Campaigners fighting for an upgrade of the A27 around Chichester have welcomed the news confirming the public consultation period will now be for ten weeks.
Highways England has just announced the consultations will happen this Summer, after the June 23 EU referendum, and will be extended from the six weeks it had originally planned.
With options for either a northern or southern route having been dropped, the project will focus on upgrading the existing stretch, with a number of proposed schemes to be brought to public exhibition.
After the Observer reported that the two northern routes were likely to cost £307.8m and £332.1m, and the southern route £583.2m, Highways England (HE) confirmed in its May Update that because of the available budget it had ‘discounted new route options as not viable’.
Responding to the latest announcement, Chichester Deserves Better (CDB) said: “The dropping of the northern route in particular was something we campaigned hard for as we felt that it was never beneficial to local people. We have always wanted to get a proper series of upgrades to the existing route.
“If a new bypass was built then it would have benefited through traffic but not local traffic.”
The group has welcomed the ten-week consultation.
But it has accused pro-northern bypass campaigners and a senior county councillor of potentially putting the whole project in jeopardy with calls to reinstate all seven route options.
Cllr Pieter Montyn has asked for a public inquiry, while Best4Chichester has written an open letter to the secretary of state calling for the original consultation process to be reinstated.
Jeremy Dry from CDB said: “Highways England has publicly stated the reasons for dropping the new bypass options and furthermore provided costs demonstrating that the options were clearly never viable. To call for public inquiries and for the options to be reinstated when they are clearly outside of the budget is, at best a waste of money, and at worst risks dragging the whole project down, meaning it will never get off the ground.
“How will this benefit local people?”
Mr Dry added: “Statistics have been revealed in the last few weeks that show the northern bypass would have reduced journey times for through traffic by nine minutes and would have actually made journeys for local people five minutes longer.
“We always maintained that a northern bypass was not in the interests of local people and this clearly shows that is the case.”
CDB added: “If they are not careful we could end up with the Government simply opting to do nothing. An option that nobody wants.”
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