An ‘£800m black hole’ in the Government’s road-building programme could put the A27 improvement schemes at risk for Chichester, Arundel, Worthing and Lewes, it is claimed.
According to The Times, a review is taking place on all 112 projects involved in the £15bn Roads Investment Strategy - which include individual A27 schemes along the south coast that already have funds allocated.
Some are being seen as ‘high risk’ to central funds and the Office of Rail and Road, the official regulator, has warned that some ‘poor value schemes’ set to start beyond March 2020 may be dropped and others downgraded, The Times said.
The newspaper named improvements to the A27, which are all due to start in March 2020 at the earliest, as being among the 60 schemes with question marks now over them.
However, Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel & Southdowns, said The Times report was ‘inaccurate’
He said: The Arundel bypass is not under threat. The Times report is inaccurate.
“The £350m funding for the Arundel bypass has been committed and remains in place.
“Chris Grayling confirmed that the bypass would go ahead, subject to the consultation, when I met him last month to discuss it.
“In fact Highways England have now restored the start date to ‘by the end of March 2020’ (when) it had slipped to 2021 and the bypass will open in 2022.
“I have spoken to Chris Grayling personally today who has confirmed all of this.”
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing & Shoreham, said: “I have no further information on this and do not know where the story came from.”
Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie has been approached for comment on The Times story but is yet to respond.
Chichester had its public consultation last summer and is awaiting a preferred route option, with between £100-250m allocated.
Arundel is next in line before Worthing & Lancing, with public consultations due soon and £100m-£250m and £50m-£100m allocated respectively.
East of Lewes is then due to be tackled, with £75m allocated and a start and end date to be confirmed.
At the end of January, Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel & South Downs, said potential delays to the Chichester scheme, the first being undertaken, could hold up the other A27 schemes to the east.
Dissatisfaction with the five options being considered to upgrade the existing stretch around Chichester has led to many to call for an all-new consultation, including previously dropped options for a northern bypass.
Those calling for a re-run include Chichester District Council, West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith, and many parish councils and residents.
However, campaigners for Chichester Deserves Better said this reported £800m deficit in the Government road spending programme emphasised the need to focus on improvements to the current Chichester stretch.
A spokesman said: “A recent review has made it clear that Highways England currently face a serious overspend in their budget and that some schemes currently being explored may well be at risk.
“This includes the possibility that Chichester may well see its funding either cut or removed entirely.
“As a group we have always been concerned about the possibility of funding being removed and that continual deliberations about what should be done is likely to lead to the Chichester scheme being one of the first to be scrapped or downgraded.
“It is about time that Chichester gets together to ensure we do get the much needed improvements. Enough of this north south debate.
“A northern bypass is simply a pipe dream. Communities, both north and south, should be working together to support upgrades that don’t disadvantage local residents and businesses.
“The options presented were not well conceived, that we can agree on, but face value rejection is not what is needed here, instead constructive criticism to encourage Highways England to ‘do better’ with their online options is the only logical way forward.
“We need to ensure the funding is protected and that Highways England come back with a redesigned, viable preferred option that does not disadvantage local traffic.”
Those seeking a consultation re-run point to reports that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling suggested at a meeting that a Chichester consultation re-run could be possible and would not push the scheme to the back of the queue for funding.
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