Recent local debate on the Arundel Bypass has been characterized by respectful listening and interest in facts. Cllr Paul Dendle's article in September 2016 Sussex Local, copied below, raised some controversy with its unfortunate title "Bypass - Bending the Truth". We all need to work together to ensure that sensible and proportionate improvements do happen, which minimise adverse impact on landscapes of value to the local community and beyond.
In case any readers of the article formed mistaken impressions, here are some straight truths:
1. Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee (ABNC) has been active in the neighbourhood of the Arundel bypass proposals (hence the name) since the 1980s. Its committee does indeed meet in Binsted but far from being a group of two individuals it has over 2000 supporters who live in or otherwise care about the countryside of Binsted, Walberton, Arundel and Tortington. Far from being 'funded by Brighton environmentalists', it derives all its funding from residents of the parish of Walberton, Binsted and Fontwell.
2. The article fails to mention either the Arundel residents' group ArundelSCATE (ASCATE) or the A27 Arundel Forum which it supports, or the Tortington residents' group TLC (Tortington Local Community). Even if the author disagrees with these two groups in his constituency; they should still be acknowledged as much as any other. Because the only group mentioned by Cllr Dendle is ABNC, his article gives the impression that the ‘purple leaflets mentioning a Purple route’, which have been delivered round Arundel, are produced by ABNC. They were in fact produced by ASCATE, as it says on the leaflet.
2. Cllr. Dendle says the leaflet mentions ‘a Purple route, which is in effect…a dual carriageway through Arundel.’ This is not correct. ASCATE’s leaflet specifically calls their ‘New Purple’ bypass route a ‘single carriageway’ to reduce speed and minimise impact on the town whilst addressing the pinch points to improve flow through.
3. Cllr. Dendle says ‘Binsted is an Ancient Cultivated woodland, currently planted with conifers.’ There is no such category as 'Cultivated Ancient woodland', and, Binsted is a village and historic parish which is partly within Binsted Woods. Binsted Woods (250 acres) are Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland, containing no conifers. The current Binsted option route bisects Binsted village and also Tortington.
Cllr Dendle must be thinking of Tortington Common, a different 180 acres of woodland which is not in Binsted but on the west side of Arundel. This is a designated as a ‘PAWS’ – 'Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site’, because it was mostly planted with conifers in the 1970s. However the distinction is becoming more blurred, as some broadleaves were retained and many of the conifer planted areas are returning to Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland by natural regeneration. Binsted Woods and Tortington Common are jointly designated as Binsted Woods Complex Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI, or, Local Wildlife Site).
4. Cllr Dendle criticises ABNC for 'supporting an online solution'. ABNC members have a range of views. ABNC does agree with ASCATE that something like their New Purple Route should be one of the options on the shortlist that goes to public consultation. If Highways only offered a choice between fully offline options, the public's views would not be known on a partly-online short bypass such as New Purple - which, being at least £100M cheaper than the fully offline options, might anyway be all the country can afford post Brexit. ABNC has not yet taken a decision to advocate any one of the options which might make it on to the final shortlist, as our final favoured option. If we do so, we will make that very clear.
ABNC welcomes Cllr Dendle's clear commitment that he is, like us, 'against the Binsted route'. Indeed it is hard to find anyone who would support this longest and most expensive option, with all the associated negative community and environmental impacts. It would be good if removal of this option from the draft shortlist, in early November at the end of the Options Identification Stage, were to pave the way for a simpler and more productive debate in the run up to the Spring 2017 public consultation.