Akos Hudak, 44, was in the process of buying a three-bedroom detached house at the Avisford Grange development in Walberton when Highways England announced on October 15 it would be pursuing the ‘grey route’, despite only seven per cent of the public backing it at a consultation last year.
The longest and most expensive route option on the table, the grey route avoids the South Downs National Park and ancient woodland entirely – but is the worst-case scenario for the villages of Binsted, Tortington and Walberton, including this 175-home development.
In an instant, Akos’ dream home with his wife and five-year-old daughter, with panoramic views of the nearby golf course, became a potential nightmare, overlooking a six-metre trench and sound-cancelling fence and near car fumes which would make his serious lung condition worse.
He said: “Highways England have lost all common sense – or they never had any. I was in total shock.
“We never thought this was going to happen.”
After reserving the home in October last year, Akos became aware of the grey route – but after research and seeking professional advice, he went ahead with buying the house as it seemed unlikely it would be chosen.
Covid-19 had already halted construction for a few months this year, but Akos and his family were preparing to move in before Christmas.
He said they were at a crossroads: if they chose to leave their current home in the Fontwell area and move in, they could be lose some of their land and be forced to move temporarily while construction on the route took place. Or, they may find their new home was taken away for good in a compulsory purchase, if Highways needed their land for the bypass.
Akos said mechanisms were in place so they would not lose out financially, whatever the outcome.
But he criticised Arun District Council for granting planning permission for the development if there was a chance the grey route could have been chosen.
The dental sales rep, who travells 30,000 miles a year for his job, felt Highways should adapt the ‘Arundel Alternative’, a route designed by campaigners who opposed Highways’ options. He would build a short, straight bypass from the Crossbush junction that avoids the roundabouts on the current A27 around Arundel to create a design ‘which makes most of the people happy’.
Without improvements to the A27 in Worthing and Chichester – the latter he described as the worst stretch of road in the south – the traffic problem would just be shifted along, he said.
In other bypass news, The Woodland Trust clarified its position on the ‘grey route’. Following the announcement that ‘grey’ was the preferred route, it said it was ‘delighted’ ancient woodland would have a reprieve and ‘welcomed the annoucement as real progress’. But it then posted a different statement on its website which made clear it had opposed all six routes in the public consultation.
A spokesman said the intial statement was amended to ‘clarify our wider position as maybe it wasn’t clear initially’.