LETTER: £69 million down the drain

I am rather puzzled at Councillor Oakley’s letter in respect of his surprise that the public gallery of the chamber at the Environmental Services Select Committee at County Hall Chichester was empty.

This meeting was held at 10.30 in the morning of 7th September. Not the best time for working people to attend. I imagine that the main reasons that members of the public and the Press did not attend the committee meeting, was firstly, that the public and the Press were not aware that it was being held, because it was not adequately advertised, and secondly, the public consultation did not finish until 12th of September, so why would the public be expecting a committee meeting to be held before that date. And, therefore, how could the committee take into account the views of the public in making their response to Highways England? .

It was after all a ‘Have Your Say’ public consultation. The committee must have ignored my views because I did not return my questionaire until 8th September! It is also significant that those present in the chamber for the debate were Worthing councillors, officers, and members of the committee. All people in the know.

I have now viewed the web-cast of the meeting, (which, incidentally, can be seen on westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/home, but only if you have access to the internet), and it seems to me that the vast majority of the speakers, reflecting the views of the members of the public in their constituencies, had grave reservations that the scheme would improve traffic flows and for the projected three minutes gained in journey times by 2041 would not be worth the three years of disruption which the implementation of the various sections of the scheme would cause.

In view of the discussions at the meeting I was surprised that the outcome was that the select committee ‘Supports the proposals of the Highways England scheme, with reservations.’ It seems that the main reason for supporting it was that if it were not supported, then the projected £69m scheme budget would be lost. It also seems to me that, taking into account the general views of members of the public expressed through many of the committee members who spoke, very little would be gained if the scheme went ahead. So, the £69m money would be as good as lost anyway. We would have had three years of pain for three minutes gain and £69m down the drain. I should have thought that the response to highways england, should be to tell them to think again! West Sussex deserves better.

It would appear that the proposed 600 houses and Ikea Store scheme may also be in jeopardy due, to the projected increased traffic flows. Incidentally, for some reason, the extra flows that Ikea traffic would generate were not taken into account in the A27 scheme proposal. This suggests that until we have a decent road system around Worthing, new businesses will likely not see Worthing as a place in which to do business, and Worthing will increasingly become worth less and less as time goes on.

I remember when the A27 Brighton Bypass was being proposed some 25 years ago, the same tired old arguments about building a road through the downs to the north of Brighton, were being made. ‘What about the damage to the wild-life, what about the destruction of the landscape, what about the noise, what about the disruption, what about the cost?’ etc, etc. Can you imagine the outcry that would ensue if this road were now closed, and we had to revert back, as we used to, to driving through Shoreham, Hove, Brighton, and Lewes towns, etc, to travel east and west! Would the nay-sayers who now object to building a road through the National Park advocate closing the many existing trunk roads that go through the South Downs National Park at present- A23, A24, A29, etc? Of course they wouldn’t! The problem with living in the age of the motor car, and being reliant on road haulage for the movement of goods, is that in order to move with the times this unfortunately involves a well designed, adequate, and environmentally safe road. And if the only way to achieve this is to go through the downs, upgrading existing roads system, so be it.

As to Councillor Oakley’s inference that ‘the A27 debate has run out of steam and perhaps interest is fading,’ on the contrary, I would imagine many members of the public will be very angry that having attended the public consultation presentations and making their views known, the people who are supposed to represent them, ie the Environmental Services Select Committee, are agreeing to a not-fit-for-purpose scheme with very little merit. And making that agreement before the consultation period had even ended!

Mike Whiting

Seamill Park Avenue