'˜Utter dismay' expressed by district councillors to own leader's A27 proposal

A group of district councils have expressed their '˜utter dismay' at their leader's proposal for Chichester's A27.

Tuesday, 15th August 2017, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:24 pm
CDC leader Tony Dignum

At a recent A27 community workshop there was uproar when leader Tony Dignum stood up and proposed a variation of Option 2, that he said had been endorsed by fellow councillors in a straw poll at an earlier meeting.

It followed a meeting on July 24 between district and county council leaders at which Highways England’s CEO, Jim O’Sullivan, said funding for Chichester could be reinstated but suggested only if there was support for one of its online options.

In a letter to fellow district councillors, cllrs Christopher Page, Keith Martin, Graeme Barrett and Jonathan Brown expressed their ‘utter dismay’ that it took more than two weeks to report the July 24 meeting to the council, ‘at which time we were presented with a ridiculously short timescale either to accept one of their previously roundly rejected options, or lose the money’.

The last WSCC-led A27 workshop descended into acrimony. The next meeting is due on Monday, August 21

“The leader apparently accepted without demur the threats and opinions of HE’s CEO’, the letter states, asking why Mr O’Sullivan’s statements that it was ‘unlikely’ funding for Chichester could not be found in RIS2, and that offline options were ‘being discouraged’ were accepted as undeliverable.

Mr Dignum has told the Observer both he and CDC’s CEO would respond after returning from holiday.

The letter also questioned why a northern route could not be pursued quickly when options were fully designed before being dropped by Highways ahead of the public consultations last summer.

The letter said: “Councillors Dignum also agreed and signed up to the principals governing the community worskhops led by WSCC where he pledged that the meetings were to set requirements for consultants to work on, the no options were off the table, and that no specific option would be pursued.

“At the last community meeting he then reneged on this by attempting to explain his Option 2 (modified) proposal in a public forum.

“Finally, there is a matter of transparency and honesty. Councillor Dignum announced one of the advantages of his proposals is that they could be presented in two ways dependent on the audience:

“To HE we could say that it was a minor modification of Option 2, which they seemed to prefer; while to our constituents it could be presented as a more or less totally new solution quite unlike the previously-rejected options.

“We are concerned that the handling of the A27 question reflects badly on the reputation of the council among some of our constituents,” the letter added.

It comes as the county council announced that the next A27 workshop would take place on Monday night.

MP Gillian Keegan is due to give an update on her request to the department for transport for a time extension to the September decision deadline, and the group is set to work towards an agreed response to Highways and the next steps.

The county council said the meeting would be strictly invite only.

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