Campaigners have announced they will be legally challenging the A27 Arundel Bypass route which was chosen this morning, as the district has reacted to the news.
The Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee said it would consider asking for a judicial review of Highways England's decision to choose option 5a as its preferred route for the Arundel Bypass. Read more about the decision here, and click here to watch a simulation of the route.
A judicial review involves a judge looking into the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body. The committee said its decision was based on 'errors and bias' in the consultation, which the group claimed did not reflect the damage this route would cause to the village of Binsted and ancient woodland from the public. Highways England denies this.
Emma Tristram, secretary of the committee, said: "This road scheme would wreak an incredible trail of destruction.
"It would destroy part of the South Downs National Park, decimate ancient and ecologically important woodland, and devastate the two historic villages of Binsted and Tortington.
“It would also lead to a huge increase of traffic in Walberton, particularly on the semi-rural road, already at capacity, which leads to the new junction.
"The fight against this extraordinarily damaging road scheme has only just begun."
This comes as Walberton Parish Council, which includes Binsted and Tortington in its catchment area, also questioned the reliability of data regarding traffic predictions used during the consultation and called on the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, to look into the decision.
They said: "We consider this option to be simply unacceptable and unachievable without a large financial, environmental and social cost and we urge the Secretary of State to look in
detail at the glaring complications and inaccuracies associated with this option before an enormous amount of money is wasted on this folly."
In response to news of a potential judicial review, Gillian Brown, leader of Arun District Council, which supported the scheme, said: "I understand why they would do it if they are local people, but for the benefit of the majority we have to move ahead."
She added: "I am absolutely delighted; it is the route that we chose after a lot of debate and deliberations.
"We have waited 30 years for this decision to be made, having been nearly there so many times before."
To the residents of Binsted and Tortington, she said: "I understand their concerns - of course I do - but life changes. We have so much more traffic than we had in years past, and the environmental impact of this increasing would do as much damage as the bypass.
"In Arun, we have 20,000 homes we need to build in 20 years; you can imagine how much more traffic that will cause."
Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, welcomed option 5a despite preferring option 3, which disrupted more ancient woodland rather than Binsted or Tortington. He said: "People are entitled to go to law if they want to, but there has been a full public consultation and there will be a further consultation on this new route. There has been plenty of opportunity for people to give their views.
"I do not think myself that endless legal process can be allowed to hold up essential decisions on infrastructure."
Bob Lanzer, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure at West Sussex County Council, which backed option 5a, said: "This option generates the greatest savings in journey times and the greatest benefits overall. It also doesn't take anywhere near as much ancient woodland as option 3, and had the greatest support from the Highways consultation.
"We cannot stand still again for 30 years without doing anything; something needs to happen. As the highways authority, we want to work with Highways England to limit environmental impact as much as we can and maximize the benefits to residents and the West Sussex economy overall."
Regarding the judicial review, Mr Lanzer said: "When people feel so strongly about a matter such as this, it is their right to invoke all due process to make their point. We will have to see what comes of it."
Arundel Town Council worked with Highways England to organise a public meeting in September and additional exhibitions so residents could make an informed decision on what route they would choose in the public consultation.
They also supported option 5a, having backed the idea of an 'offline' bypass since 1993.
A spokesman said they 'hoped that residents can unite in this decision and move forward'.
Environmental groups have blasted the decision. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex said the proposed route would 'simply create two new bottlenecks at either end of the dual carriageway'. CPRE director Kia Trainor said: "This decision does not fully take into account the enormous damage to irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland which this new road would create.
"CPRE believes Highways England’s piecemeal approach is deeply flawed and that building the new section of dual carriageways will actually worsen the free flow of traffic along the A27.
“We are very concerned that the countryside is being sacrificed in order to move a traffic jam further along the A27.
“What we need is a more strategic approach to transport infrastructure. We see a role for the new South East Regional Transport Body in helping put together an integrated approach to mobility instead of constantly building bypasses of our bypasses.”
Henri Brocklebank, director of conservation at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said option 5a would result in 'the destruction of woodland, ancient hedgerows and rare chalk stream habitat which is simply irreplaceable', and while acknowledging the modifications, felt ' frustrated that this option was even on the table in the first place'.
She said: "It is tragic to see important decisions like this taken with such a lack of innovation. This is the 21st Century and we have a road scheme fit for the 1980s."
Kay Wagland, chairman of Arundel Scate, an offshoot of the South Coast Alliance for Transport and Environment, said it was 'devastating news' and that this bypass would mean more traffic hitting Worthing and Chichester, which are still in need of bypasses. She said: 'It's out-dated, based on old thinking, destroying part of the National Park and its special wildlife, splitting communities.
"We need an up-to-date, joined-up transport approach for the whole Sussex coast that supports the South Downs, with local road proposals that meet actual needs and cut congestion at half the cost, without damaging the park or ignoring local people."