LETTER: Consultation was flawed

West Sussex county councillors are being misled about Arundel Bypass Option 5A through Binsted (‘County councillors will be encouraged to back a controversial bypass route for the A27 at Arundel’).

Binsted is a beautiful, much-loved area where tranquil countryside meets huge, magnificent woods. People come regularly from Bognor and beyond to walk here. It’s also a thriving village where people live and work, with its own yearly fundraising Strawberry Fair and Arts Festival. Binsted would be destroyed by Option 5A. Binsted group Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee are appalled to see councillors being advised to favour Option 5A. Here are some reasons.

Environment impacts unassessed.

WSCC officers’ advice to councillors to back the route through Binsted is based on the faulty and misleading information from Highways England. The officers say that the ‘adverse environmental impacts’ for Option 5A, through Binsted village and parts of Binsted Woods, are less than for Option 3 (the old Pink-Blue route). This is unlikely to be true. Highways England have not yet assessed the true environmental impacts for 5A, which affects the very high-quality woodland of Binsted Woods. HE’s environmental impact surveys are based on a two-day visit in January and an inadequate desk study. They have ignored two years’ worth of professional wildlife surveys in the area which have been made available to them. An example is bats: they quote 5 species of bat as being in the area, actually there are 13.

Economic benefit doubtful. Another unlikely statement by the officers, based on Highways’ dubious figures, is that ‘The economic benefits of Option 3 are not as high as Option 5A’. Options 3 and 5A were assessed in the A27 Feasibility Study of 2015. Since then, the estimated ‘benefit’ for 5A has gone up by 71 per cent without explanation, thus pushing its Cost Benefit score through the roof. No explanation is given. These figures look unbelievable.

Traffic benefits dubious.The statement ‘Option 5A would have beneficial traffic impacts by attracting traffic to the A27 from parallel local roads’ is equally dubious. Highways England state that traffic in the Downs will decrease by 6,000 vehicle movements per day, but also that traffic Yapton Lane, Walberton, leading to the new junction with 5A, will increase by 6,000 vehicle movements per day. Yapton Lane is already overburdened. Walberton Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan does not accept any development that will increase that traffic.

Highways’ information full of errors

Highways’ consultation brochure and associated documents are full of errors and contradictions, and look angled to make people vote for 5A. For instance, they have blotted out the ancient parkland of Binsted Park, within Binsted Woods, which 5A would destroy - three houses there would be next to the road on a 20-foot embankment. Highways’ photo labelled ‘Binsted Park’ is of a metalled road on Tortington Common.

They have obliterated the difference between the semi-natural woodland of Binsted woods and the ‘Ancient Replanted’ woodland on Tortington Common. That difference led to government transport consultants choosing Option 3 across Tortington Common as the Preferred Route in 1993. The consultants stated that Binsted Woods are ‘nationally important’. They still are. The consultants added that ‘destruction or fragmentation’ would ‘substantially damage’ their national importance. It still would. Highways have ignored this planning precedent. But it will be very difficult to get 5A past a planning lnspector.

This controversial route will be fought all the way. If 5A is chosen, people in Binsted will seek legal redress on the basis that the consultation was flawed.

Emma Tristram

Secretary, Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee,

Binsted

Arundel