‘United front’ calling for A27 upgrade

Chichester A27 bypass from the stockbridge bridge looking East bound PPP-140628-083326006
Chichester A27 bypass from the stockbridge bridge looking East bound PPP-140628-083326006

A NEW campaign pushing for significant improvements to the A27 has been met with ‘some apathy’ among Chichester business owners who want talk to stop and action to start.

Louise Hopkins, chairman of the Chichester Chamber of Commerce, said businesses were behind the newly launched A27 Action Group but warned: “We’ve all been here before.”

The A27 Action group, launched two weeks ago, sees politicians, council leaders and business people come together to lobby the government for substantial funds to improve the entire stretch of the busy highway.

The group wants the dualling of the corridor across the whole of West Sussex, improvements at junctions at Chichester, Fontwell and Brighton, as well as a bypass of Arundel.

Improvements to the A27, renowned for high levels of congestion at peak travelling times, have long since been mooted but for more than a decade have suffered a number of false dawns.

Ms Hopkins said: “Admittedly there is some apathy among local businesses about this new campaign as we’ve all been here before.

“Millions of pounds have been spent over the years on impact studies and consultations and yet nothing has been done.

“We saw the Hindhead tunnel suck all the available infrastructure expenditure from the region for a while, but it is unacceptable to then have an investment famine for years afterwards in this part of the South East.”

Ms Hopkins said the A27 ‘is not just about Chichester’ but as an arterial route linking Portsmouth, Shoreham and Newhaven, it affected the transport of horticultural and agricultural produce for the entire nation and affected tourism to the south coast.

She called for similar investment to the A27 west which improved links between Portsmouth and Southampton, arguing connecting Portsmouth and Brighton would provide a better link to Gatwick Airport.

Ms Hopkins added: “It is time this area was prioritised with a decent infrastructure budget. We are pleased that this campaign has so much support behind it, but let’s stop talking about it and let’s just get on and do it.”

The Highways Agency lists a package of suggested improvements to the Chichester stretch of the A27 which were announced last year. They include building new two-level junctions at the Fishbourne roundabout and the Bognor Road roundabout as well as improvements to the three other roundabouts on the ring road.

The plans have been agreed in principle but are not currently in the government’s financial programme.

A statement from West Sussex County Council said: “Of course it is understandable there may be some cynicism after years of false starts.

“However, the difference this time is that there is a united front between the county council, district and boroughs, local MPs and businesses to persuade the government this time.”

It added support for the campaign had come from the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.”