Guest blog: featuring article by Ben Webster of The Times.
- We note that although Alan Feist of Highways England says 10,000 people responded to the 2017 Public Consultation; only 1354 were in favour of the route Highways England chose. Despite Mr Feist's spin: this amounts to a massive public rejection of the route.
- We also do not believe Highways England can do this route for the "£250M" cited. This was the scheme budget, but did not take mitigation and compensation costs into account; we believe the true figure to be nearer £350M. Now where have we seen that figure before? It raises the question whether spending it on the NHS may be better value for money... especially when a lower-impact route on the Option 1 alignment could be built for less than £100M. Who is directing Highways England to waste scarce public money on this damaging scheme?
Highways England has published its preferred route for a £250 million bypass for Arundel on the A27 in West Sussex, which it said could save commuters 20 minutes a day and reduce rat-running on minor roads.
The chosen route would result in the loss of 3.8 hectares of ancient woodland. A previous plan had earmarked 24 hectares. However, another option, which would have avoided the national park, was discarded because it would have “significantly exceeded” the project’s budget.
“We are alarmed that at a time when government claims to be strengthening support for irreplaceable ancient woodland, Highways England is proceeding with such a destructive proposal,” a spokesman for the Woodland Trust said.
“We strongly believe the route must be amended to avoid this damaging loss and would urge people to continue to oppose the plans during next year’s statutory consultation.”
“It is not even as if this destruction will actually solve the transport problems in the area. It will simply move the traffic jams down to the next bottleneck and will do nothing to give people choices in local travel.
“Highways England and the Department for Transport appear to have gone back to the 1980s and 1990s and want to build big roads across the countryside. Now as then they will face significant resistance, locally and nationally.”
Alan Feist, head of Highways England’s A27 programme, said: “These ambitious plans will fill in a missing link on the A27, improving 21,000 journeys every day for drivers. Nearly 10,000 people took part in the consultation. We will continue to work with people and take their views into account.”
The authority said that it would compensate for the loss of woods by planting trees in other locations where it would create seven times as much woodland.
It will consult the public on the route next spring and expects to submit plans to the government for approval in late 2019. Construction is due to start in late 2020 and the road is due to open three years later.