Campaigners have expressed confusion and anger over the newly-announced plans to build a dual carriageway on the A27 between Lewes and Polegate.
A multi-million pound bid for the Government to fund the scheme was announced in May.
The business case, which is to be presented before Government Ministers by the A27 Reference Group, is looking to gain the £450 million investment for a dual carriageway between the Southerham Roundabout in Lewes and Polegate.
But members of the South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Enviroment (SCATE), alongside the Folkington Estate and RH & RW Clutton, are holding a meeting after they say the announcement has caused confusion and angst for residents and businesses.
The campaigners say the proposed ‘motorway-style’ road will have an impact on the environment of the South Downs National Park.
They also argue it contradicts the national policy statement agreed by Parliament in 2014 that ‘new roads should not be built in National Parks unless there are exceptional circumstances’.
Called a ‘scar across the countryside’ by South Downs Society District Officer, Victor Ient, campaigners are concerned factors such as environmental damage, increased noise pollution and the impact on house prices have not been considered.
Instead, they say, the focus has been on saving nine minutes of travel time for the drive between Polegate and Lewes.
The public meeting, which will be held at Selmerston Village Hall on Tuesday (June 12) at 7pm, will cover a variety of themes to an audience of locals, with representatives from local parish councils, residents and farmers.
Mr Ient said, “I attended the final Highways England stakeholders’ meeting in May and was astounded to hear their consultants and officers
state that none of the three routes they proposed would cause any significant environmental damage.
“Also, no mention was made of the loss of valuable farmland and wildlife habitats.
“Shockingly, they didn’t admit what the effect would be on the internationally famous South Downs Way long-distance footpath.
“It is obvious that along many miles of South Downs Way in this part of the South Downs National Park the scar across the countryside of the motorway style road would be clearly visible.
“Also, there was no mention of the noise which would be generated by the road, which would destroy the tranquillity of this beautiful part of the county for residents and tourists alike.
“The whole thrust of their argument is to shorten the driving time by just nine minutes at peak times.
“The consultants admitted that the current top estimates for the £650m scheme does not include any funding to resolve the traffic jams at the Ashcombe and Southerham roundabouts on the Lewes by-pass where the current traffic jams will just be exacerbated by this new road.”
Oliver Harwood, of RH & RW Clutton, the land agent which manages the Folkington Estate added, “I wholeheartedly support a review of the transport system in East Sussex, but this must be on the basis of a multi modal study which respects the hugely valuable environment.
“After all, the Government’s manifesto commitment is to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
“If a new dual carriageway is confirmed, they will not only be causing irreversible environmental damage, but also force house prices to fall due to increased traffic noise and unsightly views of what will effectively look like a motorway.
“In an area where house prices are still trying to recover, how is that helping?
“Unfortunately, it remains the case that claimants in compulsory purchase cases sadly never achieve fair compensation for this loss in property values and in particular generalised blight, which can cause huge uncompensated losses over many years.
“People living at a distance from the new road will lose their view and the tranquillity of a treasured landscape with no compensation.
“Whilst we do our best for clients, we know they always suffer unrecoverable losses in situations like this.”
However, Maria Caulfield MP said she was disappointed by the ‘scaremongering’ on this issue.
The MP for Lewes and Polegate said, “As chairman of the A27 reference I have always made clear my commitment to improve and dual the existing A27. I promised this in my personal manifesto when I stood for elections in both 2015 and 2107 and I am now keeping that promise.
“Apart from Southern Rail issues, improving the A27 is the number one request I get from local residents and I am pleased that we have submitted a bid for £450 million to Government to do just that.
“At the A27 meetings there have been no discussions around the possible options of these improvements, only that a dual system is what is required.
“It has been made very clear that if we are successful in securing the money through a cross party basis that route option works work would then start with residents being at the heart of any decisions before a public enquiry would then look at the options for a final decision.
“I am therefore disappointed that misleading literature is being delivered to residents with fake route options attached. With the sole purpose of scaremongering on this issue.
“I have now written to all residents along the route to reassure them that no decisions have been taken other than submitting a business case for improvements and that I am happy to meet residents on a one to one or group basis and will be organising a public meeting in the summer once we know if the Government bid has been successful.
“I understand a meeting is being held locally by those against improving the A27 who neither had the curtesy to invite me so I can update them as to where we are at and organised it for the day when the EU withdrawal bid is coming back to Parliament so there is no way I can attend.
“I urge any resident with concerns to contact me direct and I would be happy to discuss the issues with them.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the A27 safer, less congested and useable by all road users and I will do all I can to support the majority of residents who want to see this happen.”