AN A27 action group has claimed that West Sussex County Council is solely responsible for the loss of funding for the road.
The group of representatives from parish councils, resident associations, campaign groups, as well as professional individuals known as the A27 Alliance was formed recently with the objective of getting the best bypass solution for Chichester.
The Alliance believes that it is important for the Chichester community to understand that Build A Better A27 (BABA27 – the community consultation group) had absolutely nothing to do with promoting either of the options put forward to Highways England by council leader Louise Goldsmith and other local politicians.
In addition, a spokesperson for the group has said: “The county council’s suggestion that a vote was taken by BABA27 to reject the previous investment is a fabrication: no vote was ever taken (community representatives were asked to provide a steer, not a vote), and this is nothing more than political spin to cover the council’s own shortcomings.
“The promotion of unrealistic and unaffordable options, and the rejection of upwards of £250m of central Government funding in 2017, were both entirely the responsibility of the council leadership.
“Ever since the Highways England 2016 Consultation it has been clear that the work done by Highways England did not fit the aspirations of the county’s leadership – to build a new road to the north of Chichester.
“Hence the council has continued to refer to that consultation as ‘flawed’. However, nothing could be as flawed as the options promoted by the county in July, 2018. These were characterised by lack of any evidence from the BABA27 process that a consensus had been achieved and their decision to ignore the results of their own survey that found a majority in favour of an upgrade of the existing route.
“At no time has the council been realistic about the constraints of funding, policy, sustainability or engineering challenges, and it is therefore no surprise that the council’s unfounded preferences which were high risk have been found by Highways England to be unworkable and unaffordable.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Gillian Keegan was clear in her various comments to the BABA27 group that there was unlikely to be any funding that exceeded the previous allocation of £250m. This advice was ignored by the leaders of the council who sought to promote a scheme that they were advised would cost more than £400million with no additional benefits. They further ignored advice from Highways England that a northern route had almost no probability of success yet sought to promote this as their preferred option.”
On her blog in December, leader of WSCC, Louise Goldsmith said: “Mr Grayling said he cancelled the scheme because the councils and community did not agree. Since then, working through BABA27, both councils have clearly set out their jointly agreed support for the mitigated Northern option.
“We all know and appreciate that Government has a very big issue at the moment but this matter is extremely important to everyone living and working in the area, as well as further afield. I hope we can have a meeting with Mr Grayling to reassure him of our joint agreed position.”