Today, WSCC's A27 Special Adviser Pieter Montyn was outed by the Chichester Observer as less than neutral, when they published a leaked email in which he urged a pro northern bypass campaign for Chichester. Mr Montyn was apparently responding to efforts by Chichester Deserves Better to resolve the issues on the junctions for the present A27 route, which are so important to local traffic. At Chichester there are evidently unresolved clashes between WSCC's strategic roads approach and its strategic environmental approach. But not just at Chichester: at Arundel too.
In 2005, WSCC produced a very detailed ‘Strategy for the West Sussex Landscape’. This continues to appear on their website at www.westsussex.gov.uk/media/1771/landscape_strategy.pdf. It is comprehensive, and contains a ‘vision’ which point by point sees the county’s natural assets conserved, maintained and improved. The ‘vision’ is in the present tense, as if this is happening now. Among the declarations in the ‘Vision’ section of the ‘Strategy’ document are the following:
- ‘Character and local distinctiveness are recognised, valued and celebrated.’
- ‘Diverse character of landscape is nurtured, conserved and enhanced as part of a thriving economy.’
- ‘Change is accommodated in ways which reinforce and restore character…in each Landscape Character Area.’
- ‘The rich diversity of wildlife habitats and national heritage of woodland, trees, and hedges…are being conserved, extended and enhanced.’
- ‘Protection and conservation of historic landscape features and archaeological sites continues.’
- ‘There is a high degree of accessibility to the countryside which is enjoyed by all social groups.’
- ‘Where down meets town to the south, the setting of the South Downs remains unaffected by new development.’
- ‘Areas presently noted for their tranquillity are surviving, because the intrusive effects of…transport infrastructure have been minimised.’
But the right hand does not seem to know what the left hand is doing. For years WSCC has also supported an offline Arundel Bypass which does devastating damage to the countryside whose stewardship it says it desires to promote. WSCC was part of the ‘A27 Action Campaign’ in 2013-14, lobbying for an Arundel Bypass. WSCC’s press release of June 2015 ‘fully welcomes’ the recent Government announcement of an investment of £350m on the A27, to include an Arundel bypass, although the route has not yet been decided.
Unlike, apparently, Mr Montyn at Chichester, WSCC is not advocating any particular route for the Arundel Bypass. In the latest round of ‘stakeholder groups’ Highways England has only released ‘schematic’ maps of route options, like London tube maps. However, three of these correspond to routes known from previous consultations. The remaining two are versions of the route through Binsted and Binsted Woods, both convincingly deduced from the Feasibility Study reports of March 2015. See ABNC’s map of these five options on our home page. Below are just a few of the ways in which all of these - except the part-online Purple route, being re-designed less damagingly as the ‘New Purple Route’ by Arundel SCATE - would harm the countryside WSCC seeks to protect in its ‘Strategy’ document.
- The 'character and local distinctiveness' of Tortington and Arundel’s watermeadows would be severely damaged by all bypass routes. The 'character and local distinctiveness' of Binsted would be destroyed by routes through Binsted and Binsted Woods.
- The ‘diverse character’ of the landscape south-west of Arundel (including the combination of recovering pine plantation at Tortington Common with semi-natural woodland at Binsted Woods, and the way these link to the countryside) would be badly affected by all bypass routes.
- Change would not be ‘accommodated in ways which reinforce and restore character’ by any of the bypass routes.
- The ‘national heritage’ of ‘woodland, trees and hedges’ would not be ‘conserved, extended and enhanced’ by any of the bypass routes – on the contrary, they would be severely damaged.
- ‘Historic landscape features and archaeological sites’ or their settings would be damaged by any of the bypass routes. These include the remains of the Augustinian Priory at Tortington; historic earth banks within Tortington Common and Binsted Woods; the newly discovered Roman Road through Tortington Common and Binsted Woods; the still existing ‘pocket park’ landscape at Binsted Park within Binsted Woods; two mediaeval tile kilns at Binsted; the Iron Age north-south earthwork at Binsted.
- ‘Accessibility to the countryside’ would be severely affected by any of the bypass routes. Binsted Woods and Tortington Common are accessible for walking, running, cycling and riding (via an extensive network of footpaths and bridle paths) to people from areas further south and west, without crossing a major road. This would cease.
- The ‘setting of the South Downs’ would be badly affected by a new dual carriageway along or inside the edge of the South Downs National Park on any of the bypass routes.
- Areas ‘presently noted for their tranquillity’ such as Binsted, Tortington and the Arundel watermeadows would have their tranquillity destroyed by any of the bypass routes. The ‘intrusive effect’ of a bypass could not be ‘minimised’.
When will WSCC put its ‘vision’ for the West Sussex landscape into effect by advocating the road improvements least damaging to the landscape, for the A27 at Arundel?