Arundel residents group asks Minister for better information and consultation on A27 options
John Hayes MP
Department for Transport
18 February 2014
Road programme - consultation on A27 at Arundel
Arundel SCATE local residents' group, welcomed your speech on the need to place beauty in design alongside other core considerations in infrastructure development. Following your visit to Arundel in October, you will appreciate how much we value the beauty of the South Downs National Park, the tranquillity of the Arun Valley and the sensitivity of our outstanding wildlife.
You may be aware that local residents have not been consulted on the proposed Arundel by-pass in over 20 years. Most residents reasonably assumed that proposals had been abandoned following rejection of a bypass by the Department of Transport (DfT) in 2003 and the subsequent resale of properties along the proposed route bought by Highways Agency in anticipation of road development. Many of those people moving to the area in the last ten years have had no indication that a new road was likely.
This means that not only has there been little or no public information about A27 proposals since 2003, but there has been no opportunity to hear about alternatives either. In effect, there has been no public debate.. Arundel SCATE's public meetings in the autumn and its background information on the A27 have been the first that many local people knew of the issue. Residents have made clear that they felt excluded from the process which led up to the government announcement on the A27 in December.
This clearly conflicts with the picture that has been painted by our locally elected representatives. West Sussex County Council (WSCC), Arun District councillors and our MP claimed comprehensive local resident support for an offline bypass to Arundel and in particular for their preferred route (option A in the DfT feasibility study), using their A27 Action campaign. The campaign did not acknowledge contrary views or provide any evidence for assertions on economic and environmental benefits, to support its demands for a bypass. Local politicians are now being forced to acknowledge that there is significant opposition to their proposal.
No doubt the DfT will seek to collaborate with local bodies in developing its consultation process on the A27 and sustainable transport. However, we are not confident that WSCC or Arun District Council are in a position to facilitate an impartial engagement process, particularly as they have excluded wider debate until now.
Arundel SCATE only formed in June 2014, but has established a large local consultative base and a reputation, not only amongst its supporters, but also amongst some that favour a new bypass, for ensuring that all views are heard in a non-adversarial environment and that information is clear and evidenced. This has been demonstrated in the events we have run in the autumn, attended by over 300 local people. In addition, we have an ongoing dialogue with other long-established groups in the area, including the Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee from the nearby villages of Binsted and Walberton.
We are concerned to ensure that:
- all local people are fully informed and have the opportunity to fully engage with the process and to help shape the outcomes;
- the full range of options for improving access and transport in the wider area around Arundel are considered, including online route and non-road options;
- that the full cost, financial and otherwise, of all options are made clear;
- the landscape and wildlife value of the Arun Valley and the South Downs National Park are fully taken into account.
Arundel SCATE would like to work with the DfT and Highways England to develop and deliver an inclusive consultation on any A27 proposals and possible alternatives, as required in the Roads Investment Strategy. Our group is large and growing, and has access to a wide range of skills and knowledge which could help enable successful community engagement.
We look forward to hearing from you on how Arundel SCATE can be involved in framing this process and how we can achieve a practical outcome that demonstrates best value, environmental sustainability and acceptability to local people, and maintains the beauty and integrity of the South Downs National Park and its surroundings.
Chair, Arundel SCATE
Bakers Arms Hill
Arundel BN18 9DA
Arundel South Coast Alliance for Transport and Environment