‘Minor improvements’ to Chichester A27 in local plan separate to bid for long-term strategic solution

'Relatively minor improvements' to the A27 junctions around Chichester are included in the district council's emerging local plan
'Relatively minor improvements' to the A27 junctions around Chichester are included in the district council's emerging local plan

‘Relatively minor improvements’ to the A27 around Chichester included in the emerging local plan are separate to funding bids for a strategic long-term solution for the route.

Chichester District Council (CDC) is putting together a revised planning framework, which identifies sites for housing and employment for the period up to 2035.

A draft preferred approach, which increases the housing target for the district excluding the national park area to 650 homes a year, has been published and an eight-week public consultation is set to start in mid December.

Since the new homes will generate extra traffic mitigation measures for the A27 have been proposed by consultants, but these have criticised as a re-hash of Option 3 from Highways England’s 2016 consultation.

Council leaders were asked if they could hold off on committing to these improvements at least until the outcome of the application to Highways England for RIS2 funding is known.

Tony Dignum, leader of the council, explained that an announcement on the road schemes included in the RIS2 was not expected until late 2019 while the council had to adopt a revised local plan by mid-2020.

He said: “Consequently in preparing the new plan we must identify a scheme of highway mitigation that can be relied on for the A27, which is not dependent on RIS2 funding.

“If we are to retain a local plan that is up-to-date then we remain in control of the location and distribution of new development across the plan area then it is important we do all we can to be in a position to adopt a revised local plan by 2020.”

Earlier this year both West Sussex County Council and CDC backed a mitigated northern route as a preferred option for the A27 but asked Highways England to develop a full southern route should as a reasonable alternative.

This followed the decision by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to cancel the A27 improvement scheme in Chichester back in March 2017 citing a lack of support for the shortlisted options.

The Build a Better A27 group was then formed to build community consensus for a highways improvements.

Mr Dignum added: “In preparing the plan officers have had to assume that there will be no major scheme implemented by Highways England before another plan review is due in 2025.

“But the council is required to arrange plans to be prepared to offset the impact of new development on the A27 and local roads. In the absence of a major Highways England scheme there is no alternative to making relatively minor at grade improvements to the existing A27.

“This does not mean the council is embracing any of the Highways England 2016 options for the existing A27. It does mean CDC has to calculate the impact of the new housing that is planned and devise proposals to offset its impact on the whole highways network.”

In a letter to the Observer, Mr Dignum described how they would continue to press the case vigorously to Government for investment in a long term strategic solution for the A27 around Chichester.

He added: “The A27 works dictated by the local plan requirements are no substitute for a proper long-term solution to the A27. Once we have more certainty about RIS2 funding and the RIS2 route, we will then be able to review the necessity for the highway improvements required to deal with the projected traffic growth arising from development in the emerging local plan.”

The Peter Brett Associates report, produced for the council, says the schemes are ‘only proposed to mitigate the impact of the 2035 local plan allocation and not designed or required to address existing traffic congestion within the network, nor are they likely to provide additional capacity to the network beyond the 2035 period’.

Simon Oakley (Con, Tangmere) said it should be made clear the process of obtaining strategic investment in the A27 was separate from the mitigation measures proposed in the local plan.

But he added: “There is the issue of the longevity and effectiveness of these mitigation measures. The transport study appears to accept that the A27 junctions will require further works within a few years of the plan’s end.

“We are in a five-year plan review cycle with all the funding for proposed works not being accumulated or obtained until the late 20s at best.

“Is there a risk that the further works required in the 2025 review, the next one, will supersede these proposals, so we get into a cycle that either nothing gets delivered or something is done and then gets re-done a few years later?”

Cabinet members agreed a preferred approach document on the local plan for consultation when they met on Wednesday (November 14).

Mike Allgrove, planning policy manager, said: “This is an opportunity for the public - residents, businesses and parish councils - to have their say and help us to improve the plan to meet local needs and aspirations. We need to move fast to do that as we need to adopt a new plan by 2020.”

It is hoped after the consultation a revised draft local plan would be submitted to the planning inspector for examination by July next year.

It was acknowledged that housing allocations are often unpopular.

But John Connor, cabinet member for environment services, said they had considered the amount of available developable land ‘ad nauseam’.

He said: “People have got to recognise as a district we have huge constraints because of the limited amount of land that is available to us.”

If communities were unhappy with allocations he suggested they put forward alternatives and the council would consider them.

Lib Dem Adrian Moss, leader of the council’s opposition group, described a general feeling that the process was moving quickly.

He said: “It just worries me we are rushing this and we do not have all the facts in front of us.”

Andrew Frost, head of planning services, said: “We are moving the process through as quickly, as appropriately and as fast as we can.”

He described how if the council did not make progress it would lose control of where and how much development they would have to take.