Chichester A27 consultation re-run supported by district cabinet members
Chichester District Council cabinet members have backed a motion supporting a re-run of the Chichester A27 consultation '“ and include previously dropped options for a northern bypass.
The motion, which will now go to full council later this month, was supported in the hope of ensuring there was ‘transparency of process and public confidence in the preferred option’, leader Tony Dignum said.
It follows West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith speaking out to say the entire consultation process, which lasted ten weeks at the end of last summer, should be torn up and undertaken again.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling confirmed at a private meeting with Mrs Goldsmith that a joint request from the two councils and MP Andrew Tyrie could trigger a re-run.
Speaking at today’s cabinet meeting, Mr Dignum said: “In debating the merits of requesting a re-run consultation, the council is making no decision as to which of the options it favours, rather it is simply concentrating on the principle of a further consultation to ensure there is transparency of process and public confidence in the preferred option.”
CDC supported option two in last year’s consultation – representing a series of on-line improvements – but only after being advised by Highways England that the decision to drop the northern options was not reversible.
The council requested justification for the decision but Mr Dignum said this had not been provided by the Secretary of State.
Mr Dignum said the council had ‘significant reservations’ about the consultation options and had doubts about the extent to which they would bring about long-term improvements.
The council supported option two only with major caveats, calling for a series of additional mitigation measures.
Mr Dignum said the position had ‘completely changed’ following the meeting with Mr Grayling.
But he insisted the council would reconsider its position should a re-run be triggered.
The cabinet unanimously supported the motion.
Cabinet member for contract services Roger Barrow said he welcomed the motion but said it must be made ‘absolutely clear’ the cabinet was not inferring a preference for any particular option.
A range of public questions and statements were submitted to cabinet.
Some, including North Mundham Parish Council and Tangmere Parish Council, supported the cabinet.
Resident Mark Hitchin said the consultation had been ‘farcical’ and the ‘local population had no faith in it’.
But others, including West Itchenor Parish Council, disagreed.
“I ask you to reconsider the motion, actively encourage the Secretary of State to issue the preferred option and trust the Highways England professionals to get on with the job and not interfere with the consultation process,” said resident Nicholas Reynolds.
The cabinet acknowledged the call came at a risk of delay and missing out on funding. Mr Dignum, however, said it was ‘vitally important’ to get the right solution.