'˜Unrealistic' suggestions for Chichester A27 '˜raised expectations'

The A27 Alliance has accused the county council of '˜raising expectations' with '˜unrealistic' options for an A27 upgrade.

Chichester A27 bypass from the stockbridge bridge looking eastbound PPP-140628-083326006
Chichester A27 bypass from the stockbridge bridge looking eastbound PPP-140628-083326006

Both of the suggested options put forward to Highways England for an A27 upgrade, a mitigated new northern bypass and a full a southern upgrade, were rejected by Highways England last month as not being ‘workable or affordable’.

The self-described alliance of representatives from parish councils, resident associations, campaign groups, said West Sussex County Council was ‘solely responsible’ for a Chichester scheme not being allocated government funding.

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It said that WSCC had not been ‘realistic about the constraints of funding, policy, sustainability or engineering challenges’ and it was no surprise the ‘high risk’ ideas were rejected.

Leader of West Sussex County Council, Louise Goldsmith, said she ‘totally refuted’ the comments made by the group.

Chichester was initially allocated £250million for an upgrade to its A27 bypass but the scheme was axed in March 2017 by the Secretary of State for Transport, who cited a ‘withdrawal of support by local councils for shortlisted options’ and local campaigns.

The Build a Better A27 discussion group was set up to inform a community-led solution, developed by consultants Systra.

Systra recommended a mitigated new northern bypass costing up to £400million, which was submitted to Highways England as the county and district council’s preferred option, with a southern upgrade costing around £300million as an alternative.

The Alliance has accused the county council of ‘wasting’ £100,000 employing Systra and setting the project back.

It wrote: “We believe that WSCC need to step aside immediately to enable Highways England to proceed with a further (non-statutory) consultation to develop a scheme.”

Mrs Goldsmith said the accusations were ‘inaccurate’.

She said: “Representatives from the Alliance attended the BABA27 meetings and signed up to its agreed guiding principles to work together to achieve a consensus on the A27 with Systra, the appointed highways consultants.

“We were hopeful that funding in RIS2 would be available for a scheme the majority could support and we achieved that.

“In my blog before Christmas, I detailed how the original consultation, due to commence in March 2016, was dramatically withdrawn just under two weeks before the consultation was due to start.

“The 11th hour withdrawal of the consultation caused considerable confusion and division and that’s why we are where we are now.

“I have asked MP Gillian Keegan to arrange a meeting with Chris Grayling Secretary of State for Transport.

“It is imperative at this time that we work together to push for a long term solution that has been so long denied to Chichester.

“Making inaccurate accusations does nothing to progress towards the end goal we are all committed to.”