Wildlife trust chief hits out at A27 improvement '˜vanity projects'

Investing more than £300million on the A27 instead of sustainable transport is a '˜scandal', a wildlife trust chief executive has claimed.

Tony Whitbread believes Highways England’s upgrade options at Arundel, Worthing and Lancing will increase, not cut, congestion.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust chief said: “That is an enormous amount of money, at least on something that is going to fail.

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“They are essentially vanity projects. A fraction of that spend on cycling and walking can work and investing in the railway and broadband in a way that we can come up with development plans for towns that reduce the need to travel.

“Throwing it at roads doomed to fail is a scandal.”

Dr Whitbread’s thoughts came as consultation over a single, £69million option for Worthing and Lancing drew to a close.

The junction-tweaking plan – heavily criticised as a ‘sham’ by civic leaders – involves work on the existing route.

But Arundel could be set for a bypass, with ongoing consultation presenting two offline options.

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“Road building, particularly the A27, will cause an enormous amount of environmental damage so you have to be very clear it will outweigh the negatives,” Dr Whitbread said.

In a blog post, Dr Whitbread said evidence suggested road building did not cut congestion.

He argued: “We appear to be entering another road-building bonanza where, ignoring the evidence of the past, the dewy-eyed romantics of the Highways Agency believe that road building will solve all our congestion ills.

“Let’s stop the pretence. New roads will bring more traffic and more congestion. We know this from pure common sense and from decades-old evidence that road-building generates more traffic.”

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Sussex councils are under pressure from the Government to deliver huge housebuilding targets.

Arun District Council’s local plan, to be examined by a government inspector this month, includes a target of building 1,000 homes per year up to 2031.

Dr Whitbread said developments should be only be approved if they sought to ‘reduce our transport footprint’.

But with the area’s political figures lobbying for expanded road infrastructure, he admitted there was a lack of political will to deliver his sustainable vision.

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He said: “There is a lack of political will to address this in a sensible way and the momentum is behind a failed approach. It is being promoted by the idea of reducing congestion, where all the evidence is it will simply fail.”

Arundel councillor Paul Dendle supports plans for an Arundel bypass.

He conceded investment in sustainable transport was needed but he believed roadworks were also required.

He said: “Road building will lead to more cars, but it will deal with current chronic congestion problems.

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“The biggest issue is air quality and poor economic performance due to having a daily log jam. There’s nothing green in having cars queuing and driving at low speed and nothing green with rat-running through downland villages and housing estates.

“We need to take cars away from our towns and a strategy of encouraging drivers to go to stations will deal with longer structural issues – and hopefully in 15 years time with road and rail investment we will have a more balanced transport environment.”