CITY MP Gillian Keegan has agreed to urgently seek a meeting with the Minister of State for the Department of Transport to ask for funding for the A27.
The news comes after Mrs Keegan, Chichester District Council leader Tony Dignum and West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith met last week to discuss how to respond to a letter from Highways England.
The letter rejected both ‘Build A Better A27’ (BABA27) concept options for the A27 Chichester, including the preferred mitigated northern route supported by both councils.
Both councils confirmed their policy position on supporting both the mitigated northern route and the mitigated southern route with the MP.
Commenting after the meeting, Cllr Goldsmith said: “It was a very positive discussion and we all agreed on the importance of securing Government support for a sustainable long-term solution for the A27 that has the support of the community.
“We are still awaiting further information from Highways England regarding their reasons for turning down the BABA27 schemes and we have asked for a copy of their consultants’ findings.”
Cllr Dignum added: “Improvements to the A27 are absolutely vital for this area, and I am committed to working with the community, the county council and our MP to help achieve the best possible solution for our residents.”
It was agreed that Mrs Keegan would seek the meeting with MP Jesse Norman to ask for funding from the Government’s next Roads Investment Strategy programme (RIS2: which covers the period 2020-2025) to undertake further technical work based on the policies of both councils to improve the A27 at Chichester. This could then form the basis for public consultation on the options and lead to future funding for a major Highways England scheme.
Meanewhile, the A27 Alliance action group believes that it is right for the focus of all parties, committed to Chichester’s common good, should be applied to securing workable plans and resources for prudent and practical upgrades to the existing A27.
A spokesperson said: “It seems to be the case that in the light of Highways England’s decision not to proceed with either option promoted by the county and district councils some return to sanity is emerging, except from the leadership of the county council.
“We note that wisely, the district council will be distancing itself from the increasingly hysterical and incoherent campaign, let alone misinformation about the outputs of the ill-starred Build A Better A27 (BABA27) process, from Louise Goldsmith struggling to keep her and her backers’ dream of a northern route alive.
“If the district council does go on public record that it accepts the findings of Highways England, that neither of the two options is viable for good, well-evidenced reasons, that will mean that sensible discussions about pragmatic improvements to the extant A27, in line with Chichester’s own district plan ideas, can be conducted with the community at large – even beyond the time-limited period of consultation now drawing to a close.
“If the county council persists in the absurd argument that Highways England’s thorough and proper professional analysis of the two options can safely be ignored or worked-around through destructive environmental short-cuts, to save less than 10 per cent of the whole scheme’s cost, then the public will ask itself whether Louise Goldsmith is a fit and proper person to lead the county council. This especially at a time when there are other far more pressing county-wide social priorities to be addressed and budgets to be conserved. Wasting further public time and money on dreams and delusions would be a scandal.
The Alliance Group also stated that Cllr Dignum had written to them confirming the viewpoint of Highways England’s Peter Phillips on the northern route. It read: “Part of the new bypass and a relocated local road (New Road) would intrude into the South Downs National Park and would also impact on Goodwood Estate. The intrusion into the park is against the national policy statement for National Networks (Section 5.150) and therefore with the presence of a viable alternative (all five of the RIS 1 options) the mitigated northern option is highly unlikely to obtain approval through the development consent order process.
“The option would also likely require substantial works at the Boxgrove roundabout, probably in the form of grade separation. This work is outside of the original scheme and has not been included in the cost figures.
“The estimated cost of the mitigated northern option is in excess of £480m. The costs also do not include for mitigation of the construction impacts on Goodwood estate operations or events.
The mitigation enhancements would not increase the scheme benefits and hence the benefit cost ratio would be greatly reduced from previous options resulting in a scheme that would not offer value for money and therefore the option is not supportable by Highways England as a promotable RIS scheme.”