“We have heard from a long standing Chichester resident Mr David Palmer (Observer, January 24) quoting that on Friday, January 11, it was standing room only as around 200 local people packed into West Wittering Memorial Hall.
I do not understand his need to scorn those of us that live in the South and want all options to be considered to enable us to debate and choose the right option for Chichester.
I do not propose to pour scorn on those pro North or pro South. What we should be doing is considering all options including Northern options.
However what it was not was a tribal gathering of the Northern Route Fanaticals. It was an open meeting open to all to discuss local matters with our MP and was one of several held in the constituency.
After our MP had spoken about a number of Westminster issues she identified the interest in the A27. At that point some in the audience registered that they had read the letter from Highways England as it had been posted online by the Observer.
Our MP Gillian Keegan replied that she had not had time to read the letter but acknowledged having received it.
When some of the detail was read out Keegan responded that she could not go to Highways England without an agreed scheme.
From the audience and the stage it was pointed out to her that there are two schemes that were accepted by Highways England for public scrutiny but as we know under Freedom Of Information requests were dropped at the insistence of the powers that be and Highways England were instructed to do no further work on them.
This contrary to Mr Palmer maintaining that: “Since 2016, the Northern Route has been formally rejected at either Government or Highways England level on at least three occasions.”
The evidence does not show that this is the case especially when HE are stating when referring to being asked by Government for a ‘short-term’ strategy that ‘we are spending money to look at options that defend why we’re doing what is not right’.
The meeting clamoured for these (the two northern schemes) to be brought back into consideration under RIS2.
Councillor Montyn outlined some of the comments from Highways England as he read parts of it from the stage.
Contrary to Mr Palmer’s contention, councillor Goldsmith gave a balanced and frank statement of the facts as to how we have arrived at our current position. What she asked for was honesty, transparency and a fair and open consultation on all options so that the best option for Chichester can be chosen and delivered. She has never been pro North or South in fact she only wants the best option for Chichester and this is what she asked for with a transparent rerun of the failed 2016 consultation on all viable options including offline Northern options.
I now come to the real issue at the meeting. The Highways England letter that was released by district councillor Tony Dignum to the Observer just before the meeting which he did not attend.
The letter states that the Southern route is technically undeliverable whilst the mitigated Northern Route is technically deliverable.
Why then the meeting asked was the Mitigated Northern route not acceptable – because of cost, national policy and the affect on the Goodwood Estate. Many in the audience where quite unsympathetic to the last point when faced with up to five years of disruption during short term upgrades.
The policy argument was challenged by the meeting especially when any proposed road does not run through the park but alongside it over a short distance.
As was pointed out at the meeting, national policy states that infrastructure can be built if there is a requirement and a community benefit. The cost argument will need further examination especially when no budget for RIS 2 has been agreed.
Many of us live in the South, in excess of 26,000 as councillor Montyn pointed out. I have participated in the BABA27 process throughout and signed up to its guiding principles. Some seem to be ignoring those now although they too signed up to them. This was a great piece of democracy and community spirit that effectively reduced various options down to two to be considered. The BABA27 was a great success and now we need to support our MP and push for appropriate funding for a long-term solution to the A27 after the whole community have had equal opportunity to participate in a full consultation denied them in 2016. This was what was made very clear at the meeting with our MP agreeing to meet with ministers to see what she could achieve.
We should also remember that Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council following the steer from the BABA27 workshops, gave their preference to a mitigated Northern option. The two councils followed their democratic processes in arriving at their identical resolutions. My plea as was the plea at the meeting is for us to be consulted by Highways England on all options including Northern options, which was its plan until the Northern options where suddenly withdrawn without publicly stating the real reasons in February 2016. Only that way will we arrive at the right long-term solution for Chichester be it North OR South. Not much to ask for.”