The options for an Arundel bypass published by the Department for Transport, after studies by the Highways Agency, give the public no choice at all.
The only choice is between two routes through the country south of the A27 – one that passes through the woods of the South Downs National Park, the other south of them.
A route that ran south of the present road from Crossbush to Ford and then ran in a short tunnel under Ford Road and westwards to join the present dual carriageway was rejected because the tunnel made this option considerably more expensive than the roads through the country.
The inclusion of a tunnel in this option is surprising, because the Environment Agency told the Highways Agency in 2004 that this area is unsuitable for tunnelling.
The odd feature of the present choice is that in September, 2007, the Highways Agency wrote that it was considering a route for an Arundel bypass that seems to be broadly similar to the rejected route, but did not include a tunnel.
Options that may resemble the route that the Highways Agency favoured in 2007 were rejected at the initial sift in 2014, and their cost is not given.
It would be significantly less than that of the option including a tunnel, which is estimated at £300-£370million – the Highways Agency put the cost of its favoured option in 2007 at about £100million.
It is Government policy that there should be a strong presumption against any significant road widening or the building of new roads though a National Park. One would therefore expect that the study of options for an Arundel bypass would have put more emphasis than it has on routes which would avoid the national park.
Instead, some such options have been discarded without serious consideration – even though they seem to represent the Highways Agency’s previously preferred route.
The public may well feel it has been short-changed by the evaluation of options for an Arundel bypass. The two routes it is being invited to choose between both run through beautiful country – the alternative of routes near the present road has been ruled out, without consulting them.
The choice between on-line or off-line routes is the most important choice to be made – it is not a decision that should be taken by the Highways Agency and its consultants alone. The public should have its say.
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