Residents of the Manhood Peninsula and surrounding areas and others who use the Chichester bypass daily were shocked and deeply disappointed to learn, not just that consultation on Chichester’s A27 bypass improvement options is delayed, but particularly that northern and southern options have been discarded.
Last June, Chichester District and West Sussex County Councillors were jointly given a confidential briefing where they were informed about the DfT’s new expressway concept and that funds were available for big improvements.
With the aid of maps, Councillors were shown six options which included two northern routes and two southern variations. Councillors were also informed that proper public consultation would take place as part of the DfT’s required staged project development process.
On 25th January of this year, a presentation, covering what had then become seven options for the bypass, was given to the Board of Chichester Harbour Conservancy.
Dates and locations for planned public consultation events were booked. At the request of local Manhood Peninsula Parish Councils two further dates were later added and venues booked.
In February, less than one month before the date of the expected consultation process, a 900 page Environmental Study Report, with Appendices, covering all seven options in great detail, prepared on behalf of Highways England in accordance with the DfT’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, was submitted to Chichester Harbour Conservancy and others for comment.
While much officer time and effort was wasted on the preparation of their detailed comments, the decision had already been made.
At the eleventh hour, without explanation and without any information on costs and other relative merits for each of these different schemes having been made public, four upgraded roundabouts is all that is on the table.
What promised to be an open and transparent process in which all could participate has, at a stroke, been turned into the opposite.
At present, the sudden dropping of some options and of proper public consultation on the by now well-trailed seven options, while welcome to some, is incomprehensible to and questioned by many.
Many believe that any solution that does not separate through traffic from local journeys can never provide a long term solution to the problems of the A27.
What are we to make of the letter-quoted in the Chichester Observer – that Andrew Jones MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport) wrote to the MP for Arundel & South Downs Nick Herbert (and not to our MP Andrew Tyrie), recently stating that ‘To be clear, this will not include alternative routes which have been previously considered, such as a northern route which could impact on the Goodwood estate’?
No mention is made of the effects of the cancellation of the northern options on any other Chichester business, or indeed the residents. A future consultation relating only to four upgraded junctions on the A27 at Chichester must demonstrate that these are able to cope not only with through traffic, but equally well with local traffic forecasts over a specified plan period, to support growth in the economy, to facilitate the achievement of the national house building targets in the region, will bring down the accident rate, and bring and keep road side air quality within permitted limits over the entire plan period.
Many thousands in and around Chichester have been cynically denied the opportunity to form and give their views, whatever these might be.
In vain they have quietly and patiently been biding their time in the face of a noisy and at times offensive one sided campaign by a minority.
Based on what rationale were options made to disappear and who made this decision to disenfranchise so many?
The scale of the waste of public resources that have been spent on working up the seven options, on examining their environmental effects, and by Harbour Conservancy officers and others on preparing their comments, must be clearly set out and explained by whoever took this decision.
We believe that a full explanation of the events leading to the shambles that has been the consultation process should be undertaken and the results made public, and we ask that you, as our MP, present this letter to the Secretary of State for Transport and invite him to respond to all the concerns and questions enumerated above.