It is the longest and most expensive route for an A27 Arundel Bypass, and the most damaging to rural communities and, arguably, the environment. So how did we get into this pickle in the first place? It is a bit of a chicken-and-egg question.
Which came first:
- The National Park boundary leaving out half of Binsted?
- Or, a route through Binsted becoming an Option for the Arundel Bypass?
The consultants Landscape Design Associates, in their report about what areas to include in the new South Downs National Park (March 2001), stated that the whole area ‘between Walberton and the river Arun’ met the National Park designation criteria, which were natural beauty and exceptional opportunities for recreation. If the decision had been consistent with this evaluation, then the whole of Binsted would have been in the Park, and better protected from the Arundel Bypass.
The National Park boundary put forward by the Countryside Agency in 2002 did not follow this advice, but at Binsted only included the central block of Binsted Woods and 5 fields. The South Coast Multi Modal Study of 2002 looked again at the 1992 ‘Green routes’ through Binsted, partially within the woods but mainly through fields. It described those routes as ‘avoiding’ the National Park, although the National Park boundary had not then been decided. Was a decision made in 2002 by the Countryside Agency to choose a draft National Park boundary which left room for a bypass through Binsted mostly outside the woods – despite the special qualities of the Binsted landscape?
Friends of Binsted Church gave evidence at the Public Inquiry into the National Park, which lasted from 2003 to 2005. We argued that, as a minimum, the rest of Binsted Woods and 5 more fields partially within the woods merited inclusion. We also argued for a larger addition, i.e. the whole of Binsted. The Inspector’s final decision came in 2006. He accepted the smaller addition, but rejected the addition of the whole of Binsted. If we had had then the evidence that we have now, eg due to MAVES’ surveys, would the Inspector’s decision have been to include the whole of Binsted? We believe it would. But because we did not, Highways have been looking at a route through Binsted so as to (if only comparatively speaking) ‘avoid’ the National Park.
Bypass possibilities almost did the hokey-cokey with the Park boundary at Tortington Common - in, out, in, out, shake it all about!
Tortington Common was initially proposed for inclusion in the National Park, because (like Binsted as a whole) it met the criteria. But in 2002 SoCoMMS recommended that the 1993 ‘Preferred route’ across Tortington Common, known as Pink-Blue, should go ahead. So a decision was made to leave Tortington Common out of the National Park. In 2003, the Secretary of State for Transport cancelled the Arundel Bypass, citing the beauty of the watermeadows as the reason, and asked for less environmentally damaging solutions to be found. Tortington Common was put back into the proposed National Park. This meant that, when revived in 2015 as a ‘starting point’ option, the Pink-Blue route would now go through the National Park.
Including Tortington Common in the Park has increased Highways’ incentive to consider a Bypass through Binsted
The Department of Transport commissioned reports – still unpublished – into supposedly less damaging routes for the Bypass. They looked at various ‘online’ ideas – work on or near the present A27 – but also at routes mainly through the fields in Binsted. The two reports were the Bullen Report (2004) and the Faber Maunsell Report (2006), which the Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee have seen through Freedom of Information. The A27 Feasibility Study of 2015 included this new Binsted route throughout, in all its tables, calling it ‘Option B’ and ‘longer to avoid the National Park’ (even though its impact on the National Park’s Special Qualities may be more severe than any other option).
The improved ecological condition of Tortington Common has increased Highways’ incentive to consider a Bypass through Binsted
In 1992-3, the environmental bodies attempting to save Binsted Woods had supported the Pink-Blue route across Tortington Common as the least bad option environmentally. But soon after that, the environmental organisations started to form a view that this option was still too damaging to be acceptable.
Now, environmental organisations including the National Park’s society, the South Downs Society, are opposing both the fully offline routes, whether through Binsted or through Tortington Common. Instead, they are advocating a shorter new road section east of the Arun, with online improvement west of the Arun.
ABNC is mindful that many of its supporters agree with the South Downs Society, whilst others still favour Pink-Blue. So ABNC has directed its efforts simply to protecting Binsted, and ensuring that the other options are fully debated. What do you think?