Imagine a green valley. Cattle grazing in the water meadows. Tranquil woodland on the valley slopes. Then from the north comes a horde of grimy men. With picks and shovels, they carve a scar through the valley.
Huge bonfires burn day and night as they rip out trees and bushes. Behind them come more men, laying a ribbon of steel, cast in the hellish furnaces of the Tyne; fuelled by coal hand-dug miles below ground by naked men working in candlelight.
That’s how the railways came to Sussex. Today, environmentalists are proud to use the railway to commute and for leisure.
They tell us that the railway embankments are a haven for wildlife. They say we should all use the railway, because it is now good for the environment.
It will be much the same with the proposed Arundel bypass. Highways England is now collating views on the routes for this bypass.
There is a lobby for a dual carriageway right through Arundel, with two bridges to get across the river, and new traffic lights which will cause further traffic jams in the town. They don’t want a bypass down river because they say it would scar the countryside.
However, the history of transport in Sussex suggests that, while there will be some initial disruption, soon even hardened Greens from Brighton will happily zoom along the bypass on their way to Bournemouth and beyond. On their way west, those same environmentalists already zoom along the straight, wide, safe road from Chichester to Fareham. They don’t boycott that bypass by struggling through Fishbourne, Broadbridge, Southbourne and Emsworth. Yet all those towns were once cut in half by the A27, chocked with traffic and pollution; just like Crossbush, Dial Post, Ashington and a dozen other communities whose environment has been greatly improved by their by-passes.
So whether the new bypass goes via Binstead Woods or via Tortington Common, we can take comfort in our local history and say that the scars won’t last forever.
Many of you will remember the scars as the new A27 was made at Patching Pond, but now the pond is a tranquil oasis for wildlife.
One day we will be told that the new bypass verges must be protected because they have become a haven for wildlife, and we will all be encouraged to roll along the bypass, with minimum pollution, because it is better for the environment. So if environmentalists use the railway, and use the Fareham Straight, could they please accept the historical logic that they will also use the new bypass, leaving Arundel residents to enjoy the same quality of life as Emsworth and Fishbourne? Arundel residents deserve to live in a town which is calm, clean and not cut in half by the current A27, or destroyed even further by a four-lane highway right through the town. Arundel deserves to be just one town. Just one Arundel.
Mount Pleasant, Arundel
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