I think we all recognise that the A27 Chichester bypass is at capacity, frequently severely congested and restricting economic growth.
As a consequence, the district council, working closely with West Sussex County Council, remains focused on achieving improvements to the A27 that will provide long term benefits and also address serious concerns about matters like poor air quality and journey reliability.
Earlier this year, the district council resolved at a special council meeting to bid for a place in the Government’s second Roads Investment Strategy (RIS2) and promote a ‘Mitigated Northern route’ as the preferred solution. An alternative ‘Full Southern route’ was also put forward as a scheme for consideration. Highways England agreed to develop these concepts further to check whether they are technically viable and to estimate the cost of each option.
We are expecting their response shortly. However, despite this important on-going initiative, we have had to recognise that there is, at this stage, no certainty that a scheme for Chichester will be included in RIS2, which we do not expect to be published by the Department of Transport until late 2019.
We have also embarked on a review of our adopted Local Plan which must be completed by 2020. As part of that review, we must identify a scheme of junction works for the A27 to offset the impact on the A27 of the additional housing included in the Local Plan. These works consist of relatively small scale, at-grade alterations (namely, no flyovers) to the existing bypass to enable the A27 to continue to operate with the additional traffic flows arising from the development in the Local Plan.
However, we also know that these alterations will do little to address existing problems and that they are not a long term solution.
But, without this ‘fall back’ option, we will not be able to demonstrate that our review of the Local Plan is sound, and therefore we could lose control over new development as it comes forward.
Let us be clear that we will therefore continue to press the case vigorously to government for investment in a long term, strategic solution for the A27 around Chichester.
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.
Tony Dignum, Leader, Chichester District Council