Call to hit pause on ‘shoddy’ A29 bypass plans

The current A259. Photo by Derek Martin
The current A259. Photo by Derek Martin

‘Shoddy’ plans for a new A29 bypass should be paused and reappraised by the county council, according to campaigners.

The preferred route for a new 4km stretch of road to the east of Eastergate, Westergate and Woodgate villages was revealed late last month.

A29 realignment plans

A29 realignment plans

Four consultation events on the proposals were held last week by West Sussex County Council (WSCC), which says the road realignment will support major development in the area and alleviate congestion on the existing A29.

The new road is budgeted to cost £55.5m and would start near the Lidsey Caravan Park, cross the railway line, intersect the B2233 Barnham Road, before joining the A29 south of Fontwell.

The current timescales would see work on the northern section start in winter 2020 and be completed by winter 2021, while the southern half would start in spring 2023 and finish in autumn 2025.

A spokesman from the Stop A29 Bypass campaign group criticised the late release of information and location of the exhibition events.

They described the scheme as ‘shoddy’ and suggested a call-in of the cabinet member decision to approve the route, prompted by Labour county councillors, was a chance to ‘hit pause and reappraise this road-to-nowhere scheme’.

Assertions that 4,180 new homes would be built in the Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate area were also questioned.

The call-in request means the environment, communities and fire select committee will scrutinise the decision on Wednesday (March 13).

Labour county councillor Michael Jones is concerned about ‘spiralling estimated costs’ of the proposed bypass and also suggested WSCC was committing itself to a very specific course of action before it had embarked on meaningful consultation.

He added: “This is no trivial matter, if this A29 bypass goes ahead, it will transform the six villages into something completely unrecognisable from what was there before.

“We want the county council to prove that this is the right course of action and at the moment we, at least, are far from convinced.”

He has tried to argue the meeting should be webcast and residents’ groups given the opportunity to address the committee next week.

A WSCC spokesman said: “It is not the role of the committee to replace or duplicate the statutory public consultation process, or the planning process. Although residents will therefore not have the opportunity to address the committee, or otherwise participate in the session, any views submitted to the committee in advance of the meeting will be distributed to committee members. To allow committee members time to read any submissions, we would ask that these are limited to two sides of A4, and received no later than noon on Monday 11th March.

“Submissions should be sent to ninesh.edwards@westsussex.gov.uk.

“Since the proposals affect one division, the committee chairman has, on this occasion, come to the view that webcasting would not be appropriate. However, the meeting will be held in public, and residents are very welcome to attend and observe proceedings.”

The select committee meeting starts at 10.30am and will be held at County Hall in Chichester.