On Friday 4 March 2016, the long-delayed Eastern half of the new Bognor Regis Relief Road opened. There is now a new, single-carriageway road joining the A29 north of Bognor to the A259 east of it , which completes a signed A259 bypass of Bognor from west to east. It includes an ugly overbridge over the railway and floodplain. But we have seen no objections in the press or locally. The road was funded by developers at no cost to WSCC but is built to A-road standards specified by the County Council, which will adopt it after one year.
The new road bridge on the Bognor Regis Relief Road being built, 2015
A bridge like this, but twice as wide, across the Arundel floodplain has been proposed as a 'beautiful bridge' if any of the offline Arundel Bypass plans were built. Such suggestions have been greeted with scepticism (as to whether any 'beauty' would be a genuine positive, or be funded in the final budget), or enthusiasm (without regard to realistic affordability). Highways are now only looking at embankments - which at 6m height plus the height of lights and lorries, may be thought even less attractive.
This new road at Bognor offers alternative driving options. The A259 may now at times be a better route from Chichester to Littlehampton than the A27 past Arundel. WSCC are proposing to dual the A259 from Littlehampton to Goring. Drivers could rejoin the A27 via the Angmering Bypass. How long before there is an electronic sign at the Bognor roundabout on the Chichester Bypass, linked to traffic data, saying which gives the faster route to Littlehampton or Worthing, the A27 or the A259? The effects of these new possibilities have not been evaluated in the discussions about the A27 Arundel Bypass.
There are plans for new north-south developer-funded roads linking the improved A259 to the A27 either side of Arundel – the A29 ‘level crossing bypass’, and the A284 Lyminster bypass, also a ‘level crossing bypass’. There is opposition to the A29 work, but if these are built they will give a box-shaped ‘Arundel Bypass’ opportunity, using part of the A259, again this has not been properly considered in the A27 discussions. A more joined-up approach would be sensible.
With the cancellation of the damaging Chichester Northern Bypass plan, also through or very close to the South Downs National Park, it seems that the Department for Transport’s March 2015 strategic aspiration for an Expressway through Sussex, which led to plans for a major new offline Arundel Bypass coming back into discussion, is unlikely to become reality. This new road at Bognor is another factor which undermines that proposal, by providing an alternative which has not yet been taken into account in the cost benefit analysis.
Over the years, we have seen these alternative A259 road plans taking shape. They address the real transport demand in Sussex, which is essentially a local demand, more appropriately. For local access, this is what we need – improved local roads through less controversial areas.
George Osborne has, we are told, called people trying to protect beautiful countryside from road plans, ‘Nimbys in the Shires’. Accusations of nimbyism are easy to make, but what matters is responsible decision making.