Once again Highways England (HE) have exerted their malign and disruptive influence on the A27 upgrade process.
To compound matters, they have managed to hugely embarrass Louise Goldsmith, the leader of WSCC, show disdain for the democratic wishes of local people and behave in a cavalier and unaccountable manner.
After funding for the project under RIS1 was withdrawn by Chris Grayling due to lack of consensus as to the preferred route, the response led by Louise Goldsmith was to get all interested parties together to try and thrash out an agreed position.
The resulting consultation process via the series of Build a Better A27 (BABA27) workshops was an exemplary exercise in participatory democracy.
As a regular participant in these workshops, I find the HE ‘put down’ difficult to understand as they were, and Louise Goldsmith has confirmed this in her article in the Observer last week, fully kept informed of the work being carried out by BABA27.
Systra, the consultants employed by the WSCC to guide the workshop process, were also aware of the previous work carried out by HE in developing improvements to the A27 around Chichester and narrowed their favoured options down to two possible routes – one to the north and one to the south involving upgrades to the existing A27.
The mitigated northern option turned out to be Systra’s preferred route and in many ways resembles the northern route proposed by HE and then mysteriously withdrawn early in 2016 before the previous consultation process got underway.
Mike Dicker in his letter, after months of doggedly pursuing Freedom of Information requests, has at last managed to identify why the original northern routes were withdrawn abruptly, namely, the supposedly adverse impact on the Goodwood Estate.
It seems that this is an unbreachable ‘red line’ in the whole debate and HE have duly taken this most recent opportunity to reinforce their position.
For HE to claim that both north and south options proposed by Systra and endorsed by WSCC and CDC are neither affordable or workable is ludicrous.
The view of many attending the workshops was that the southern option was a sop to placate those who were irreconcilably opposed to the proposed northern route.
The southern proposal involved five years of upgrades on the existing A27, moving the Chichester canal and inflicting untold misery on the people and businesses of the Manhood Peninsula – clearly an appalling and impracticable solution.
By way of contrast, the mitigated northern option as was capable of being completed much more quickly and cheaply, could be varied to include no interchanges between leaving the existing A27 to the east and west of Chichester and could even replicate the recent Bognor single carriageway road which provides considerable relief for the town, to come in under budget.
For HE to lump together the two proposals offered by BABA27 as both being unworkable and unaffordable defies common sense.
Either their analysis is gravely flawed or yet again there are the same influences at work that scuppered the northern options in 2016.
It is a matter of deep regret that all the hard work put in by the BABA27 group, the now wasted £100,000 allocated by WSCC to support the process of achieving a consensus and the final recommendations of the workshops should be so contemptuously brushed aside by HE.
Mike Harper, Ferry Drive, Chichester