A27 COMMENT: Keep faith with the community

When the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling dramatically axed the funding for an improved A27 at Chichester he did so because he said the community could not reach agreement on the right way forward.

Friday, 28th July 2017, 3:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:21 pm
A27 schemes at Worthing (now out for consultation) and Arundel are going to be similarly controversial as Chichester's. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-170703-121719008

As Mr Grayling told this newspaper in an interview last week, when there is a united point of view he will be happy to look again at reinstating the cash required.

With the volume of housebuilding taking place and planned, an improved A27 is vital.

The county council therefore took the view that the best way to achieve this was to bring the disparate groups together and to facilitate a community based solution.

To date this has been progressing well – until the end of a meeting on Monday.

Attendees were shocked to learn at the conclusion that Highways England had insisted on a September deadline, a solution which followed the current route, and that Chichester District Council was already looking at a new idea based on the previously rejected ‘Option 2’.

Residents felt betrayed.

Bizarrely, the district council followed up the comments of its leader Tony Dignum with a press statement which said: “We now aim to investigate potential solutions over the summer months that may be suitable to both Highways England and our local communities.

“We hope to review these options with our councillors in early September, with the aim of presenting these findings to Highways England for consideration.”

We understand and applaud the concerns of Mr Dignum in wanting to secure vital improvements. But abandoning the current community-led workshops appears at best panicky.

The right way forward is to take advantage of the excellent offer by Chichester MP Gillian Keegan to negotiate a longer time-scale and to continue to support the community workshops in identifying the right solution.

This is county council leader Louise Goldsmith’s approach and one which we wholeheartedly endorse.

If we do any other and rush into a rehash of Highways England’s original discredited option abandoning all the good local work in the process there will be a yet greater public outcry – which will convince Mr Grayling his decision to pull the funding was the right one.

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