So Highways England (HE) is to hold another non-statutory public consultation on the A27 Arundel bypass ‘in the light of new evidence’.
This is actually a result of numerous errors in their data, exposed by local residents.
HE produced an ‘erratum’ to correct their Scheme Assessment Report on their preferred route, option 5A, acknowledging these errors.
Subsequently, the erratum itself has been shown to have errors.
In fulfilling its duty to protect the National Park and taking HE to judicial review for its lack of diligence in seeking a road solution that minimises impacts on the South Downs National Park, the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) was accused of wasting money.
However, HE will have wasted far more public money on the expensive and misleading consultation held last year.
Few will doubt that, unchallenged, HE will aim to ensure that option 5A remains its preferred option, despite a cost benefit of only 1.51 (they told us it was 2.62 last year), little traffic relief to Storrington (though this was a key argument for supporting route 5A in 2017) and massive destruction to wildlife and the countryside (evidence of which was not provided to the public last year, despite HE having it at the time). This option must be challenged.
Even if HE’s consultants could be relied upon not to mess up the data, their software tools for predicting traffic and economic benefits will.
These tools do not take into account the rapid changes now happening across the UK and the world which affect how we move about.
Different work practices, new shopping patterns, services such as Uber, the massive fall off of young people driving, the rise of ‘Mobility as a Service’ where shared cars and bikes are elements of mixed mode journeys alongside use of mobile devices, all mean that the old belief that more big roads and private cars are the future, are way out of date.
Recent studies show that the economic promises of new roads are unlikely to be met, traffic forecasts will be wildly out and budgets routinely exceeded and that housing development needs to be based around sustainable transport provision and not create further car dependency.
Last week’s IPCC report stressed the urgent need for action on climate change.
The biggest sector generating greenhouse gases in the UK is transport and its carbon emissions are not going down. This means that we cannot afford to keep building for increased traffic.
If it is to be taken seriously, HE must include the New Purple road option in its new Arundel review.
As a proposal which manages even flow at 40mph, meets traffic needs whilst minimising traffic increases, within a far smaller budget – leaving funds for other much needed public transport improvements which open access to non-car users, it is a far more realistic and relevant option in an uncertain world.
Kay Wagland, Ford Road, Arundel