Headlong rush to scar valley

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It seems that the Department for Transport (DfT) is in a headlong, crazed rush to scar the landscape with a new motorway, thinking that this will solve economic problems. But will it? If the DfT gets its way, the beautiful Arun valley will be marred for ever.

In 2013, the Government announced its plans for the biggest ever ‘upgrade’ of the strategic national roads network, including tripling the annual investment on Highways Agency major roads, rising to £3bn in less than six years!

The Government’s proposed multi-billion pounds increase in expenditure is being made when, in other areas, it says major cuts are required to balance the books. Cuts mean not repairing pot-holes, putting up rail fares and cutting bus services! With this sort of chaotic financial planning, the country will never get its national debt down!

Improvements in road transport in West Sussex are needed, as are improvements in the railways and bus transport. But it seems that George Osborne is just throwing money at the ‘problem’ without thinking whether or not it will actually solve it.

For some crazy reason, the Government has embarked on a quick fix solution for the A27 road issues. The DfT road studies are not using evidence-based decision-making. The way the current reports are written by the Government’s consultants looks like a decision has already been made! The Chancellor was due to announce today in his autumn statement the allocations of monies. Maybe he is in a hurry to put forward new road plans which he thinks will be vote winners. However, really solving the problem requires an integrated transport plan and not just slapping a motorway down, cutting through our ever diminishing beautiful countryside.

A multi-modal transport study (road, rail and public transport etc) was carried out in 2002. This was never implemented, probably because the recession came along in 2007/8. If the present Government, when it came to power in 2010, had taken this study on board, we could already be seeing some sensible road, rail and bus improvements all along the south coast.

The Government seems to like ‘grand schemes’ which hit the headlines, when in reality it is detailed research and consultative planning that brings real benefits – not so glamorous, but more likely to solve our problem.

We need improvements to road junctions, access to railway stations, foot/cycle infrastructure and south coast rail and bus services.

Spending billions on motorways isn’t necessarily the solution. We ask those who are driving hard for motorways to think again. Be careful what you ask for, new roads create new traffic!

The Government’s consultation meetings so far have been by invitation only and they haven’t handed out much information. For instance, the various dual- carriageway options around Arundel are not documented on any public document. Those who did get to some of the meetings had to sketch down what the consultants showed at their presentations.

A sketch by a CPRE member showed routes A and B to be the most devastating for the countryside. Route C connects the western dual-carriageway directly to the current A27 and includes improvements. For details of the routes please ask the minister, as the Government didn’t give out any information at the meetings.

Everyone needs to ask the Government to consult the local people now and not after decisions have been reached, when you can choose only option A or B, with both being disastrous to the countryside and local communities. The public should make their voice heard by writing to their MPS and to the minister responsible, John Hayes MP, by emailling john.hayes@dft.gov.uk and George Osborne MP at public.enquiries@hm-treasury.gov.uk

Vic Ient

member of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Sussex)

Lewes

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