A Liberal Democrat candidate has slammed the Lewes Conservative MP after demanding she ‘come clean on what is going on with the A27’ amid allegations of ‘undercover plans’.
Oli Henman, the Liberal Democrats prospective parliamentary candidate, has raised the issue of a recent letter Maria Caulfield MP wrote as chairperson of the A27 Reference Group.
According to the Liberal Democrat, the letter said a business case for £450 million has been submitted to the government - to complete extension work on the A27 between Eastbourne and Lewes - and is currently being considered.
Mr Henman said, “Our current MP, Maria Caulfield, is telling some residents in affected villages that she opposes any new road, while the reference group she chairs put forward the case for this development. Why so much secrecy around the plans? How badly are our villages going to be affected? It’s time the Conservatives came clean on what is going on with the A27.
“We do not need new road-building at a time when government at all levels is declaring a climate emergency. We should be moving to a more flexible and environmentally sustainable approach to transport and identifying creative ways to encourage people to limit their carbon footprint while travelling.
“The £450 million now proposed is not needed for the existing road. Even dualling the current route would have a major impact on surrounding villages, and the fact there are plans for consultation on possible routes makes it clear that this would indeed be a new road.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said, “In undercover plans being developed by the government, protected areas of the South Downs from Lewes to Eastbourne are facing a major threat to their environment and communities.”
Previous plans to invest £70 million into specific initiatives around road safety and traffic flow such as roundabouts, crossings and cycle paths were in place and agreed by former Lewes MP Norman Baker, according to the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Henman said, “This funding could be spent in many better ways, such as delivering more frequent and longer train services and electric buses; as well as faster broadband for our rural areas to support a growing number of people to work remotely.”
Local resident Yvonne Fuller said, “This news is very worrying to anyone who enjoys the beautiful and peaceful landscape of the South Downs. We welcome the fact there is new investment for cycle routes and improved safety but we are deeply worried by reports of a new motorway style road across our unique landscape.”
Vic Ient, South Downs society policy officer, said, “The route of this new road has not yet been approved but it is clear that any major new road would carve a scar across our beautiful ancient landscape and blight many villages, local communities and rural businesses.
“We understand there are several options being considered by Highways England for a new road, all to the north of the A27, the building of which would substantially impact the view from the South Downs. The unconfirmed new plans would see an enormous and damaging new road-building programme across an area of natural beauty, rare ecosystems and high biodiversity.”
Ms Caulfield said, “As the chairman of the A27 reference group, which is formed of local MPs and council leaders, I am proud we have put in a bid for £480 million to dual the road between Southerham and Polegate.
“The road is a busy, dangerous and congested road where in the last few months alone we have seen a number of fatalities. The business case that was put together shows there is a strong case for this road to be improved.
“If we are successful in gaining the funding, work will start on identifying routes and design which will involve extensive public consultation and the normal planning process.
“Residents in Polegate and Lewes tell me they desperately want this road improved so it is safe for all road users but, this needs to be done in a way that those living along the length of the road can accept.
“It is useful for residents in Polegate and Lewes to know that the Lib Dems plan to leave the A27 as it is; busy, congested and dangerous.”