Planned review of Arundel bypass decision sparks contrasting opinions

The Crossbush junction along the A27. Picture: Eddie Mitchell
The Crossbush junction along the A27. Picture: Eddie Mitchell

Contrastings views have been expressed about South Downs National Park Authority’s decision to seek a judicial review regarding the A27 Arundel bypass.

In May, Highways England said a tweaked version of Option 5a had been chosen as its preferred route for the bypass.

However, the South Downs National Park Authority announced it was seeking a judicial review of Highway England’s decision following an emergency meeting on May 24.

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert – who said he welcomed Highways England’s decision – said the judicial review would be a ‘waste of public money’, a view shared by Arundel Town Council.

However, CPRE Sussex (Campaign to Protect Rural England) urged Mr Herbert to change his stance over plans to build a new bypass through the South Downs National Park.

CPRE Sussex director Kia Trainor said: “We believe that the National Park is right to be raising concerns about how Option 5a was selected.

“It is clear that Highways England has not listened to the park throughout the consultation and there is now growing concern about the way the whole process was conducted.

“Last December The National Park sent a letter to Highways England detailing a number of important concerns over the way that the three options had been put forward, and yet the letter was ignored. Highways England is not above the law and should be following due process so it is right that they are held accountable.”

Responding to comments from CPRE Sussex, Nick Herbert said: “Most local people support the bypass, not least because it will stop so much traffic from running up through the South Downs and its villages. The CPRE used to support the bypass, but sadly now have become part of the minority anti-roads lobby. They are trying to pick holes in a consultation process that is still running, but the truth is they want to stop the bypass altogether. They won’t even consider the environmental benefit of the bypass to historic Arundel and the downland villages, and they are out of touch with the majority in the local community.”

Arundel Town Council said it was disappointed by the South Downs National Park Authority decision to seek a judicial review of the Highways England preferred route of Option 5A.

In a statement, the council said: “Arundel residents have been discussing and debating the need for a bypass for at least thirty years. It has been a long-held view of Arundel Town Council to support a bypass, initially on the old Pink/Blue route and more recently on the Option 5A route.

“Arundel has 4,000 residents who currently have to endure a town split in two, pollution, rat running and road traffic accidents.

“During the recent Highways England consultation process on the proposed routes, Arundel Town Council was keen for all residents to take part and to make an informed decision. Further we held a public meeting on September 25, 2017, with speakers from all sides of the debate. It was clear from this that the majority of residents, who expressed a view, were in favour of a bypass, and this helped to inform the town council’s decision made in October in favour of Option 5A. Arundel Town Council is aware that there are those who did not agree with this democratic decision.

“Arundel Town Council was not alone in making this decision. They were joined by West Sussex County Council, Adur District Council, Horsham District Council, Littlehampton Town Council, Bognor Town Council, and most of the other parish councils in the county and district, with the exception of Walberton who opposed Option 5A and Lyminster who neither supported nor opposed Option 5A.”

Since Highways England’s decision last month, campaigners said new evidence has emerged which adds weight to claims Highways England’s public consultation was based on ‘inaccurate and misleading evidence concerning the impact and financial benefits of the route’.

Kia Trainor added: “There are some serious questions to be answered about the consultation process.

“We feel that in the light of all the evidence now emerging Mr Herbert should think again about supporting this scheme.

“It is very clear that the environmental damage this road would cause far outweighs any possible benefits – we are talking about shaving a few minutes off journey time and we have to look at whether the devastating impact of the road is worth those few minutes.”