One of the most important issues for my constituency is the A27 and the need fully to dual the road so as to prevent congestion in places like Worthing, Arundel and Chichester.
These delays exact an economic price, undermining local investment, and an environmental price, too, forcing traffic up through the South Downs National Park. Indeed, traffic in Storrington is so bad that it has some of the worst air quality in the South.
So I was absolutely delighted when, in 2014, the Government announced that the A27 would be upgraded with a £350 million funding programme that would include improvements at Worthing and Shoreham and a bypass at Arundel. An upgrade at Chichester was already in the pipeline.
This announcement was the result of intensive lobbying led by West Sussex MPs, and it is exciting to see the proposed start and completion dates of the new roads schemes on Highways England’s website.
We expect Highways England to publish the routes of the Arundel bypass for consultation this summer, with work starting in 2021 and completion in 2023.
But I’ve become increasingly concerned that the timetable to start the work has slipped, and I think this has something to do with the row in Chichester over the improvements there, which as a result have been delayed.
It was always intended that the existing Chichester bypass, which is already a dual carriageway, would simply be upgraded so as to eliminate hold-ups at the roundabouts and traffic lights.
But there was a surprise push for a northern bypass which Highways England subsequently ruled out.
After all, this would be a completely new road, newly affecting many properties and important businesses, and it would cost more.
But opponents of the southern route upgrades are continuing to push for this northern option. Now they want the whole consultation re-opened.
Let’s be clear: re-opening the consultation wouldn’t result in the unfeasible northern bypass, but it would see the Chichester improvements drop down the queue and seriously delayed, probably for a decade, or even lost altogether.
I’m worried that this manoeuvring at Chichester will also have a knock-on effect on the rest of the A27 improvements in West Sussex.
The A27 desperately needs to be fully dualled and upgraded across West Sussex.
At last these improvements are within our sights, with the substantial funding needed earmarked.
The Arundel bypass has been shelved before. Local people will not forgive the same thing happening again.
• If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at email@example.com
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