The case for a Chichester A27 northern bypass should be re-examined, a county council committee has urged.
Highways England’s consultation on its five proposals closes next week, but residents south of the city have criticised all the options on the table, including Option 2, which would see a new Stockbridge link road built.
Opponents of the current options turned up in force today (Thursday September 15) to demonstrated outside County Hall before hearing West Sussex County Council’s Environmental and Community Services Select Committee discuss the authority’s draft response to Highways England.
Officers argued that the greatest benefits to journey time reliability, road safety, regional connectivity, and accessibility to areas with tourist activity would be achieved through Option 2.
But they also found that this option had the ‘greatest environmental consequences’ and called for much greater detail about the design of environmental mitigation measures before a preferred option is selected.
CHICHESTER COUNCILLORS WEIGH IN
Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East), the only Chichester councillor on the committee, argued that WSCC’s response should take the form of a commentary outlining concerns on each option, should not support any of the current options implicitly or formally, and recommended a re-examination of the northern options by Highways England.
He asked: “Why support Option 2 when it comes with the risk of a Treasury veto and such marginal gain over a limited timeframe?”
Darryl Hemmings, planning and transport policy manager at WSCC, explained that they were calling for Highways England at the Portfield roundabout, but when they talked about junctions reaching capacity by 2035 under some of the current options ‘that’s not a return to the conditions we see today that is particular arms on particular junctions where we will see queuing’.
Bernard Smith (UKIP, Selsey) noted that Option 2 seemed to be regarded as ‘the chosen one’, but raised concerns about the more than three years of construction ‘chaos’ on the A27 it could cause.
He added: “Why not dispense of all these options riddled with inconsistencies and build a northern bypass and do the job once.”
Pieter Montyn (Con, The Witterings), who was dubbed a ‘man of the people’ by one member of the public gallery, explained that the two options for a northern route, withdrawn by Highways England, ‘outperform all five that are presented publicly’.
Sandra James (UKIP, Bourne), leader of the UKIP group at County Hall, described the ‘abhorrent’ way the process had been handled by Highways England and argued in favour of backing no option, but asked if a northern option with some forms of tunnelling could be explored.
She added: “This is so important to be right for our community as a long term solution, a long-term solution that meets the financial outlay and delivers that unity to our community.”
However Jeremy Hunt (Con, Chichester North), cabinet member for finance, called for the county council to back Option 2 but explained that his support was contingent on appropriate mitigation measures.
He argued that it was ‘head and shoulders’ above all the other options currently on the table.
Meanwhile Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), leader of the council, said she was ‘sad to see such polarisation over this issue’, and admitted there was ‘no easy option’.
She added: “The most important thing is consideration to the residents in this area and that they do not pay too high a price.”
The last Chichester county councillor Margaret Evans (Con, Chichester South) was unable to attend the committee meeting, but in comments read out on her behalf argued that ‘no consideration had been given to the residents who will be affected by roadworks’ and called for a ‘proper job to be done’.
COUNCILLORS QUESTION TRANSPARENCY OVER DROPPING OF NORTHERN OPTIONS
Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) felt that Donnington was being ‘treated as a poor relative’, while Andrew Barrett-Miles (Con, Burgess Hill Town) described Option 2 as the ‘best of what are a lot of poor options’.
He questioned the transparency of Highways England’s decision to drop the northern options ‘without any rationale being given’.
John Rogers (Con, Cissbury), vice-chairman of the committee, agreed asking: “Why are other options not included?”
He added: “My message to Highways England is if you think you can ride roughshod over the people of Chichester, wait until you get to Worthing.”
Nigel Dennis (LDem, Horsham Hurst) was the only committee member to vote against any of Mr Oakley’s recommendations.
He argued: “No option is without pain but doing nothing is not an option either given the conditions on the Chichester bypass.”
Before the meeting, Keith Martin, chairman of Earnley Parish Council, said: “I think it needs to be looked at objectively and the data is available and the data shows that on every single criteria the northern route has benefits over all the other options.”
He added: “The southern routes are more destructive of the environment, particularly to the canal and the historic views there.”
CABINET MEMBER TO WORK ON FINAL RESPONSE
Although the select committee agreed with Mr Oakley’s recommendations, the cabinet member for highways and transport John O’Brien is not bound by them.
He said they were ‘no longer looking at options no longer on the table’, but told the committee he would now go away and along with officers look at formulating a response to Highways England.
The consultation closes on September 22. To comment visit the Government’s website.
To share your thoughts email the newsdesk.
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