To Jesse Norman
Under Secretary of State for Transport
Department for Transport
Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR
27 May 2018
Dear Jesse Norman
Rachel Maskell MP spoke in Parliament on Thursday 24th May about the NGOs’ complaint that the Secretary of State’s proposals for the Arundel Bypass contravene his own National Policy Statement for National Networks, and asked, ‘Has he changed his definition of ‘irreversible damage’ or will he urgently review this scheme?’.
You replied that ‘Many of those ancient woodlands were planted only in the past couple of decades’.
This is untrue. A new Preferred Route for the Arundel Bypass was announced on 11 May 2018. It does not go through replanted woodland, but through the superb semi-natural woodland of Binsted Woods, which it would severely damage – as well as ruining two villages and a much-loved area of the South Downs National Park.
Your erroneous reply to Rachel Maskell appears to refer to the old Preferred Route (in existence from 1993 until 11 May 2018), which did indeed go through ‘replanted’ woodland, mainly a conifer plantation created in the 1970s. That woodland has now regenerated, and is better protected by legislation protecting Ancient Woodland (even if replanted), so Highways England have sought to overturn that old decision. In the process they have created a new Preferred Route that is even more damaging.
Legal actions against the new Preferred Route
The South Downs National Park has announced (24 May) that it will pursue a Judicial Review against Highways England’s new Preferred Route decision, based on the failure of Highways England to fulfil the conditions in planning law about major development in National Parks. Local people may also request a Judicial Review based on Highways England’s very faulty and error-ridden public consultation (2017) which seemed biased from the start in favour of what is now the new Preferred Route.
Need for an urgent review of the scheme
We request an urgent review of this misguided scheme. Before it goes any further the best outcome would be to cancel it. A new, better prepared public consultation, giving accurate information, acknowledging the sensitivity of the National Park area and including non-dual-carriageway road solutions, would be the best way forward if you wish to continue with the scheme.
The concern of the ten NGOs who wrote the letter quoted by Rachel Maskell shows that this is now a national issue, not a local one.
Emma Tristram, ABNC Secretary