people took part in the ten-week consultation, and we are on course to publish the response to the consultation later this winter.
“There will be plenty of future opportunities for people to have their say on the plans as we move forward with the improvements.”
When the Observer asked if Highways England was prepared to honour Transport Secretary Chris Grayling saying in a private meeting with Mrs Goldsmith that the consultation could be re-run, if councils and MP Andrew Tyrie agreed, the Highways spokesman said: “Highways England is delivering the Government’s Road Investment Strategy, which is clear about the scope of the improvements for the A27 in Chichester.
“It says: ‘A27 Chichester Improvement – upgrades to four junctions on the Chichester bypass’.
“Substantially changing this scope would risk delaying the improvements.
“This does not rule out further improvements in future road investment periods though.”
Further questions and answers between the Observer and Highways England:
Observer question: Mrs Goldsmith has called for the findings of the ten-week consultations to be published ahead of the preferred route announcement, otherwise it would ‘raise suspicions of a process that lacks transparency and openness’. Will HE agree to do this?
Highways answer: We have always been clear that we expect to publish the response to the consultation, and we are on course to do it later this winter.
Q: Mrs Goldsmith has also said the Chichester scheme has been ‘marred from the start’ after the original consultation was delayed. Do you agree?
A: Holding the consultation in the summer allowed us to keep to our timetable of starting work on the improvements by 2019. We felt it was important that we took the time to get the consultation right and that it included viable, buildable improvements that fit the scope of the Road Investment Strategy and that would bring real benefits to drivers on the A27 and people living and working in and around Chichester.
Q: Does HE accept there has been a ‘lack of transparency’, as Mrs Goldsmith says?
A: We think that the start of the consultation was the appropriate time to publish the detail about the proposed improvements and take steps to properly inform land and property owners – any earlier would have risked misleading people into believing their land or property might be adversely affected by the project and cause unnecessary alarm.
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